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COBRA VERDE (director/writer: Werner Herzog; screenwriter: from the novel by Bruce Chatwin The Viceroy of Ouidah”; cinematographer: Viktor Ruzicka; editor: Maximiliane Mainka; music: Popol Vuh; cast: Klaus Kinski (Cobra Verde); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lucki Stipetic; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1987-West Germany-in German with English subtitles)
The underwritten dramatization is saved by the stunning surreal visuals.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The oddball adventure pic is based on the 1980 historical novel The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin. The novel was inspired by the doomed Brazilian outcast slave trader Francisco Manoel da Silva’s life, who was called Cobra Verde. This was the fifth and last of five collaborations between German actor Klaus Kinski and German director Werner Herzog (“Death Row”/”Aguirre, Wrath of God“/”Scream of Stone”). The underwritten drama is saved by the stunning visuals. It was shot in Dahomey and Bahai, Brazil.

Cobra Verde (Klaus Kinski) lost his farm because of the drought and the shoeless man became a bandit when hired as a slave overseer by a Brazilian sugarcane-plantation owner in the early 19th-century. The megalomaniac Verde has a bunch of children with the black slaves. As a punishment he’s sent to West Africa to reopen the slave trade even though its officially illegal there. Once there he trains an all-female topless Amazon army to fend off the violent cohorts of the mad war-lord king of Dahomey, while also having 62 more kids.

The passionless film, sluggishly directed, goes up to the time slavery is abolished in Brazil, in 1888. It follows the filmmaker’s usual theme of man trying to deal with either the forces of nature or the power-structure of society or his own madness. It leaves a harsh impression of the colonialists and little other memories than its one-sided version of colonialism and how all races are to blame for allowing slavery to flourish for so long. It took twenty years after it was made to get it released in America.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”