A small note prior to this post: Last July we decided to take a look back at the movies that we watched over five years ago and choose a Hall of Fame class, five movies that we thought embodied BMT in some way. Perhaps they were particularly bad, or an example of a specific bad movie trope, whatever, something made them stand out as special in our minds. Since we didn’t do email previews before 2013ish we also decided to provide a preview for the movie. This is the fourth in a series of five leading up to our yearly awards the Smaddies Baddies. A recap (Hall of Fame speech really) will follow immediately afterwards to explain why the movie was chosen, things we loved about the movie, and things we discovered upon second viewing. Enjoy!
Cobra (1986) – BMeTric: 42.3
(This is a movie which I think is becoming more popular as the years go on. I can say this straight out: the movie is nuts, but in a very 80s “this is nuts, but maybe also brilliant” kind of way. To be honest, I’m a little surprised the film hasn’t reached 6.0 yet.)
Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars – Once more, Stallone wraps himself in the American flag and fights for the greater glory of mankind by going after criminal vermin; this time, he’s a cop. Typical low-grade action fare, where all the other cops are stubborn dummies, and all the bad guys are repellent creeps. Some good action sequences.
(The last throwaway line of “Some good action sequences” feels like an insult. Like Leonard is pitying them and throwing them a bone after this complete evisceration. Also, Leonard … you know I love semicolons. Don’t tease me like that, you devil.)
(I’m in. Although I have to say that the trailer is way too serious for its own good. Like obviously the film took itself too seriously, that’s the fun of it, but you can at least make it seem like it’s not just Sly mumbling to people the whole time and slamming Coors. Also, his license plate says AWSOM 50. Gotta mention it because it’s so stupid.)
Directors – George P. Cosmatos – (Known For: Tombstone; Of Unknown Origin; Future BMT: Shadow Conspiracy; Leviathan; Rambo: First Blood Part II; The Cassandra Crossing; BMT: Cobra; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Director for Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1986; Notes: Rumor is that Sly actually directed the film and Cosmatos ended up as more of a producer. No info as to whether the same might be true of Rambo II.)
Writers – Paula Gosling (novel) – (BMT: Fair Game; Cobra; Notes: Fair Game and Cobra are adapted from Gosling’s novel A Running Duck. Cobra is crazier and better, Fair Game might as well not exist.)
Sylvester Stallone (screenplay) – (Known For: Creed II; Creed; Rocky; The Expendables; The Expendables 2; Rocky III; Rocky Balboa; Rocky II; First Blood; Homefront; Cliffhanger; The Lords of Flatbush; F.I.S.T; Future BMT: Staying Alive; Rocky V; Rambo III; Rambo: First Blood Part II; Rocky IV; BMT: Driven; Rhinestone; Cobra; Over the Top; The Expendables 3; Notes: From ‘82 to ‘88 Stallone didn’t star in a film he didn’t also get a screenwriting credit for. And a ton of the films are brilliant. And then he stumbled and is basically just an old man action star at this point, although he is writing Rambo 5.)
Actors – Sylvester Stallone – (Known For: Creed II; Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2; Creed; Rocky; The Expendables; The Expendables 2; Rocky III; Rocky Balboa; Escape Plan; Rocky II; First Blood; Spy Kids 3: Game Over; Cliffhanger; Antz; Bullet to the Head; Cop Land; Death Race 2000; The Lords of Flatbush; Future BMT: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot; Escape Plan II; Staying Alive; Rocky V; D-Tox; The Specialist; An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn; Avenging Angelo; Rambo III; Daylight; Ratchet & Clank; Collection; Assassins; Backtrace; Rambo: First Blood Part II; Oscar; Rocky IV; BMT: Driven; Zookeeper; Get Carter; Rhinestone; Judge Dredd; Cobra; Over the Top; The Expendables 3; Tango & Cash; Grudge Match; Lock Up; Demolition Man; Notes: Still smashing the gym at the age of 72, this time to prep for Rambo 5. A bad movie legend if there ever was one.)
Stallone Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Director, and Worst Actor for Rocky IV in 1986; Winner for Worst Screenplay, and Worst Actor for Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1986; Winner for Worst Actor in 1985 for Rhinestone; in 1989 for Rambo III; and in 1993 for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot; Winner for Worst Supporting Actor for Spy Kids 3: Game Over in 2004; Winner for Worst Screen Couple in 1995 for Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, and The Specialist; Winner for Worst Actor of the Decade in 1990 for Cobra, Cobra, Lock Up, Lock Up, Over the Top, Over the Top, Rambo III, Rambo III, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rhinestone, Rocky IV, and Tango & Cash; Nominee for Worst Director for The Expendables in 2011; Nominee for Worst Screenplay in 1985 for Rhinestone; in 1986 for Rocky IV; in 1987 for Cobra; in 1989 for Rambo III; in 1991 for Rocky V; in 1994 for Cliffhanger; and in 2002 for Driven; Nominee for Worst Actor in 1987 for Cobra; in 1988 for Over the Top; in 1990 for Lock Up, and Tango & Cash; in 1991 for Rocky V; in 1992 for Oscar; in 1995 for The Specialist; in 1996 for Assassins, and Judge Dredd; in 1997 for Daylight; in 2001 for Get Carter; and in 2014 for Bullet to the Head, Escape Plan, and Grudge Match; Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Screen Couple for Driven in 2002; and Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor for An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn in 1999;
Brigitte Nielsen – (Known For: Creed II; Beverly Hills Cop II; Future BMT: Red Sonja; Rocky IV; BMT: Cobra; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Supporting Actress, and Worst New Star for Rocky IV in 1986; Winner for Worst New Star for Red Sonja in 1986; and Nominee for Worst Actress in 1986 for Red Sonja; in 1987 for Cobra; and in 1990 for Bye Bye Baby; Notes: Married Sylvester Stallone a year prior to this film, likely around the time Rocky IV came out. The Great Dane, she was Danish and noted for her height.)
Reni Santoni – (Known For: Rain Man; Groundhog Day; Can’t Hardly Wait; Dirty Harry; The Brady Bunch Movie; Private Parts; Doctor Dolittle; Bad Boys; Bright Lights, Big City; The Package; Dr. Dolittle 2; The Pick-up Artist; The Pawnbroker; Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid; Cat Chaser; Enter Laughing; The Battle for Anzio; Future BMT: 28 Days; Summer Rental; Brewster’s Millions; BMT: Cobra; Notes: His IMDb claims he was a professional baseball player prior to becoming an actor, although there are no stats concerning his career (which makes it unlikely it would have been in the United States at least). Played a cop in a Murder She Wrote episode centered around a baseball team though.)
Budget/Gross – $25 million / Domestic: $49,042,224
(Basically broke even I would think. Makes a bit of sense it didn’t get a sequel, although that would have been fun.)
#19 for the Off-Screen Couples On-Screen genre
(Vanilla Sky, Cobra, The Marrying Man, Gigli, and Shanghai Surprise are the BMT films that fit the bill. Stunt casting might have become more of a thing in the late 90s with the advent of the 24-hour news channel, and again in 2010ish although that was just Twilight basically. Nowadays it seems to more likely be couples just deciding to do it instead of an actual stunt, like with A Quiet Place.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 17% (3/18): No consensus yet.
(The film is structured around an idea of super criminals which has since, rightfully, become a dirty word. The criminal which claims that they are the future, and that the justice system cannot stop them, and the cop who says “I am the law” and murders them all the same, screw due process, the process is broken! It is pretty disgusting if the entire thing didn’t play out like a joke half the time. Reviewer Highlight: The film trades on the same technique used by books that attack pornography by printing examples of the dirty pictures. Cobra pretends to be against the wanton violence of a disintegrating society, but it’s really the apotheosis of that violence. – Nina Darnton, New York Times)
Poster – I AM THE LAW (A)
(I kind of inexplicably love this poster. Something about the matte colors. It feels like a painting, and a painting I want in my house … like, this represented America in all its macho super-violence, this represents something terrible and loveable about us in some way.)
Tagline(s) – Crime is the disease. Meet the Cure. (A)
(Again, I love it, but in a kind of psycho ridiculous way. Like for reals, people used to think super criminals were going to be a thing forever, and that we needed Judge Dredd (for reals) in our lives. That was a thing. And this movie represented that on a mainstream level, and this tagline perfectly conveys this. Somehow it works in both 1986 and 2019 in two totally different ways.)
Keyword(s) – psychotronic; Top Ten by BMeTric: 68.2 Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982); 62.8 The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961); 60.4 Space Mutiny (1988); 59.4 Red Sonja (1985); 57.7 Ghoulies (1984); 53.7 Casino Royale (1967); 52.9 Faces of Death (1978); 52.8 Starcrash (1978); 52.7 The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964); 52.7 The Green Inferno (2013);
(What the f-in f! Anyways, that is a crazy keyword. Psychotronic – denoting or relating to a genre of films that typically have a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme and were made on a low budget. This isn’t that really, although it does have the vibe. Not surprisingly most of these are Mystery Science Theater 3000 films and do not qualify.)
Notes – A very rare workprint of the movie is available amongst fans. Although most copies are in poor quality, it has approximately 30 to 40 minutes of footage not available in any other version. It also has all of the X-rated material removed from the final release. (Huh … I’ll just put this here to remind me to check this out later)
When Sylvester Stallone was signed to play the lead in Beverly Hills Cop (1984), he did a lot of work on the screenplay, turning it into an action extravaganza that the studio couldn’t afford. He eventually left Beverly Hills Cop and channeled his ideas for that project into this movie.
Body count: 52, and 41 of them are killed by Cobra. (Jesus Christ!)
Most 1980s action heroes were called John (ex. John Rambo, John Matrix, John McClane). The hero of this film is named Marion, after John Wayne, the epitome of the cinematic tough guy.
Some of the cuts made to avoid an X-rating include: the first murder victim having her hands severed; an extended autopsy scene, including lingering shots of naked and mutilated bodies; a longer death for Ingrid’s photographer Dan, including a shot of him slipping on his own blood while trying to escape; more deaths of the townspeople during the climax, including a person getting hit in the face with an ax. (Wowza, and here I thought it was going to be a 20 minute hardcore sex scene starring Sly)
The film was considered a box-office disappointment at the time, especially compared to Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and Rocky IV (1985). However, it grossed $12,653,032 on its opening weekend, which was the largest opening weekend in the history of Warner Brothers and The Cannon Group at the time. It also earned over $160 million worldwide, against a budget of $25 million dollars (along with marketing costs). That opening weekend was the 2nd best for any film in 1986, trailing only that for _Stark Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)_. It also got lumped together with Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986), which also opened wide on May 23, 1986. (That worldwide number is pretty nuts considering it apparently only make $50 million domestically. I can’t imagine it was very common for the international yield to outstrip the domestic yield in the 80s)
At one point during filming Sylvester Stallone complained to cinematographer Ric Waite that they were falling behind and that he and his crew needed to work harder. Waite responded by saying that maybe if Stallone “gets his hands off Brigitte Nielsen ass and stops showing off to his bodyguards maybe they wouldn’t have problems with time”. Although Stallone was shocked that somebody would talk to him that way he did tone down his ego but after a few weeks he returned to his old egotistical behavior. In the same interview where he mentioned this, Waite also said that despite his huge ego Stallone had a great sense of humor. He also confirmed a rumor that Stallone was the true director of the film, calling credited director George P. Cosmatos a good producer, but a bad director. (Oh shit)
The original rough cut was over two hours long. Due to concerns it might not be a hit, the final cut was 87 minutes, thereby increasing the number of screenings per day. Some of the more violent scenes were also cut to avoid an X-rating. A great deal of plot detail was either removed or sped up while most of the violence and nearly every death was edited or depicted off-screen, resulting in numerous continuity errors.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn is a huge fan of Cobra. In Refn’s cult movie Drive (2011), the main character has a toothpick in his mouth in some scenes. This is Refn’s homage to the opening scene of Cobra where Cobretti has a matchstick in his mouth. (The first part sounds correct, the second part sounds like there is a toothpick in someone’s mouth which is totally normal and not usually a “homage”)
The custom 1950 Mercury driven by Cobretti in the film was a car actually owned by star Sylvester Stallone. The studio produced stunt doubles of the car for use in some of the action sequences, such as the jump from the second floor of the parking garage. (Cool)
The movie was based on a novel “Fair Game” by Paula Gosling. In 1995, William Baldwin and Cindy Crawford made Fair Game, which was based on the same novel by Gosling. Just like Cobra, Fair Game was re-edited by Warner Bros. in post production, but in Fair Game’s case it was due to the test audience disliking the original cut. (Because it is a garbage film)
The knife used by the Night Slasher character was made for the film by knife designer Herman Schneider. Sylvester Stallone had asked Schneider to create a knife that audiences would never forget. (I don’t recall what it looks like, so … didn’t work)
Brian Thompson auditioned seven times for his role before he was hired. On his fourth audition he met Sylvester Stallone and both he and the director thought that Thompson was too nice to play the role of Nightslasher. But after a screen test he immediately got the job. Thompson repeatedly asked Stallone about his character Nightslasher, like how Stallone would want Thompson to play him, character’s background, his reasons for doing what he’s doing, but Stallone wasn’t interested in explaining Thompson’s character and he basically told him that he is evil because he is evil. In an unfortunate surprise for Thompson, when filming of the movie was finished, director George P. Cosmatos told Thompson, “You could have been good if you had listened to me.” (He is right and wrong. Sly was correctly reading the times with the psychopath killer and the fascination the public had with such things. It is seen in slashers like Michael Myers, and rolled into some of the erotic thrillers in the early 90s as well. But Cosmatos is ultimately correct, a psychopath is a psychopath which is pretty boring.)
The first draft of Sylvester Stallone’s script had lot of differences from later drafts and the film. These include opening shootout taking place in movie theater instead of a grocery store and lot more people getting killed, Cobra mentioning how some psychopath he was trying to catch killed his girlfriend, additional big action sequence taking place during night on a boat where Cobra and Ingrid are hiding when they get attacked by Nightslasher’s cult members but Cobra and Gonzalez manage to kill them all, and different ending in which it’s revealed that Monte was actual leader of the New Order cult and when he tries to kill Ingrid he gets shot and killed by Cobra.
The Stan Bush song “The Touch” from The Transformers: The Movie (1986) was originally written for this film. (Whaaaaaaaa?)
The Paula Gosling novel ‘Fair Game’ on which “Cobra” is based is also called ‘A Running Duck’. When the movie came out Sylvester Stallone allegedly wanted the novel reissued with himself credited as the author. Ms. Gosling declined the offer. (Oh, I can’t imagine why …)
Sylvester Stallone was a fan of John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band and approached them about doing a song for the film. The song “Voice of America’s Sons” was written for the film, and John Cafferty had contributed to the Rocky IV (1985) soundtrack as well. (Jam out to this)
Sylvester Stallone said he got the idea for the LAPD’s “Zombie Squad” from a real-life Zombie Squad in Belgium, comprised of cops who go out at night and handle crazed criminals on their own terms. (WHAT. I can’t find anything about that shit online)
The submachine gun used by Marion Cobretti in the final showdown with biker gang is a Jati-Matic. Cobretti uses a custom Colt Gold Cup National Match 1911 in 9mm using Glaser Safety Slugs, a frangible bullet. (These notes were much much longer before I cut them down, look up the details yourself if you are interested)
Santiago Segura has claimed that this movie was the inspiration for his well-known character Jose Luis Torrente, main star of Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley (1998) and sequels, that he conceived as a parody of the 80s action movies. In fact, the title is a spoof of Stallone’s movie, since then in Spain Cobra was titled as “Cobra, el brazo fuerte de la ley” (Cobra, the strong arm of the law). (Huh, this would be a great homework opportunity. According to wikipedia, José Luis Torrente is an ugly, bald, overweight, dirty, corrupt, lying, fascist, racist, and chauvinistic retired cop … sounds about right.)
Awards – Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Picture (Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, 1987)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone, 1987)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actress (Brigitte Nielsen, 1987)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor (Brian Thompson, 1987)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Screenplay (Sylvester Stallone, 1987)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst New Star (Brian Thompson, 1987)