Fangs Of The Cobra Review
There is a whole sub-genre of snake horror films in Hong Kong cinema as part of their interest in rather odd occult films. Films like Killer Snakes, where a young slum dweller exacts revenge on the men who have bullied him, and the women who haven't loved him, by setting venomous snakes on them in a variety of tasteless ways, are melodramas which seem rather outre to a Western eye and the same is true of the barking Fangs of the Cobra. Essentially it is the tale of a peasant girl with a snake as her best friend who falls for the returning heir of the local bigwig farmer, and secret snake hater, and the passage of their romance through the machinations of others. Sleaze, fights, sugary romance and dubious animal choreography are what's in store.
Tang Shi-de has returned from studying abroad when his car breaks down and gets a passing woman, Ah-Fen, to help him get the engine going. He fallsin love with her but when he gets home he finds that his cousin Man-Ling has her mind set on him marrying her, largely because she intends to help her lover, Hu Ling, remain as farm manager and hide the corruption he has benefitted from in the farm's finances. Hu Ling plans a kidnap with the idea of getting Tang and Man-Ling together, but after a sudden attack of snakes and a case of mistaken identity it is Ah Fen who finds herself locked away with Tang. This speeds up the course of true love, and marriage and children are in the offing so Hu Ling plants a bomb in the bridal car as part of his ongoing attempts to ensure his place on the farm.
Fangs of the Cobra is really strange. It opens with a montage to show us that Ah-Fen and her pet snake, Xixi, are childhood friends, so we see her and her snake frollicking in the fields and the rivers as she grows from slighly lonely peasant girl to strapping adult loony. Throughout the film's runtime the snake must fight the prejudice of us venom-phobic humans to maintain its friendship with Ah-Fen and it is hammered home that the snake is one of the good-guys as it rescues Ah Fen and Tang from any sticky situtation they find themselves in. This good samaritan behaviour even extends to a jaw droppingly awful fight between the snake and some kind of mongoose like rodent as part of the film's climax. The resulting action is something that PETA might have some problems with and I have to admit that I found myself anxiously chewing my arm off whilst watching it. Yuk.
The majority of the film is spent setting up the lovers as beautiful people having a lovely time and the schmaltzometer is off the scale during the love montages which are buttock clenchingly sweet. These moments are only made bearable by the unintentional humour of having all these moments watched at a respectful distance by the snake as their approving guardian angel. To balance against our chaste lovers we get a number of sweaty softcore workouts from Hu-Ling and Man-Ling who may be evil but they at least know how to have fun. The leads try to make it believeable, and Hsiao Yao's bravery in her double headers with the snake is worthy of positive comment, but the sheer silliness of the central idea means that this filmc an only be enjoyed as so bad it's good fare. Sun Chung made the wonderfully dark Human Lanterns but this film is culturally bound nonsense - only watch whilst drunk.
This IVL release is a single layer affair with a fairly weak transfer. It is, as always, another PAL-NTSC conversion which has been bodged leaving the film with combing, motion shake and a washed out look. In addition there are elements of shimmering, artefacts and even some macro-blocking towards the beginning of the film. I am also not convinced that the film hasn't been stretched vertically as objects do seem to be taller than they should be in proportion to the scene. The sound which carries a curiously urbane western music track is rendered well with a lack of distortion or source problems like hiss and pops - good solid mono.
The Shaw reissue trailers on the disc are the similarly occult themed Bride From Hell, Hex, Hex vs Witchcraft and Ho Meng Hwa's deliciously perverse Black Magic. There is a stills gallery and the original poster art on the disc and the usually brief production notes - 3 sentences here! The standard fimographies are for the four leads and Sun Chung and they plug IVL releases where possible. Thankfully all of these extras come with English subs and translations.
Normally I like a bit of bad taste but Fangs of the Cobra is simply incompetently made and offensive in its exploitation of the animals within it. It is the kind of movie you will laugh at rather than with and this presentation is a poor transfer as well. Only recommended to fans of bad movies.