King Cobra (1981) AKA Jaws of Satan
Cast: Fritz Weaver, Gretchen Corbett, Jon Korkes, Norman Lloyd, Diana Douglas, Christina Applegate
Director: Bob Claver
Nutshell: : A train crash unleashes a horrible slithering Satanic Curse with catastrophic effect.
King Cobra begins with a train rattling along and two inebriated men, one an employee of a rag tag circus are busy playing dice while watching over the star performers of the act; the animals. One specimen in particular appears to have been locked away with particular care in a padlocked fortified steel box positioned behind a strong latched door. Clearly, the beast within is a little extraordinary and thus the extra measures. As the train hurtles along, the dice game ends conclusively with a throw of “Snake Eyes”.
Mysteriously and ominously the padlock clicks open and whatever was contained within is now on the loose. Both the workers are attacked; one savagely head butted, the other just fanged as other caged animals cower in fear. Moments later the train stalls to a halt at the end of the line and a monster from hell The King Cobra slithers free and hungry and evidently with a score to settle.
Meanwhile in town, Father Tom Farrow is suffering Father Merrin like issues with his faith is at an all-white socialite party (the sole exception being the black woman serving drinks) where a clairvoyant has one look at his coffee cup and passes out. Later, shaken and worried, she explains to the priest that she saw dreadful horrors in his coffee cup and that he is in extreme eminent danger.
Meanwhile the town authorities are floundering as there is a surge in strangely nasty snake bites with fatalities mounting up like never before. A shadowy figure of a Cobra is seen stalking various people, overseeing his local slithery comrades, the rattlesnakes, to carry out his deathly commands.
A snake specialist arrives a bit like Matt Hooper and gradually the snake menace begins to reveal itself but not to the town’s mayor who is adamant on continuing with a big event scheduled in the town; the opening of a race car track.
Father Tom is attending yet another snake related funeral when he is met by a spindly old senior priest who explains how Satan has a plan by which he is to take on the soul of a serpent in order to undermine Christ and recruit the servants of Christianity as his own slaves. Anyone who is suffering a crisis of faith is clearly the easiest target. There is some Mumbo Jumbo about a Druid curse on the ancestors of Father Tom’s family.
Just as the warning is sinking in Father Tom is assailed by an enormous and very irate King Cobra who chases his through the graveyard until the frantic father falls into a freshly buried grave where the deadly creature has him cornered. Just as the serpent is about to strike the father instinctively grabs a piece of broken fencing and (Allah the benevolent and merciful), it turns out to be in the shape of a cross which seems to have a violent effect on the serpent who hisses violently, huffs and puffs and threatens to blow the house down but in the face of the cross, Satan is powerless and must live to fight another day.
Father Tom rushes to a town meeting presided over by the two new lovebirds, the local scientist and researcher and the newly arrived Matt Hooper wannabe with the excessively tight jeans. So, the good townspeople are pitted against the evil mercenary townspeople in the backdrop of the most horrendous onslaught from the Satan in the form of a King Cobra and all the slithering lovelies he can muster up. The showdown is about to begin and ultimately the question must be once again…who will survive and what will be left of them?
It all comes down to a question of faith and the King Cobra follows its cue from The Exorcist once again with a barnstorming exorcism scene of God vs Satan, Good vs Evil, Man vs Serpent. King Cobra is an appropriate title as much of texture and template of this film is borrowed from Jaws and The Exorcist. The demonic theme is borrowed and superimposed onto the Jaws theme of a small town where the politicians are placing emphasis on money rather than the people. The end result is a clunky and very silly little supernatural snake thriller which is somewhat saved by the sterling performance by the King Cobra himself turning in an impressive performance as well as a cameo by John Curry as Sheriff George Tatum who is a bit of a scene stealer.
Admittedly not the most thrilling snake movie ever made but certainly far from the worst and thankfully free of CGI snakes that have come to rule of late. Not bad fodder on a wet Sunday afternoon yet strictly for hardcore snake movie addicts and their admirers (yes there do exist such people who admire snake movie addicts, it’s a rapidly growing phenomenon).