Cobra

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Cobra

Rudolph Valentino was one of silent cinema's most notorious stars, a highly eroticized matinee idol with impeccably tailored suits, a cutting gaze, and hair that really took to the light. Italian by birth, Valentino was considerably elastic in his exoticism, with roles ranging from an Argentinean soldier (Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse) to a desert chieftain (The Sheik) to a Russian Robin Hood (The Eagle). The newly reissued Cobra is not one of his better-known vehicles, but it's an engaging, bittersweet love story that makes the most of his uncommon grace and sensitivity. Making his entrance through a cloud of cigarette smoke, Valentino plays a promiscuous Italian count anxious to put his life in order. Nearly broke and dogged by romantic blunders, he flees to New York to work as an antique dealer, only to find himself irresistibly drawn to the sinister wife (Nita Naldi) of his boss and closest friend (Casson Ferguson). What follows is a gratifyingly complex portrait of a man torn between the responsibilities of friendship and his almost comically helpless attraction to the opposite sex. Director Joseph Henabery (who, incidentally, portrayed Abe Lincoln in Birth Of A Nation) mounts a solid, if workmanlike, production; unlike his female counterpart, Marlene Dietrich, Valentino never had a Von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Blonde Venus) to galvanize his stardom. Released shortly before his death at 31, Cobra is a fine introduction to Valentino's seductive mythology.

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