onsdag 4 januari 2012

The Golden Triangle (1975)

The action cinema of Thailand in the seventies was very different, even if distributors all over the world desperately tried to make it seem more Hong Kong, more "kung fu" or "karate". But to be fair, that kind of action didn't appear in Thailand until Panna Rittikrai made Gerd Ma Lui in the eighties, before that the action was pretty basic and based on traditional fist fights and car-chases. From time to time Hong Kong and Thailand cooperated with movies and one of those is the 1975 movie The Golden Triangle. It's more of a Thai movie than a Hong Kong movie, even if the Hong Kong cast do their best to get some attention...

Sombat Metanee is a street wise tough guy who saves an old opium smuggler in bar fight. He joins the smuggler and his companions up the mountains and joins the team. The daughter of the man, Hung Sun-wu (Ni Tien) is very suspicious about their new friend, but slowly accepts him. This time they're planning to make a deal with a Hong Kong gangster, the nasty and slimy Lo Han (veteran actor Feng Tien) who together with his faithful henchman Tony Wong (even more legendary Lo Lieh) has more sinister plans. The deal goes terribly wrong and Lo Han and Tony steals the opium when the police attacks... and now Sombat and his gang of hoodlums must get it back!

The R1 DVD from Xenon Pictures looks quite terrible, VHS-quality and badly cropped from 2:35.1 to 4:3. This doesn't stop the movie from being very entertaining and the ambitions shines through the mediocre quality. Director Rome Bunnag (co-credited with Wu Ma) adds a lot of atmosphere to the beginning with handheld camera and gritty, seedy street- and bar-scenes from some unknown city by the sea in Thailand. Only the silly dubbing takes away from the movie magic here.

When Sombat Metanee makes his first scene the movie goes from seediness to the classic Sombat-action with a wonderful bar-brawl and him flexing his muscles, showing who's the boss. I'm not sure how to categorize Sombat, but he's a mix between Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Roger Moore and hell, yeah - even Arnold. But a way better actor than the last guy and without looking silly with his beefy appearance. He was 38 when The Golden Triangle was released and looks better than ever! The rest of the cast is really fun, especially the Hong Kong actors. Ni Tien mostly looks angry, but I think the dubbing did a lot of that, but works fine together with Sombat. Feng Tien, who plays the main baddie, is excellent. God, I love this guy. He was born to play bad guys and do it as a master! Lo Lieh has a smaller part, and is quite undefined, but gets to fight a bit at the end.

The action is good. Lots of shooting - and NO exploding huts (disappointing!). But the bloody shoot-out at the end and the excellent car-chase made of for those huts. I've seen more than a few Thai action movies from this time now and the car-chases always been of very high class. I wonder if there was a special stunt group working with this? They are often quite similar, but very well-done and looks dangerous. No faking the speed here, they go really fast and make big jumps!

I wish The Golden Triangle could be released in a better version on DVD, it's worth it and the movie is an excellent example of classic Thai action from the seventies.