Color, 1987, 87 mins. 5 secs.
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Brian Thompson, John Herzfeld, Lee Garlington, Art LaFleur, Marco Rodriguez
Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / (1.85:1) (16:9), Warner Bros. (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Sylvester Stallone was riding high as the king of Hollywood in 1985 when he made this bullet-packed action film, his follow up to the massive back-t-back success of Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV in 1985. Barely Cobrabased on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling Cobra(later adapted under its original title as a Cindy Crawford vehicle), Cobra marked a reunion with his Rambo director, George P. Cosmatos (The Cassandra Crossing, Of Unknown Origin), a legendary taskmaster who was still more than willing to let Stallone have final say on the set. The film was made by the legendary Cannon Group for distributor Warner Bros., an on-and-off arrangement that also included Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and Stallone's immediate project after this one, Over the Top. Essentially Stallone's bid for a Dirty Harry-style cop action vehicle (right down to casting Andrew Robinson, Scorpio from the original Dirty Harry), Cobra was a big box office hit (though not so much with critics), also finding a long life on TV and home video where it earned subsequent generations of fans and a solid cult following.

When a violent shoot out and hostage situation erupts at a supermarket, L.A. cop Marion "Cobra" Cobretti (Stallone) is sent in to deal with the situation as only he can. That means blowing away every bad guy in sight and saving the innocents, though before killing the main instigator, he hears about an organization called The New Order intent on culling the weak Cobrafrom the human race. Cobra's boss (Robinson) is none too pleased with his extreme tactics, of course, but things escalate quickly when model Ingrid (Rocky IV's Nielsen, CobraStallone's wife at the time) witnesses the New Order members including their leader, the Night Slasher (Thompson), on a murder spree in a parking garage. Since she's now a prime target, Ingrid falls into the custody of Cobra and his partner, Tony (Santoni), who go incognito out of town only to find the psychopathic gang right on their tail.

The eye-catching marketing for this film promoted it with the immortal tagline, "Crime is a disease. Meet the cure." However, despite that promise and an opening prologue that finds Stallone reciting a string of crime statistics, that's mostly Dirty Harry-style window dressing on a cops vs. crazies storyline that really has nothing to do with cleaning up the streets a la Death Wish. It's just good pulpy fun, totally devoid of meaningful characterizations or dialogue; instead you get flashy cutting, pithy one liners, a slew of familiar character actors, and a giddy soundtrack comprised of anthemic rock songs and a pounding score by onetime disco guru Sylvester Levay (of "Fly Robin Fly" fame), who went on to do Mannequin for Cannon right after this. Cosmatos drenches the film in a heavy, dark haze for the most part, a tactic also used by directors like Tony Scott and Adrian Lyne, which looked stylish and moody if you saw this first run with a good print but pretty much turned to mush by the time this hit Cobrasecond-run theaters and VHS. Cobra

Following its release on DVD in 1998, the first Blu-ray of Cobra from Warner Bros. appeared in 2012 in a slightly opened-up aspect ratio of 1.78:1, featuring audio options in English (DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix only), French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Polish, and Russian, with subtitles offered in English (SDH), Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Czech. In 2019, Scream Factory issued its own version as a Collector's Edition complete with a slipcase sporting the original poster art. Advertised as a new 2K scan of "the original film elements," this presentation from an interpositive looks quite a bit better with the older transfer appearing heavily boosted by comparison (with excessive brightening added to possibly compensate for the film's original, intended dark look). Blacks are much more natural and deep here, which also helps the original bursts of orange and red to glow more naturally here along with more realistic flesh tones. The usual DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is here (with optional English SDH subtitles), but you also get a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track (unadvertised on the packaging) that's a more faithful rendition of the theatrical mix and nice to have after a long absence on home video.

Ported over from the prior release is a Costmatos audio commentary that's fairly hit and miss, mostly reciting what's happening on screen but occasionally talking about production issues and noting what had to be streamlined or eliminated during the legendary post-production process to appease the studio and the MPAA. "Stalking and Slashing" (26 mins.) with Thompson (who went on to play a memorable bug-munching vampire in Fright Night Part 2) kicks off with a discussion of his first role in The Terminator and then goes through the interview process and the excitement of getting to work opposite Rocky Balboa (while he was still doing the Conan show at Universal Studios!). His story about trying to have a character conversation is especially priceless and gives some insight into the rather fuzzy nature of the criminal organization in the final film, and he pretty much reiterates that Stallone was the one really calling the shots on the film when he was present regardless of who's credited as director. (He doesn't have very fond memories of Cosmatos at all Cobraeither.) "Meet the Disease" (24m5s), an interview with actor Marco Rodriguez, the supermarket killer at the beginning, starts off with the genesis of his career and covers his casting in this film after trying out for the role that ultimately went to Thompson. He also goes into the "metaphor" of shooting up all that food. Like Thompson, he also paints a portrait of Cosmatos as a shouting type who Cobrawasn't always the best communicator. He even shows off his original script, which he mentions in passing is 103 pages (which makes you wonder about rumors of a 130-minute workprint, though a longer alternate version did air on TV). Robinson comes up next for "Feel the Heat" (14m15s) in which he clarifies the original confrontation at the end of the film (which actually sounds a lot cooler and more twisted), confesses he didn't like the script, bemoans the excessive music video-style editing, and speaks warmly about Stallone's accessibility. In "Double Crossed" (9m5s), actress Lee Garlington (who made this in between Psycho II and III) discusses the cameraderie of the cast and crew, her big final action scene, and her rapport (or mostl lack thereof until the last day) with Stallone. Actor Art LaFleur offers his own take in "A Work of Art" (8m23s) about how he came over straight from Italy (doing Zone Troopers) and greatly enjoyed the experience of making the film, even enjoying a Stallone reunion later on Oscar. A vintage making-of featurette (7m50s) is a fairly typical promo piece featuring some behind-the-scenes footage, interview snippets with the lead actors and Cosmatos, with the best material coming in the last few minutes focusing on the stunt preparation for the climactic scene. A teaser trailer (in great stereo) and the theatrical are also included, both in nice HD scans with the latter looking far better than its cruddy SD incarnation on the previous Blu-ray. Two separate galleries are also included, one for stills and the other for posters and lobby cards.


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WARNER BROS. (Blu-ray)

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Reviewed on January 25, 2019.