Wednesday, June 29, 2016


On Harbour Island in the South Seas, the lovely maiden Tollea (Maria Montez), who is about to marry Ramu (Jon Hall), is kidnapped by the mute Hava (Lon Chaney Jr.) and taken off to nearby Cobra Island. It turns out that Tollea was born on Cobra Island, the twin sister of the wicked queen Naja (also Montez), but was more or less accidentally brought over to Harbour Island by the Scottish sailor MacDonald when he was shipwrecked on Cobra Island and escaped torture. Tollea's grandmother (Mary Nash) has had her brought back with the intention of putting her on the throne to replace Naja, but Naja and her protector Martok may have something to say about that. Meanwhile, Ramu and his buddy Kado (Sabu) travel to Cobra Island to save Tollea, but wind up potential sacrifices to the island's volcano god.

Of all the six exotic adventures that Jon Hall and Maria Montez made together in the 1940s, this is the one that has lasted, mostly because of its reputation as a camp classic. I first saw this film in a theater as part of a classic movie series and I had great fun cheering and laughing with hundreds of other viewers, and joining in on an audience chant when Montez does her notorious cobra dance. I think it's that dance that has kept this movie alive all these years, because overall, the film is no worse or better than ALI BABA AND THE SEVEN THIEVES or ARABIAN NIGHTS. As a B-adventure film of its era, for turning off your mind and enjoying, it's par for the course, its chief advantage being that it was filmed in Technicolor. Montez looks good in her costumes, the sets are effective, the color is fabulous, and Sabu is always fun to have around. Hall and Montez were strictly B-talent, appropriate for a strictly B-movie, though I did keep wishing that someone with a little more range was playing the dual good queen/bad queen role. Even though Hall is regarded as the era's best B-beefcake, I've never really been a fan—he's a smidge too lumpy for me, like Johnny Weissmuller in his later Tarzan movies. But this is still a must-see for movie buffs. Maybe the strangest thing in the movie is seeing Mary Nash, known best for playing Katharine Hepburn's slightly scatterbrained upper-crust mother in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, slumming here as Montez's grandmother. [DVD]

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