Cobra Verde (1987)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

When Francisco Manoel de Silva (Klaus Kinski) impregnates the three daughters of his plantation-owning employer, he is sent to West Africa to round up slaves. The irate land baron hopes the cynical and libidinous Francisco will meet certain death in the African jungles at the hands of hostile natives. Francisco instead manages to overthrow a mad monarch and set himself up as king. Despite enslaving the tribe, he shows signs of humanitarian benevolence. The character portrayed by Kinski in this feature is a cross between his insane portrayal in Aguirre and the comic madness in Fitzcarraldo. Francisco tries to escape from the natives when his employer swindles him and slavery is abolished. This fifth and final collaboration between director Herzog and Kinski is considered the weakest of the five features.
NR (adult situations)
Action & Adventure , Art House & International , Drama
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Written By:
In Theaters:
Anchor Bay Entertainment

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Klaus Kinski
as Francisco Manoel da Silva
José Lewgoy
as Don Octavio Coutinho
King Ampaw
as Taparica
Salvatore Basile
as Capt. Fraternidade
Benito Stefanelli
as Capt. Pedro Vincente
Nana Agyefi Kwame II
as King Bossa Ahadee
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Critic Reviews for Cobra Verde

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (5)

The type of crazed, folkloric epic that Germany's own De Niro-Scorsese duo usually excelled at.

Full Review… | March 23, 2007
Time Out
Top Critic

The final third of this film contains sequences of horrifying sublimity and ethereal beauty, moments that have a clarity and power beyond the reach of reason.

March 22, 2007
New York Times
Top Critic

Verde is too blankly amoral to sustain interest, but the film has isolated moments of haunting poetry.

Full Review… | March 20, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's easy to understand why this was Herzog's final collaboration with the actor, but Kinski's performance nevertheless serves up a potent confusion of documentary and fiction that has long been an essential element of Herzog's filmmaking.

Full Review… | March 20, 2007
Village Voice
Top Critic

Though less apocalyptical than usual, the imagery is as lavish as ever, but the film is wrecked by an underwritten narrative.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The underwritten dramatization is saved by the stunning surreal visuals.

Full Review… | June 6, 2015
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Cobra Verde

"Cobra Verde" may be unjustifiably obscure, but it's also no match for its heralded older brothers "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo." Director Werner Herzog and enfant terrible Klaus Kinski are teamed for the fifth and last time, but the chemistry seems off. "Cobra Verde" has a more complex story than "Aguirre" and "Fitzcarraldo," despite having a similar plot about a driven fanatic undertaking a seemingly impossible mission. Kinski plays the title character, a roaming South American bandit who takes a job at a sugar plantation, only to fall out of favor after he impregnates the boss's daughters. As a result, he is pressed to sail overseas to barter slaves from Dahomey. It is expected that he will not return alive. Settling down in Africa, he becomes embroiled in a conflict between two rival kingdoms, and his original objective fades away in the chaos. Kinski's performance is a bit erratic -- sometimes he's a man of sullen intimidation, other times he's the feral lunatic we expect -- and Herzog fails to get inside his head, instead seeming more interested in choreographing large crowd scenes. The rites and costumes of the natives *are* fascinating, but the illusion is punctured when they speak to Kinski in perfect German. Even Popol Vuh's droning soundtrack seems indifferent next to the group's masterful work on earlier Herzog projects. The film's quirkier virtues include a goat receiving communion and a tribal girl's choir so shockingly charismatic that one wonders why they didn't follow Ladysmith Black Mambazo to international success. Hey, they even worked topless.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer


The problem with this film is the main character. Kinski does a great job but he feels two-dimensional and seems to go with the flow rather than having any actual goal - ala Forrest Gump. Fortunately, Herzog's skills as a director are in full flow here and there are countless lingering shots of absolute beauty that seem to strain the camera lens as he tries to encompass the entire scene. Visually, it's a wonder, but it lacks a soul.

Marcus Woolcott
Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer


Pure unadulterated delightful madness.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

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