Set in 1945, six American GIs crash a cult that worships snakes, and are threatened to be killed, one by one, for their misdeeds. Back home in New York City, their fates start to unravel. Faith Domergue is amazingly beautiful, and most alluring, as an Asian “Cobra Woman”, an instrument of death. Despite his third billing in the film, Marshall Thompson is her co-star, giving a strong performance as the GI who falls for her, and proves her ruin.
Cinematography by eventual Oscar-winner Russell Metty is amazing: In one arresting scene, after Faith professes love for Thompson but can not kiss him, he leaves her apartment and she sits – the door’s closing giving a half-shadow on her face, as if to reflect her dual torment for him between love and as a hit woman. He and the rest of the cast, Richard Long, William Reynolds, Jack Kelly and David Janssen, became more successful as television stars. Kathleen Hughes is also on hand as a pretty blonde love interest. Not much is made to recreate the era, it’s definitely 1955, via the clothes, makeup, hairstyles, etc.
But as in most of Universal-International’s decade of science fiction/horror classics, which hold up better (and are re-shown on television and released to VHS/DVD/Blu Ray) than their other output, save a few Douglas Sirk dramas, westerns, etc., it’s well-written, directed, scored, paced and acted.