söndag 25 mars 2012

The Damned Cruel Sea (ไอ้คลั่งทะเลโหด, 1979)

What I know The Damned Cruel Sea has no official English title, but after trying out a couple of different translation pages this seemed to be a quite accurate title. It could also be "I Love The Damn Mad Cruel Sea", but I have to stop somewhere. Not released officially on either DVD or VCD, this is a bootleg I found in Bangkok - probably sourced from a VHS (and not TV, thank heavens) release. The Thai's produced movies in every genre possible, but it was a very pleasant surprise to find out that this was a classic swashbuckling adventure-tale with a slightly bigger budget than I've seen in other Thai movies from the same time.

The storm is coming! And it is... and it hits with brutal force a small coastal village, ripping it apart with winds and water. A family manages to escapes, but the wife is pregnant and gives birth to a son on the boat. Just when they think everything is great a bunch of pirates shows up, brutally slaughters the family and crew - but decides to adopt the boy. He grows up to be Sorapong Chatree, the best pirate of them all! But others want to be the next pirate leader, among them famous baddies Dam Datsakorn and Rith Luecha! Sorapong realizes that he's actually kidnapped since he was a baby and changes side to take revenge on the man he thought was his father!

The Damned Cruel Sea is a damned fine movie also. The DVD looks kinda crappy, but watchable - but suffers from cropping and low quality and lack of details. But it's still easy to see what a magnificent adventure movie this is, with lots of extras, sea battles, fights, storms and volcano eruptions. Everything well made and with good production values. The disaster scenes looks very good, and I think they actually is made for this movie and not just "borrowed" stock footage from some random Japanese production.

Action is the key word for The Damned Cruel Sea, and it's some good stuff being shown. This was before traditional martial arts became popular in Thai movies and instead we get a lot of very classy fist- and sword-fights, often quite bloody and violent. But I'm a sucker for sea battles, boats ramming each other and pirates falling of the boats in dozens. That's what made Ben Hur such a great movie once, the sea battle - they could have cut the rest!

The story itself isn't bad and gives us a few surprises and twists along the way, very different from what an American production would have done with the same premise. What I find hard to understand is in which era this story is set. Is it modern pirates, just working far from civilisation or is it an historic movie? Some of the ships looks quite modern, but the rifles looks old and clumsy. But it really doesn't matter in the end, because it's a helluva good action movie with a splendid cast. As usual in many of these very "manly" movies the women are in the background, so even here - but at least we have the fantastic and talented Viyada Umarin in the cast!

It's a pity we don't have a restored version in correct ratio out on DVD or VCD, but maybe this is one of those movies that's lost and gone forever? That would be a shame, because The Damned Cruel Sea is one of my favorite Thai action movies from now on. Try to find it. I'm sure you won't regret it.