Compared to Night of the Cobra Woman, Black Mamba suffers the double whammy of being less serpent-centric and less booby-centric, making for the dullest movie I’ve seen featuring zombies, voodoo dolls, a hunchback, Satan, Manimal-like transmutations, bestiality, an exorcism and Death itself. The film opens with a hunchback doing what hunchbacks do best: robbing graves. He messes with the wrong tomb, though, when he takes a ring from the corpse of Dante, a man who happens to have once romanced a witch (Clark). Quasimod’oh!
Through hazy “Love American Style”-flashbacks, we learn that the witch still has fond memories of Dante, and that Dante resembles Julio Caesar Chavez in a leisure suit. Fashion taste aside, she still loves the guy and takes offense to Hunchy stealing a ring off his cold, dead fingers and selling it to a local pawn shop. She takes such offense that she punishes not only Hunchy but the pawn shop owner and a random burglar who just happens to beak into the store as well, literally scaring them to death with visions of zombies and the Grim Reaper. (Enter an opportunity for the filmmakers to splice in tasteless clips of a real autopsy.) Turns out, though, that Witchy isn’t Dante’s widow; some gal named Elena (Pilar Pilapil) is, and she’s none too pleased to see Witchy strolling around town wearing her dead husband’s ring (which she got from the pawn shop). Elena confronts her outside a church, and Witchy gives her a look like, “Beyaaatch!” It’s so on! …Or not.
Instead, we segue into the treacly B story about Elena’s sister Barbara (Rosemarie Gil from Night of the Cobra Woman) worrying that her husband Fred doesn’t love her any more because she’s barren. Save it for Oprah, lady; maybe you should focus on why your sister keeps getting voodoo headaches. Meanwhile, Paul (John Ashley, a Philippine horror movie veteran who for my money did his best work as the narrator in The A-Team) is a Marlboro Mannish crime-solving doctor who’s called in to solve the case. And what a tough case it is! I mean, perhaps you should question the six foot-tall black lady walking around the Philippines in a hooded robe, carrying an effigy…? “You mean the lady with the corpse ring who has a pentagram on her floor? But she’s so kind to animals!” Indeed, Witchy is a regular Aquawoman, using beasts to do her bidding: a black bird, a black dog, a black mamba…Do we see a trend? Granted, a black mamba isn’t technically black (and is native to Africa, not the Philippines), but who am I to dictate racial identity?
Eventually, Elena goes nutty after dreaming about Satan and waking to find a snake between her legs — and not in a good, mainstream pornographic way — but only after Barbara gets an exorcist/wizard to beat the ills out of Elena with a whip (which doesn’t work). As you can see, there’s an exhausting amount of story in Black Mamba. In many ways it’s actually a high-minded film dealing with superstition in modern society and giving insight into the different types of witchcraft.
Unfortunately, this is a movie, not Wikipedia, so it ends up dreadfully dull and suffers from low production values, poor film quality and let’s face it, being made in the ’70s. As with Night of the Cobra Woman, it’s hard to buy the classy, even-tempered Clark as evil. Her worst sin might be her performance, which, judging from the seemingly dubbed-over dialogue, might not even be her fault.