Exploitation films from around the world were in their heyday in the 1970’s, and Apprehensive Films have unearthed a few for their “Exploitation Double Feature” release. BLACK COBRA WOMAN and SUPER BITCH are two examples of how widespread the quality of the pictures – as well as the depth of the stories – were in that decade. One explores the business of drug trafficking – and the people who make it up – while the other delves into a magical, mysterious world of sex and snakes; together, the films make for an honest examination of the state of the union for exploitation films. Comparatively, one emerges much stronger than the other.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
BLACK COBRA WOMAN is a film that I’ve either heard about or read about somewhere. I believe I’ve seen Jack Palance in an interview somewhere speaking about the film. It’s clearly heavily influenced by exploitation (if not sexploitation) films of the time as there’s relatively frequent nudity – much of it mildly perverse (self gratification, sex utilizing snakes as sensual props, girl-on-girl action) – and, though it’s relatively tame by today’s standards, it probably created its own buzz back in 1976 when the film was released. As for the story, Judas (played by screen veteran Jack Palance) is an academic living in Hong Kong where he insists on sharing his luxurious apartment with his prized snake collection. An exotic beauty named Eva (scantily-clad Laura Gemser) comes into his life via circumstance, and, smitten by her charms, he demands she come and live with him. The tale goes into bizarre directions from there, with Judas’s right-hand-man, Jules (Gabriele Tinti), taking greater focus as he uses his boss’s snakes to do some weird things, though you’ll be glad that he gets his in the end. (Pun intended.) It’s hard to give the film any kind of endorsement except to say that it’s weird not in the extreme but feels very much as though it had no shooting script, and the plot developments and catty dialogue all feel as if they were made up on the fly. On the five star scale, I’d give it only a single star; not even Palance’s respected charm can rescue this stinker, though I did find it surprising how much Christian Bale looks like a young Jack Palance in this picture.
On the other hand, there’s plenty to get excited about when an older, overlooked flick like SUPER BITCH (aka MAFIA JUNCTION) comes back around. Written and directed by Massimo Dallamano, BITCH tells the story of the always scheming U.S. narcotics officer, Inspector Cliff (played by Ivan Rassimov), goes head-to-head with a global syndicate white powder into the States – this is an Italian gialli, however, so 95% of the action takes place in Europe. Cliff dreams and schemes of doublecrossing ‘Mamma the Turk’ (Patricia Hayes), a none-too-maternal head of the most colorful (and vocally talented) gangster clan you’re likely to ever come across. Also along for the ride is a young, nubile Stephanie Beacham (most likely, internet fanboys will be pleased to see Ms. Beacham’s firm taa-taa’s and her flingflang in their youthful glory as they know her better from NBC’s tepid SEAQUEST DSV) who takes it all off and struts around for the camera more than once as Joann, Cliff’s kinda/sorta partner/conquest who doubles as an escort. Much of BITCH is a caper flick as Cliff is racing to seemingly double-cross every player he can in these 90+ minutes, but, to his credit, he pulls it off quite well, giving audiences his best young Clint Eastwood impression. Sadly, the script needed probably another go ‘round to make perfect sense of all these intricacies, but it kept my interest from start-to-finish and even provided a few deliberate chuckles. On the five star scale, I’d give it an encouraging three stars.
BLACK COBRA WOMAN is produced by Matra Cinematografica; IMDB.com, however, contains no production company listing for the title of SUPER BITCH. DVD distribution for this “Exploitation Double Feature” is being handled by Apprehensive Films. As for the technical specifications, BLACK COBRA WOMAN looks and sounds downright horrible – I can’t believe any attempt was made to clean this one up, folks, not that a thorough scrubbing would’ve done much for it! As for the technical specifications on SUPER BITCH, the film looks acceptable, and I experienced only a minimum of difficulties with the occasionally cracking audio track. Outside of these two films’ trailers, there are no special features.
How do they stack up? Well, SUPER BITCH definitely gets a solid nod. The script could’ve used some elbow grease and spit polish, and it certainly could’ve easily risen up a few notches in the rewatchability department. Rassimov – as the central character – plays a solid anti-hero with great charm, and Stephanie Beacham – backed up with the presence of her youthful assets, a plus to most exploitation flicks – gets solid mileage as his ‘Gal Friday’ in a slutty Petula Clark kind of way. But BLACK COBRA WOMAN? Meh. It looks bad. The story – what there is – is patently absurd. It’s best thought of as a curiosity left on the ash heap of film history, but there may be enough weirdness in there for a single viewing.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Apprehensive Films provided me with a DVD screener of the Exploitation Double Feature (BLACK COBRA WOMAN / SUPER BITCH) in advance for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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