Cult of the Cobra

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Cult of the Cobra
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Produced by Howard Pine
Written by Jerry Davis
Starring Faith Domergue
Richard Long
Jack Kelly
Cinematography Russell Metty
Distributed by Universal-International
Release dates
  • May 30, 1955 (1955-05-30) (United States)
Country United States
Language English

Cult of the Cobra is an independently made 1955 American horror film released by Universal-International, produced by Howard Pine, directed by Francis D. Lyon, that stars Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, and David Janssen.

Six American officers witness the secret ritual of Lamians (worshipers of women who can change into serpents). When the soldiers are discovered by the snake cult, the High Lamian Priestess vows that "the Cobra Goddess will avenge herself". Once back in the United States, a mysterious woman enters into the life of each service man, with disastrous results: "accidents" begin to happen, and before each death the shadow of a cobra is seen.


Shortly before shipping home at the end of World War II, six American Air Force officers explore an Asian bazaar. A snake charmer, Daru (Leonard Strong), allows the men to take pictures of him holding a cobra. Paul Abel (Richard Long) mentions the strange cult of the Lamians, who worship snakes and believe that there are people who can transform into them. Daru says quietly that, for a price, Paul can see this for himself.

Daru takes the men to the secret Lamian temple, impressing upon them the danger of what they are doing and warning them that if caught, it will mean their deaths. The six observe a ceremonial dance symbolizing the rescue of the Lamian people by their Cobra Goddess. As the lithe female dancer slides back into a woven basket, the drunk Nick Hommel (James Dobson) disregards Daru's warnings and takes a photograph. The temple erupts as the Lamians react in outrage, and their high priest pronounces a death curse on the intruders.

Nick fights free of two Lamians and grabs the woven basket (now containing a cobra) from the temple's platform before fleeing. Daru is killed by his fellow Lamians, while the other servicemen set fire to the temple to cover their escape. They speed away in their jeep, but slam to a halt when they see Nick lying in the road, a woman standing over him. Tom Markel (Marshall Thompson) pursues the woman, but she vanishes. He returns to Nick, who is suffering from a snake bite. As Tom tends him, Paul looks worriedly at the empty woven basket lying in the road.

Recovering in the hospital, Nick apologizes for his conduct and assures his friends that he will be fit to ship out the next day. As he settles into sleep, something appears from the darkness and slips into his room through an open window. As it rears up over him, Nick opens his eyes and screams. Devastated by Nick’s death, his friends must make their plans to ship out for home. Paul worries aloud that the high priest’s curse may have been more than words. The others scoff, turning the conversation to their plans for civilian life.

After their return to New York, while alone in his apartment that night, Tom is startled by a scream coming from the apartment across the passageway. He forces his way in, and finds a beautiful, terrified woman, Lisa Moyer (Faith Domergue), who speaks brokenly of an intruder. Tom calms her down and makes friends with her, persuading her to spend a day with him. When the two arrive home that evening, Tom invites Lisa into his apartment he shares with Paul. There, she shows an intense interest in a photograph of the six friends during their Air Force days in Asia.

Later that night, Rico Nardi (David Janssen), one of those six friends, locks up his bowling alley and begins to drive home. Suddenly, in his rear-view mirror, he catches sight of something in the back seat, something that strikes at him. The car swerves, crashes, and flips over, and Rico is killed. As a crowd begins to gather, a breathless Lisa slips away into the shadows, one of which is shaped like a cobra. At his funeral, Paul starts to wonder if the curse is what caused his death, and starts to wonder if Lisa is in any way connected.

A couple nights later, Carl Turner (Jack Kelly) and his roommate Pete Norton (William Reynolds), two of the other six friends, have a party at their apartment. During the party, Carl starts hitting on Lisa, which causes Tom to punch him in jealousy. Tom and Lisa leave the party and head back to their apartments. When Tom realizes Lisa left her gloves at his apartment, he goes into her apartment to hand them to her, but she is gone. Lisa has snuck out and headed back to the party where it's done and only Carl is there cleaning up. As he fixes her a drink, 'something' is there instead. Carl becomes frightened, throws an object at it before it strikes him and pushes him out the window. As the bystanders start coming, Pete returns and sees Lisa in the crowd favoring her arm. He offers to escort her home, but the police take him to headquarters for questioning. As Lisa returns, she's shocked to find Tom sleeping on her couch. Explaining that she stepped out for a walk, she starts to tell Tom that she's falling in love with him, something that she never experienced before.

The next morning, Tom and Paul have breakfast, where they're joined by Julia Thompson (Kathleen Hughes), an actress who's not only Paul's fiancé, but Tom's old girlfriend. They get a call from the police about Carl's death and Paul and Tom go to police station while Julia cleans up. Lisa later comes over and notices Julia looking at books on various cults, including ones where people become snakes, which Paul has been reading lately. Lisa begins to act that she might harm Julia, but a dry cleaner comes by allowing Julia to leave to get ready for her show tonight. At the police station, Paul starts to give them the theory about the curse they received in Asia and thinks that Lisa might have metamorphosed into a cobra and killed them. Tom is angry about the accusation and leaves, while the inspector can't make an arrest based on superstitions and curses. Therefore, Paul requests that they do a toxicology test on Carl and Rico to prove his theory.

Later that evening, As Lisa is dressed up to go to a show that Julia is performing in, Pete surprises her at Tom's apartment. He see the scratch on her arm and insinuates that she's the lady who's killed his friends. She insists that she's not her and goes to her room to get her passport, but instead turns into a cobra and goes to meet Pete. Later, Tom comes over to Lisa's apartment where she's waiting for her to take her to the show. Tom doesn't mention anything to her of what Paul thinks, and takes her to the show. At the police station, the toxicology results show that Carl and Rico have very high levels of cobra venom in their system. Paul and the officers quickly go to their apartments where they find Pete dead in his apartment and Tom and Lisa gone. Paul is able to get a hold of Tom on the phone at the theatre. He tells Tom about Pete and wants him to find Lisa and keep her there until the police arrive. However, Lisa has gone to Julia's dressing room and hides in her closet. As Julia goes in for a break, a cobra comes out and tries to attack her. Tom quickly rushes in, covers the cobra, and uses a coatrack to lift the cobra and push it out the window, killing Lisa. As Paul and the officers come, she changes back to her human form. Tom comes down, and seeing her dead body, he covers his face in sadness, gets up and walks away.


Production and release[edit]

Mari Blanchard started the film but actress Faith Domergue replaced her a few days after shooting began.

The film was released on a double bill with Revenge of the Creature.


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