Friday, March 18, 2011

Commercial Review: KING COBRA MALT LIQUOR AD- PART 1 (1985, Fred Williamson)

Stars 5 of 5.
Running Time: 30 seconds.
Notable Cast or Crew: Fred Williamson aka "The Hammer" (1990: BRONX WARRIORS, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, VIGILANTE, THE NEW BARBARIANS, ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, BLACK CAESAR).

Well, I suppose I have a tradition to maintain of publishing beverage reviews every St. Paddy's day (past reviews include DAD'S OLD FASHIONED BLUE CREAM SODA, BLUE DIAMOND BEER, CHAMPAGNE COLA, and IRISH POTCHEEN), and while I missed out on it yesterday, this year, I'll continue my examinations of mind-altering celebrity beverage hucksterage, á la James Mason's Thunderbird Wine ad, Ice Cube's St. Ides Malt Liquor Jingle, or Rutger Hauer's partnership with Guinness. So I present to you now: Fred Williamson's King Cobra malt liquor ad.

Fred Williamson has lived many lives– a football star (for the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs), a bit player in classics (M*A*S*H), a TV love interest (JULIA), 70's American blaxploitation star (HAMMER, BLACK CAESAR, HELL UP IN HARLEM), Western and Spaghetti Western star (THE SOUL OF NIGGER CHARLEY), a writer and director (MR. MEAN, NO WAY BACK), Italo-plagiaristic trash star (THE INGLOURIOUS BASTARDS, 1990: BRONX WARRIORS, THE NEW BARBARIANS), William Lustig hero (VIGILANTE), and 90's comeback genre film actor (ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN). He was also the star of a series of King Cobra ads.

For those who have never experienced the malty, manly bite of King Cobra, it's one of the more easily attainable forty-ounce malt liquors, produced by Anheuser Busch, and available at grotty convenience stores and grungy bodegas everywhere with the intent of brightening hobos' days by dulling their senses and polluting their bladders.



Our journey begins on Same Old Malt Liquor Street, a monochrome byway that most of us are acquainted with, and altogether too well. Some of us spend out entire lives there, never knowing that a better path could await us, if only we'd open our minds.

Then, Fred Williamson crashes the party- The Hammer himself.

"If you've only ever experienced harsh malt liquor taste– it's time to change!"

With a mystical touch from The Hammer, accompanied by a whooshing sci-fi sound effect, we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto, we're on–

...KING COBRA BOULEVARD. It's electrifying. Color washes over us like a cleansing hand of God. Suddenly everything seems so clear. Fred Williamson walks by, and the others follow. They know not why they follow, but some primeval organ, long forgotten by man and etched upon their spinal columns, compels them to follow when a prophet is in their midst.

"King Cobra's the only malt liquor that's so good when the taste grabs you, it's a different breed- that's quality."

Now would probably be a good time to mention that whenever The Hammer expounds upon the benefits of upgrading to King Cobra, he is accompanied and punctuated by a heavenly chorus who sings: "Kiiiing Co-Bra!"

Regardless, Williamson begins to amass a veritable army of disciples who leap for joy and spin and dance and pirouette in unison, driven into a righteous frenzy by the divine right to better malt liquor that The Hammer is offering them. He's like the Jean Bodin of malt liquor!



I was just thinking of the Pied Piper of Hamelin but I can't remember why. Anyway, the swarm of King Cobra-acolytes prances ever-forward, and then in silhouette–

"King Cobra is cold malt liquor satisfaction with a smooth taste."

The destination is revealed to be one swingin' party being hosted at, ostensibly, Fred Williamson's apartment. An exceptionally foamy can of The 'Cob is opened. What, did they shake that up beforehand? Or did it come from the handbag of one of these twirling ladies?

"So when you pop the top, what's the clue?"

'So when you pop the top, what's the clue?' is the question posed to us by The Hammer. What does it mean? Is the clue...foam? How is foam a clue? And in general, why are we talking about a clue? I was not aware that a mystery of some kind was involv– ah, I get it! I see what you did there, Fred. Divine mystery. As explored in the 'Mystery Plays' from the Middle Ages, which are quite obviously being referenced here. Clearly, The Cobra was the snake whose temptations caused Adam and Eve to be expelled from Eden. But now King Cobra is in charge, inviting us back to Eden, where the rockingist forty-ounce party of all time shall now commence! There's a new daddy in town, and he has been crowned KING!

But back to the riddle– "So when you pop the top, what's the clue?" It's soon answered by a boisterous partygoer who sings her reply in verse:

"Don't let the smoooooth taste foooool ya!"

And she's right! Don't let the smooth taste fool you into thinking that this advertisment is only about malt liquor, because the taste is not smooth! It's an aside to the initiated, so that they may begin pondering the next step of their King Cobra devotionals. Also, I like that guy in back with the 'stache.



Williamson then returns with additional wisdom:

"Anheuser-Busch...to give cold malt liquor satisfaction. ...Don't let the smooth taste fool ya..."

He places an unusual emphasis on fool, as if there is something of greater importance being said between the lines, which, of course, there is. The commercial comes to a close, and today's lesson is ended.

Soon afterward, Fred starred in a trilogy of films made by Italians looking to cash in on the 'success' of Cannon Film's COBRA, starring Sylvester Stallone. They were: COBRA NERO (BLACK COBRA), THE BLACK COBRA 2, and THE BLACK COBRA 3: THE MANILA CONNECTION. Coincidence?

Regardless, don't let the five stars fool ya....KIIIIIING CO-BRA!

-Sean Gill

2 comments:

GuyR said...

Wow. Let us all praise Fred Williamson.
You gotta admit the man's been through a lot.
A Warrior of the Future Wars plagued by gang warfare deserves a cold one.

Sean Gill said...

I would certainly not begrudge my favorite silk-shirted, swashbuckling BRONX WARRIOR/NEW BARBARIAN a hearty swig from a questionable bottle, just as I don't begrudge Michael Ironside his lifetime supply of Labatt Maximum Ice!