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In 1945, six discharged American G.I.s, Tom Markel, Paul Able, Carl Turner, Pete Norton, Nick Hommel and Rico Nardi, stop to watch Daru, a snake charmer, in an Asian marketplace. Paul recalls reading about a secret society of Lamians, whose members can transform into snakes. Paul, a research scientist, is fascinated by metamorphosis, while the other men scoff at the notion. Daru, who is desperate for money, reveals that he is a Lamian, and charges the men one hundred dollars in return for entrance to a cult meeting that night. There, he disguises them in robes and warns them that if their presence is detected, they will be killed. Soon after the ceremony begins in the temple, Nick takes a photograph and is attacked, and the others must help him fight his way outside. Nick bolts off ahead of the others, who hear the Lamian high priest declare that a curse will follow and kill them one by one. A few miles away, they come across Nick, who has fallen unconscious from a snake bite, and Pete notes a beautiful woman in a nearby alley. They bring Nick to a hospital, where he quickly recovers, but that night, a snake enters Nick's room and re-infects him. By the time the plane leaves to transport the soldiers back to America the next morning, Nick is dead. In New York City, the men gather at Rico's new bowling alley. Tom and Paul, who are roommates, have both been dating Julia, but she now informs Tom that she has accepted Paul's marriage proposal. Tom, though hurt, congratulates them, and spends the night alone in the apartment. He is woken by a scream in the apartment next door, and when he breaks in, the woman from the Asian alley is there, and introduces herself as Lisa Moya. Not recognizing her, Tom helps her look for intruders and, after finding none, asks her out on a date. The next day, they explore New York together, and Tom finds himself fascinated by her beauty and mysterious charm. When they return to the apartment, he eagerly introduces her to Paul, ignoring the frantic barking of their dog, Corky. Although Tom aggressively tries to kiss Lisa, she holds him at bay. Later that night, she sneaks out to the bowling alley, transforms into a snake, and kills Rico when he enters his car. The funeral is held that weekend, and on the way home, Paul notices that the horses on the street rear whenever Lisa walks by. On Sunday night, Tom invites her to a party, and when womanizer Carl flirts with her, Tom uncharacteristically becomes jealous and punches his friend. Meanwhile, Julia visits Paul, who reveals the events that occurred in Asia, wondering aloud if the curse is coming true. Later, Tom invites Lisa back to his apartment and there confesses his love, causing her to flee into her apartment. Although he visits only moments later, she is gone, and he falls asleep on the couch. Lisa has returned to Carl's, where she at first seduces him, but soon assumes her cobra shape. Carl hits her with a statue, but she continues to approach until he falls out of the window. In the street, a crowd gathers around his body, and Pete notes that Lisa is there with a wounded arm, but is then pulled away to be questioned by the police. Lisa then finds Tom in her apartment, and although she admits that she loves him, she is torn by her responsibilities and, crying, urges him to leave. In the morning, Tom and Paul are called into the police inspector's office to be questioned about Carl's death. Tom, who was seen hitting Carl, falls under suspicion, prompting Paul to explain to the inspector the events leading up to the curse. After Paul accuses Lisa of suspicious behavior, Tom storms out in a fury, and the inspector remains unimpressed but agrees to check the medical records of Nick, Rico and Carl. At the same time, Lisa visits Tom's apartment and there sees Julia reading a book on snake cults. Lisa walks toward Julia threateningly, but a delivery boy appears at the door and Julia runs out. Soon after, Paul comes to Lisa's apartment to reveal that he remembers her from Asia and knows that she killed Carl, which causes Lisa to become a snake and bite him. She then visits Tom, but unable to harm him, instead kisses him. That night, Tom and Lisa arrive backstage to the opening night of a play in which Julia is acting. At the same time, the inspector informs Paul that all three of his friends died of venom poisoning, and they head to Lisa's, where they discover Pete's dead body. Paul calls Tom at the theater, and while Tom listens incredulously to the mounting evidence, Lisa hides in Julia's dressing room and metamorphosizes into a cobra. From downstairs, Tom hears Julia scream and rushes to her room, where he covers the snake with a scarf and pushes it out the window. He shoves it over the ledge, and it falls to the ground inches away from the police car which has just pulled up. Before everyone's eyes, the snake transforms into Lisa, and a distraught Tom averts his eyes from her dead body.