Quantcast

Film review: '87's 'Cobra Verde' engrossing

Published: Friday, May 4 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

In "Cobra Verde" Klaus Kinski portrays a 19th century scoundrel in Brazil and eventually in Africa.

Film Forum

Enlarge photo»

COBRA VERDE — *** — Klaus Kinski, King Ampaw; in German, with English subtitles; not rated, probable R (violence, torture, nudity, profanity, vulgarity, racial epithets, brief sex).

Like its star, the late Klaus Kinski, the 1987 film "Cobra Verde" is as odd as it is mesmerizing.

Fans of the Polish-born actor (who starred in the 1979 remake of "Nosferatu," among others) and his frequent collaborator, director Werner Herzog, will find a lot to like here. Though it's not understating to say the movie is eccentric.

Specialty distributors 518 Media Inc. and Anchor Bay Entertainment have struck new prints of the film for its 20th anniversary and are re-releasing it in a handful of markets.

This fifth and final movie collaboration between Kinski and Herzog is based on a real-life figure — Francisco Manoel da Silva, better known as Cobra Verde. A bandit who pretty much terrorized the rich in Brazil during the 19th century, da Silva came to a rather ignominious end in Africa.

In this fictionalized version of events, he causes all sorts of mayhem at a sugar plantation — including impregnating all three of his employer's daughters. So the local aristocrats arrange to send him to Africa, where he's supposed to re-establish the slave trade.

Obviously, this is not the most appealing or sympathetic character, yet watching his gradual destruction is fascinating, thanks to Kinski's unpredictable, live-wire performance.

Apparently, the notoriously hard-to-work-with actor's antics were too much for Herzog, who ended their professional relationship after the film was completed. But it's hard to imagine any other actor pulling off the role.

And there's some welcome dark humor, though a few aspects of the story may come off as racially insensitive or politically incorrect today.

"Cobra Verde" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong scenes of violence and other violent imagery (gunplay and violence against women), a scene of torture (a whipping), native nudity (male and female), scattered profanity, suggestive language and racial epithets and brief sexual contact. Running time: 111 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com