Director Bitto Albertini-known primarily amongst diehard Euro-Cult cinema enthusiasts for his sexploitation work with actress Laura Gemser as “Black Emanuelle”-attempts to blur the line between mystery and giallo here with his 1971 film L’uomo piu velenoso del cobra, a.k.a. Human Cobras.
Albertini is mostly successful with his attempt, bridging the gap between a swinging sixties Eurospy mood with the more atmospheric “body count” style most associated with the Italian giallo films which flourished throughout the 1970s. The groove of Human Cobras is driven home right from the get-go, thanks to famed Italian composer Stelvio Cipriani, whose score riffs heavily upon the rhythmic, brassy notes of Lalo Schifrin’s classic Mission Impossible theme, together with an early psychedelia torn without apology from the Iron Butterfly, “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” playbook. Cipriani even recycles a tune from his celebrated score to director Piero Schivazappa’s exquisite 1969 pop-art masterpiece, Femina Ridens.
Human Cobras deals with the relatively simple plot of a gangster (George Ardisson) trying to uncover the mystery of his brother’s death at the hands of a ruthless and efficient hit man. Ardisson’s character of Tony Gardner is joined in his journey by his brother’s grieving widow Leslie-played with her usual stunning flair by actress Erika Blanc-as bodies and questions begin to pile up.
Albertini takes his characters through an exotic journey, filming scenes in Rome and Spain, while also venturing to Stockholm, New York and finally Kenya, as Gardner and Leslie track down their suspicions to a former business partner of Tony’s brother…but is he really the man responsible? These exotic locations greatly assist Human Cobras in its attempt to retain the interest of its audience, while Blanc’s otherworldly beauty is as captivating as ever, despite Mya’s obvious full-framed, VHS-sourced print.
Still, Human Cobras does a decent job at retaining the air of mystery throughout its running time, and Mya’s print is certainly watchable, and appears uncut as throats get slit, strangled and even crushed by a wild, stampeding elephant. The script, which was co-written by veteran screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi and famed producer/director Luciano Martino, contains all of the twists and turns expected by fans of Italian genre cinema, and Human Cobras, while not perfect, is aimed straight at these diehards, who are the candidates most likely to appreciate Albertini’s work.
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