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Cobra Verde

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Klaus Kinski, King Ampaw. The final collaboration between Kinski and director Werner Herzog, this is the remarkable tale of a 19th-century Brazilian bandit who voyages to Africa on a deadly mission. 1987/color/110 min/NR/German/subtitled.


In their last film together, director Werner Herzog drew from actor Klaus Kinski a performance that grounds Kinski's volcanic passions with a new gravity--perhaps age was bringing Kinski down to earth. He plays Cobra Verde, a notorious Brazilian bandit, whom a plantation owner hires to keep his slaves in line. After Cobra Verde impregnates all his daughters, the owner and the authorities conspire to send the bandit to Africa to reopen the slave trade. They expect him to be killed, but through a mixture of his own cunning and the volatile politics of West Africa, Cobra Verde ends up leading an army of women to overthrow the king. Cobra Verde is disjointed, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth watching. Kinski is magnetic in scene after remarkable scene, and though the whole isn't satisfying, the parts certainly are. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary with Director Werner Herzog

Product Details

  • Actors: Klaus Kinski, King Ampaw, José Lewgoy, Salvatore Basile, Peter Berling
  • Directors: Werner Herzog
  • Writers: Werner Herzog, Bruce Chatwin
  • Producers: Kofi Yerenkyi, Kofi Bryan, Francis Annan, George Smith, Lucki Stipetic
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: October 24, 2000
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305972796
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,043 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Cobra Verde" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Klaus Kinski, the mercurial actor and star of hundreds of films both big and small, attained his grandest stature when working with German director Werner Herzog. They collaborated on several films together, including "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," "Fitzcarraldo," "Woyzeck," "Nosferatu," and "Cobra Verde." I've seen three of these films now, and the formula is the same in all three. Kinski plays a driven personality who attempts to perform some grand feat that no one else can achieve. In "Aguirre" he set out with a contingent of Spanish soldiers to find the fabled city of gold. "Fitzcarraldo" saw Kinski playing a wealthy rubber baron in Brazil in search of finding a way to build an opera house on the banks of the Amazon. "Cobra Verde" continues the tradition with Kinski starring as a former South American plantation owner and bandit leader in search of a way to restart the African slave trade against crushing odds. There's something magnetic about Kinski in these Herzog movies that makes you believe no other actor could play the character. Perhaps it is his volcanic personality shining through onscreen, a personality that Herzog had great difficulties in restraining. Whatever the case, film fans could do worse than spend an evening with a Herzog/Kinski collaboration.

In "Cobra Verde" Kinski plays Francisco Manoel da Silva, a man ruined when family catastrophes and a bad drought cost him his plantation. In an attempt to recover his property and put his life back together, he takes a grinding job with a mining company. When the owners try to shortchange him after a hard day's work, he stomps off in a rage and begins a career as the notorious bandit Cobra Verde.
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Format: VHS Tape
As many other films and characters created by Werner Herzog, Cobra Verde explores the extent to which cruelty and obsession can lead an individual to his own moral and human defeat. Settled in some west African country, the film is a recreation of the horror of the slave trade embodied in a charatcer, astonishingly played by Klause Kinski, whose amorality and thirst for absolute power equal the madness of characters such as Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre. Like these other two films, also Cobre Verde explores the darkest side of human mind and soul with a clear reference to a very precise historical experience. The three characters share the same obsession for domination and conquest which proves to be fatal to many individuals including themselves. The last scene of the film is absolutely mesmerizing and, at least to me, unforgettable. Cinematography and photography are superb. It is sorprising that it is almost impossible for those who would like to see this film again to find it anywhere to rent it out.
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Format: DVD
This is a haunting film about slavery (based loosely on a Bruce Chatwin novel), but unlike other films on the topic it doesn't actually denounce slavery, working instead within the mental framework of the 19th century. Not a 'politically correct' approach, of course, as director Herzog cheerfully acknowledges, but an historically faithful one.

Herzog is concerned with authenticity when portraying African cultures, and this may be one of the most realistic depictions of colonial Africa ever committed to film. Interestingly, the actor who plays the King of Dahomey is a real African tribal king.

Klaus Kinski plays the title role with a crazed intensity which according to Herzog mirrors the fact that he was slipping over the edge in real life. Kinski's character Cobra Verde longs "to go forth from here to another world", but in fact he is already in another world - Herzog's camera captures the sense of strangeness and mystery in each landscape the film passes through.

In many ways 'Cobra Verde' is like an extended dreamscape, hyponotic yet full of surprising juxtapositions. While not Herzog's most coherent film, in terms of stylised cinematography it ranks up there with his best. It is a work of art that demands attentive viewing.

Contrary to the myth that whites are responsible for the African slave trade, the film also acknowledges the historical reality that slavery was practiced extensively by Arabs and Africans (not that whites didn't actively participate in it, of course). Herzog discusses some of these issues in the director's commentary track, which is interesting in its own right.
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Format: DVD
Klaus Kinski, always on crazy duty, here shows up as Cobra Verde, a slave leader who seriously ticks off his master by going on an impregnation spree and is thus sent to Africa on a suicide mission. His stated goal is to revive the slave trade but everybody involved knows that he is being sent there to die. Verde is only too excited to get dressed up in his Christopher Columbus get up and sail the ocean blue, not bothered in the least by the fact that nobody ever expects to see him again. Once there he has some initial luck with the natives until it runs out and he is kidnapped for being white. Quickly thereafter he is rescued by a man who feels as though the throne is his and wants Verde to help him seize it. So just like Emilio Estevez did with those darned Ducks, Verde takes a group of losers and transforms them into winners, only instead of being good at hockey these guys are turned into a maniacal killing machine.

Since this is a Werner Herzog movie we know that the focus will be on the uncaring ways of this Earth of ours. Both leaders, the plantation owner in Brazil and the king in Africa, are shown to be the same despite the color of their skin. They both lack morals and believe their own hype. But Herzog isn't interested in building these guys up as evil doers; his films don't need pre-packaged villains because to him we are all villains. When the plantation owner bemoans the fact that he has yet to impregnate every mulatto girl in his fields it is not with the intention of painting him a racist or a rapist. Rather the point is that all men in power are the same. They always want more and will stop at nothing to get it.
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