Gangster in exile Tony Garden (George Ardisson) leaves Stockholm for New York on learning his twin brother John was murdered. Reunited with his late brother's sexy widow, Leslie (Erica Blanc), Tony punches his way through old underworld contacts to uncover who was responsible. All the while shadowed by a mysterious razor-wielding stranger who murders anyone that gets too chatty. A clue scrawled with the victim's own blood eventually lures John and Leslie from New York to Nairobi in Kenya in search of answers from John's flamboyant business partner George MacGreaves (Alberto de Mendoza). However, the homicidal stranger follows them there.
Scripted by the remarkably prolific Ernesto Gastaldi, Human Cobras is an interesting if ultimately undistinguished hybrid of the giallo, Euro-crime and jungle adventure genres. In its first act the plot shares some similarities with Get Carter (1971). As in the Michael Caine crime classic here a tough gangster returns from exile to solve his brother's murder and in the process clashes with the local mob. Much of the first third has ghoul-faced leading man George Ardisson stroll through sleazy Seventies New York city, smoke endless cigarettes and rough up a host of grimacing low-lifes including ubiquitous character actor Luciano Pigozzi. Meanwhile the plot grinds along laboriously.
Reflecting Gastaldi's fondness for mind-bending first acts, the initial thirty minutes or so opt for a stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling that feeds viewers information one crumb at a time. While audacious this approach proves sadly beyond the abilities of director Bitto Albertini, a director more active in sexploitation (e.g. The New Black Emmanuelle (1976)) who also specialized in sequels nobody wanted (e.g. Starcrash 2: Escape from Galaxy 3 (1981), The Return of Shanghai Joe (1975), Supermen Against the Orient (1974)). Once the action shifts to Nairobi the Euro-crime angle melts away leaving a substandard travelogue giallo, less compelling than such similar fare as Tropic of Cancer (1972). Certain aspects of the second act even evoke a James Bond movie placing the hero in an exotic locale where he dodges assassins, loiters in a casino and romances disposable women in slinky evening wear, including sexploitation regular Janine Reynaud. All of which would be much more fun were Tony a more interesting protagonist. His dick-measuring contest with George proves less than compelling and his readiness to sleep with his brother's mistress and wife mere moments after calling them 'sluts' is scarcely endearing. If such typically tiresome Italian misogyny is part and parcel with a Seventies giallo the film is further dated by its alarmingly positive depiction of the ivory trade. Thankfully the elephant hunting sequence is ineptly handled with obvious cutaways and a lion's roar ridiculously dubbed over a trumpeting tusker.
While Tony lives out his James Bond fantasies, Leslie shoulders the giallo side of the plot, reacting with increasing hysteria to threatening phone calls and the sight of strange figures lurking in the dark. Albertini goes for bludgeoning overstatement in the suspense scenes but otherwise does little to enliven the pedestrian plot save having sultry Erica Blanc take a bubble bath. Blanc stands out among Euro-horror starlets through her ability to fuse the twin female genre archetypes of victim and vixen. But compared with Kill, Baby, Kill! (1966), Devil's Nightmare (1971) and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971), Human Cobras ranks as one of her lesser films. At least the reliable Stelvio Cipriani delivers a swinging score that really gets the blood pumping, even though he recycles his theme from The Frightened Woman (1969).