In the "Black Cobra" films, Williamson plays Robert Malone, a tough-talking cop who sorta-grudgingly accepts the tough cases assigned to him. The first film finds him in New York City (or at least that's what the stock footage interlaced into the film would suggest) while "Black Cobra" entries Two and Three give Malone a promotion to Lieutenant and a relocation to Chicago (once again implied by the stock footage), even though the meat of the plot takes place in the Philippines (gotta give props for them NOT trying to pass it off as Los Angeles, at least).
The first "Black Cobra" follows the basic arc of Sylvester Stallone's TOTALLY RIDICULOUS and therefore highly recommended action flick "Cobra," only on a fraction of the budget. In the Williamson vehicle, a fabulously Eurotrash biker gang terrorizing a rather two-story, arboreal version of New York City. The scriptwriters clearly found the Stallone film to be insufficiently absurd, so this movie ratchets up the krazee elements to at least an eight--hell, I didn't even miss the fact that the bikers are no longer in league with the Devil. In one scene portraying a gang rampage, the thugs steal a windsurfer's Jeep and use it to drive into him when he emerges from the surf. This move is so unexpected and stupid, yet it's alarmingly effective in the universe of this film!
Detective Bob Malone is pretty much a hardcore dickhead to everyone in the movie except his cat Purvis. He's a grouchy misanthrope with a mean karate kick and an itchy trigger finger. During one of the film's climactic moments, Williamson channels Dirty Harry and ad libs a "do ya feel lucky, punk" speech that had me gawping at the sheer ballsiness of such a move. Now THAT takes guts--it's one thing to knock off a Stallone film, but entirely another matter to deliberately invoke that toughest of hard-boiled police icons. THAT is how great Williamson feels he is! The first "Black Cobra" is so chock full of WTF'ery that to outline every little nugget of silly glee would be to ruin the overall effect, but suffice to say the UNSTOPPABLE BIKER GANG grudgingly shares their abandoned-warehouse digs with hobos and while some extraordinarily rude manhandling of females takes place, it's unclear to me that these guys understand exactly how the crime of rape is perpetrated. This is actually in line with the weirdly chaste mood of the series--there's a single bared boob and some swimsuits to be seen (and a man-bum, if you're into that sort of thing), but otherwise this is pretty much sex-free.
It's got to be said that karate action is NOT Williamson's forte--much as the stuntmen work within Williamson's physical limitations, it's clear that his kicks are limited in range and he's not exactly endowed with cat-like reflexes. However, the baddies keep on falling as Malone inelegantly flails his way through their ranks.
Fashion photographer Elys Trumbo (played by Eva Grimaldi, star of such uberklassee fare as "Ratman" and "Convent of Sinners"--you might not recognize her with all of her clothes on) is inexplicably drawn to Malone, even though he's fond of admonishing her with such lines as: "if you have to open your mouth, then do it just to shove in the food I made you." Yikes... Malone is a thinker underneath that crusty exterior, and he's all about spreading his wisdom around. When the police chief rails against his daughter's kidnapping, wishing he was twenty-five years younger, Malone sagely reminds him that he wouldn't *have* a daughter were it twenty-five years ago. File THAT under Totally Not Helping.
"Black Cobra 2" finds Malone (a Chicago cop this time, a fact which is rammed into one's frontal cortex by repeated mentions during the expository scenes) forcibly sent to the Philippines by his actually-kinda awesome police commissioner bosss part of an exchange program. The commissioner is played by Edward Santana, who apparently never appeared in a film again after reprising his role as the shoutey and emphatic Captain Marton twice.
Minutes after his plane lands, Malone falls prey to an ex-pat pickpocket who Malone decides to pursue, only to get pulled into a web of intrigue involving terrorists and hostages and general action film mayhem. He's awkwardly teamed up with police lieutenant Kevin McCall, played by TeeVee's Spider-Man, Nicholas Hammond. Yet more awkward is Malone's love interest, a chanteuse who delivers one of the most cringe-worthy song performances this side of "Black Cobra 3" (more on THAT later). She sings a rather extraordinary love song that she's clearly learned phonetically: "Stay bubby stay... stay to the jug-ment day... come on of the ray... may my monay shy... we cross in the night like two rollin' stones... stone roll outta sight..." The more I listen to this song, the more I believe this might be the most profound thing I've ever heard--it's positively surrealist in its layers of meaning. The rest of the soundtrack involves the grotesque misuse of the cowbell right from the opening credits:
"Black Cobra 3: The Manila Connection" casts Malone as part of a team of CIA operatives trying to track down a cache of stolen American missiles. Our hero is a lot more eager to travel abroad this time, with a redux of his still-awesome argument scene with Captain Marton, this time reversing the roles as Malone eagerly pleads his case to be sent to Manila.
This movie is an amazing bit of fuckwittery right from scene one, in which a camo-clad spy breaks through an electrified fence using a needlessly baroque set of clip-on devices when a sturdy set of gloves would've provided even better insulation. Malone's shoot-em-up style of policework is met with more enthusiasm and encouragement in this film, and when he teams up with his war buddy's son and a lady CIA agent, he's pretty much given carte blanche to blow away as many terrorists as he feels like. The REAL star of "Black Cobra 3," moreso even than Williamson's ego or the dubious John Waters moustache on one of the CIA agents, is the incredible theme song, "The Power of Love," which is crooned by an individual who belts this bitch out like a middle-manager accountant performing bourbon-soaked 1:00 AM karaoke. Check out this YouTube clip if you don't believe me:
The joy I derive from the "Black Cobra" movies is likely indicative of some soul-deep intellectual insufficiency on my part. I'm not going to try to deny that. I just don't want to live in a world where loving Fred Williamson movies is wrong.