Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Very Cobra Christmas

I understand that most of you might already be out of the Yuletide spirit what with the clock about to turn over to 2012 but until the New Year is officially rung in, I feel like it's not too late to show some appreciation for an unsung holiday romp - Sylvester Stallone's action/horror hybrid Cobra (1986).

Before we go any further, for anyone who might be questioning Cobra's status as a Christmas movie let me offer a few screen shots as evidence:

See? Cobra is as Christmas as jolly ol' St. Nick! This George P. Cosmatos-directed film belongs to that small but much-loved subgenre of Christmas-set action movies - a group that houses the likes of Invasion U.S.A. (1985), Trancers (1985), and Die Hard (1988). Apparently the opportunity to juxtapose violence with the iconography of Christmas is too hard for filmmakers to resist. And frankly, who can blame them?

Despite its cop movie trappings of shoot-outs and car chases, Cobra represented a throwback to the seedier slasher stylings of the early '80s (one hospital-set sequence recalls 1982's Visiting Hours). In 1983, it would've fit in perfectly on a drive-in double bill with the Charles Bronson film 10 to Midnight, another film that straddled the action and horror genres by having a cop pursuing a vicious psycho.

And what a four-star psycho Cobra had in the form of Brian Thompson as the Night Slasher. A pure, unrepentant homicidal maniac, the Night Slasher is a killing machine who would eat lesser psychos for breakfast. The Night Slasher isn't one of those psychos who seems mild-mannered on the surface, either. No, just by looking at him there'd be no mistaking what this guy's favorite past time is. You'd be like, "That guy loves killing people. He loves it like kids love ice cream."

While even Joe Spinell's title character in Maniac (1980) tried to spend some time developing a social life outside of his hobby of scalping women, you can't even imagine the Night Slasher ever having the least passing interest in anything that doesn't involve snuffing out human life. I wouldn't even be surprised if his name had been legally changed to "Night Slasher" because, you know, why not? There's no way this guy is ever planning on holding down a job of any kind so there's no need to have a regular name like Bob or Chuck.

Worse yet, he's the leader of an army of kill-crazy sickos who travel around in a van at night and randomly jump out with their axes and slaughter any lone woman they come across.

Because he looks like a guy who could kill you with his bare hands without even breaking a sweat, Thompson is scary as hell just standing around but Cosmatos goes ahead and gives him a blade with a spiked handle that would make you nervous even if a little old lady were holding it, never mind a hulking psychopath.

In the annals of cinematic psychos, Thompson doesn't seem to get much attention (his most famous role remains that of the Alien Bounty Hunter on The X-Files) but I'm all about the Night Slasher. You could say that Thompson is playing nothing more than a one note character here but if the Night Slasher was more layered, he'd have much more to say to Cobra when they face off than "I want your eyes, PIG!" and personally I love that The Night Slasher never, ever has anything remotely clever to say. He's all business and he gets more mileage out of the word "pig" than anyone ever has.

As Cobra is an 87 minute movie that seems to only have about 20 pages of script (the entire last half hour seems based around a few loose ideas for action scenes), there's plenty of room in Cobra for time-filling montages - my favorite featuring Brigitte Nielsen as statuesque model Ingrid Knudsen posing with a group of robots.

I don't know what magazine or product these pics could possibly be for. Personally, I suspect that Stallone just wasn't over with his robot fetish from Rocky III (1982).

At the time, I was surprised that Cannon never went ahead with a Cobra sequel as clearly this was meant to kick off another franchise for Stallone. I don't know why a Cobra 2 never came to be but I think the real bummer is that no one ever had the notion to mount a dual sequel/crossover with the Chuck Norris hit Silent Rage, the 1982 film that pitted Norris as a small town sheriff against a nearly invulnerable, scientifically altered psycho, played by Brian Libby.

To have Stallone and Norris in their prime taking on the team of Libby and Thompson - man, what a gift that would've been to '80s action buffs. But, as every kid learns on Christmas morning, you can't always get what you want.


Kev D. said...

Am I the only one who thinks that that it looks like the dude is getting a hummer from the frog in that screenshot?

Will Errickson said...

Man I loved COBRA back in the day! So brutal.

Kev D. - No, you're not.

Franco Macabro said...

Im still a huge fan of this one, it's just so freaking hilarious to see Cobra get to his house, never take off his gloves as he chops up a cold leftover pizza with a pair of scissors and eats it. All that, with Neon lights in the background.

FilmFather said...

I had a blast when I saw Cobra opening weekend with a pack of my high school buddies. Two things still stick with me:

1. How did they pull off that stunt where The Night Slasher's van smashes into the security guard at the parking garage elevator? I've slo-mo'd and paused that scene, and still can't figure out how they did it pre-CGI.

2. Best line ever: In the finale, Stallone dumps a drum of gasoline on a baddie, lights a match, and says, "You have the right to remain silent." The guy's response after Stallone drops the lit match on him? "AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" Not exactly silent!

New review at FilmFather: We Need To Talk About Kevin
Follow me on Twitter

Jeff Allard said...

Hey guys - nice to see all the Cobra love being shared here! There's so many cool moments in that movie I feel like the surface has barely been scratched!