måndag 28 maj 2012

303 Fear Faith Revenge (303 กลัว/กล้า/อาฆาต, 1999)

303 FearFaith Revenge was the first Thai movie I bought on DVD and it's still a movie I revisit from time to time. If you ask me which the first Thai movie I saw was, I would say something by P. Chalong - because several of his movies was out on VHS here in Sweden. But back to 303. It was the years after Scream and the industry was flooded by slick and very mainstream slasher movies, so it didn't take long until Thailand did their own take on the American tradition of a crazy killer chopping up kids. The Thai's did their own twist and brought back the supernatural twist, which is fine by me - as long the body count won't stop!

St. George boarding school, a Catholic school during the late fifties or early sixties. New students arrived, among them Ghu (Ananda Everingham) who's supported by the church to get a place at the prestigious school. In the Hall of Fame he and his new friends find a photo of Prince Daovadueng, who according to rumours killed himself. They start to investigate the suicide and decides to use an ouija board to contact their dead former school mate - but instead they unleash something much worse, someone who wants to kill everyone at the school! What dark secrets do the school hide?

The story and twists are a bit to convoluted to completely follow, but don't let that stop you to check out this well-made and very visual supernatural slasher. I find it interesting that it uses the same clichés like all movies set on an all girl school (this is a school for boys), including shower scenes and  some not too strong homoerotic undertones (just check out the first scene when two of the boys see each other - it's like from an American romcom!).

That's just a small part of a movie that focuses heavy on the mystery behind the school - what do the priest/principal and school hide? Here famous character actor Suchao Pongwilai make a flawless and complex role as the head priest and Micheal Pupart as his colleague, Brother Wiwat. I guess I'm not the only who noticed the anti-Catholic atmosphere (which I like!) in this movie, from the encouragement of bullying to downright hiding serious crimes and washing away the sins of the past. Its actually very interesting to watch a Thai movie that criticizes the church and very nicely interweave Buddhist faith and traditions from an completely other direction.

The cast is filled with boys who just years later became the brat pack of Thailand and still turns up in genre movies. Most famous of them all is Ananda Everingham who starred in the CRIMINALLY underrated Red Eagle (from director Wisit Sasanatieng in 2010) and still makes the hearts of young girls do somersaults of excitement whenever he show his face. All the grown-ups are very good, much more low-key than usual., Pongwilai of course, but don't forget the always fun Charlie Sungkawess as one of the teachers.

I still don't know what the title stands for or exactly what happens in the movie and it's many twists, but one thing is for sure: it's still a good horror movie that deserves a wider DVD release.

torsdag 24 maj 2012

Cat With the Diamond Eyes (เพชรตาแมว, 1972)

During my latest trip to Thailand I bought a bunch of bootlegs from at lady at the Khlong Thom market in Bangkok. This place is also called the flashlight market because you need (or needed, I don't know how it is now) flashlights during the night to be able to see something - must be a dream place for pickpockets! This lady specializes in OOP Thai movies or stuff that's never been released official. But it's still bootlegs of questionable quality of course! Cat With the Diamond Eyes is one of the movies I bought, mostly because the cover - you can see it above - and a guy like me who have no knowledge in the Thai language often buys movies if the covers looks interesting. It starts good...

...with a jungle expedition chasing a big, black cat! And when I say big black cat that's what I mean. No panther or something, this is big ol' normal cat but big as a human and play buy someone wearing a cat-suit. They trace the cat into a deep cave - filled with cats! Small ones! Cute ones! The hunter wrestles with the big cat and cuts out it's eye -  a diamond! Many years later, a colleague to the hunter is in a wheelchair and he has the eye. But his greedy lawyer (that's just my imagination, because he looks like a sleazy lawyer!) wants the diamond and tries to steal it time after time - but the cat, of course a supernatural being, also wants it back and starts to terrorize those who wants his eye!

Oh, did I mention it also have three song-numbers? I have seen very few Thai genre movies who has singing in them, but this one actually starts with an absurd number when the whole expedition sings together and the black cat is screaming of anger somewhere in the jungle.

I know this sound like fun! But it's a long movie, 2,5 hours and most of it is just actors walking around in a suburban villa talking with each other. The start is awesome and weird and fun, but it never really takes off from there. Sure, every time the cat arrives or the sleazy lawyer tries to kill someone it gets more interesting, but it's way too talky! What makes that part better is the good actors with Phairoj Jaising as the male lead and Naiyana Shewanan (unbelievable beautiful) as the female counterpart. There's a couple of veteran actors around also, but I can't identify them. Maybe in a few years when I've become better in recognizing faces.

I wish I could write a meatier review but there's not so much to write about and I can't take screenshots for the moment. I guess you need to be quite into Thai cinema to really appreciate this, or maybe it's hard even for Thai's. Me, for one, would appreciate some more horror to consider it a movie I could recommend. 

onsdag 23 maj 2012

Choompae (ชุมแพ, 1976)

Did you know that every single movie Sombat Metanee did was released in 1976? No, just kidding - but that year seemed to have been a very productive year not only for Sombat but for a lot of filmmakers in Thailand. I have no idea why, but it was in the middle of the seventies, freedom probably got bigger and bigger and I'm sure most directors tried to boost themselves into making more and more spectacular movies. Choompae was one of the biggest hits that year and is still considered a classic, but the story is quite much like the other movies from the same time...

Pherg (pronounced Peeh) Chompae (which also seem to be the name of the town) comes back his old village to take revenge on the gangster, played by Kecha Plianvithee, who killed his father. Pherg is also a gangster and he's come back not only for revenge but to take over the crime business in the little town. No one wants him back, not the other bandits and not captain Chaiyo (Nard Poowanai). It won't take long until everyone is out to get Pherg and soon they're also going after his family, his old girlfriend and everyone close to him! It's time for Pherg to really clean up the trash!

What makes Sombat unique is his willingness to take on quite complex roles and his string of anti-heros from the seventies often outdoes both the Italian and American counterparts. Pherg is most of the movie quite un-sympathetic, but we're still willing to root for him. It's not only that he's very brutal, his behaviour towards women are more than nasty and in this movie he threatens with rape not only once but twice. But it's also a play with stereotypes, because he never goes that far - he just like to use the words to gain power. And compared to the real bad-bad guys he's nice in comparison.

Sombat has always been a good-looking fellow, but it wasn't until the middle of the seventies I think he really started to evolve when it came to the art of acting. I think most of it is because of the anti-hero parts he got offered. Not just playing nice and handsome, but doing more complex, multi-layered characters. His hair got wilder together with his performances. The rest of the cast is the usual suspect, all great: Kecha Plianvithee (who always reminds me of Joseph Wiseman), Dam Datsakorn (really nasty in this movie), always the good-guy Nard Poowanai and Pipop Pupinyo always doing his famous henchman with his classic biker-moustache! There's a bunch of other actors also, of course, but I haven't learned their names yet!

Choompae is a good start for you who wants to start watching old Thai action movie. It has everything and is also very well made. The direction, especially in the action and chase-scenes, is flawless and we're also treated to some insane stunts. The highlight being a nice fight on top of a bus that actually looks quite dangerous!

Another reason to start with this one is that the Thai DVD actually have English subs! Wow. It's also uncut, almost 2,5 hours and is correct ratio. It's still possible to buy, for example at eThaiCD. Buy it before it's gone, because these are one of those movies that will disappear sooner or later.

tisdag 22 maj 2012

Top Secret (คนเหนือคน, 1967)

I love the armada of James Bond rip-offs that came during the sixties. 1967 was a practically good year with new Bonds from all over the world. Thailand, with their leading man and ultimate movie star, Mitr Chaibancha also had to jump on bandwagon and produced several very inspired movies in this genre. Operation Bangkok, a co-production with Hong Kong might have been the best one, but Top Secret is a very charming and confusing entry. The story is kinda convoluted, but my guess is...

... that super-villain Kecha Plianvithee wants to rob the world of a lot of gold. Maybe to build an even bigger crime syndicate. He has his own army of actually very cute soldiers and the usual easily fooled femme fatale girlfriend that gets dumped in the end. But beware, heroic cop/agent Chaibancha is after him! Thanks to Sombat Metanee, who's undercover inside Kecha's crime syndicate, he gets inside - but gets caught and spend most of the time in a cell, doing gymnastics and flirting with the female guards! Eventually the baddie is traced to his island (what else) and the action starts!

Okay, there is action even before the ending - a couple of fun fist fights and some chases, but the money and time is spent on the low budget spectacular war scenes with tanks, soliders, helicopters, boats etc. It looks good! The movie also starts with some very nice-looking aerial scenes involving fighter airplanes. My wild guess is that the Thai army sponsored this movie both with vehicles and men.

What's interesting is that Chaibancha kinda takes the backseat in Top Secret. He's always there, but mostly talking or looking at other people, and Sombat - who looks terribly young at the tender age of thirty - takes care of most the action and even has a very cute and romantic song-number in honour of some girl he's interested in. And don't forget, his famous curl is always there to set the hearts of teenaged girls (and gay men I guess) on fire:

Even of the story itself is quite generic, Top Secret still have a couple of wonderful and bizarre set-pieces. The song-number by Sombat is nice, but we're also treated to a big song- and dance-number on rollerskates! If every movie had that! Top Secret is also filled with the ancient and prestigious art of killing dummies. Yes, stunt-dummies pretending to me real humans are thrown from houses and cliffs and blown to pieces by hand grenades. Always a welcome sight and during many years a tradition in the real Bond-movies. I mean, we all know they're not killing people for real so why not go all out with limbless dummies? I dig it! You dig it! Another awesome sequence is when Chaibancha falls down a trapdoor and ends up in a really "far-out-man" psychedelic room belonging to the super-villain. And it seems to hurt when he glides down on that metallic slide!

Top Secret is a groovy, action-filled slice of sixties action. Not unique, but it has a lot of entertainment value and not bad production values. I have a bootleg DVD (ripped from the official VCD) and the quality is terrible. It looks like an army of dwarfs first tap-danced on the print for a few hours and then put under water for 25 years. But it's possible it watch it and it's not un-sharp. Just VERY scratched. 

måndag 21 maj 2012

Phra Aphai Mani (พระอภัยมณี, 1966)

MitrChaibancha was undoubtedly THE biggest movie star Thailand ever had, and during thosefifteen years he was active in the movie biz he starred in 266 movies (165 ofthem together with female superstar Petchara Chaowarat). He died during atragic accident during the shooting of Insee Thong in 1966 and has since thenelevated from not just a movie star, but almost a holy man. Still people aretraveling to his shrine in Pattaya to show their gratitude, put flowers and incensefor good luck and look at the magnificent statue of him posing with a knife anda gun. I've been there of course, what else did you think?

Phra AphaiMani is based a part of Sunthorn Phu's epic poem with the same name and tellsthe story of Kramon (Chaibancha) who after studying abroad is stranded on anisland together with his brother and their friends. He starts playing his fluteduring the night a female giant, Yak, with the teeth of a wild boar, hears himand falls in love instantly! She sneaks up to the island and kidnaps him to hersecret island, keeping him prisoner inside a mountain. To make him moreattracted to her she transform herself to a beautiful young woman (PetcharaChaowarat) and seduces him. Life there is quite nice and soon she's pregnantand gets a son. But after a few years Kramon starts missing his family againand with the help of his young son he escapes... but Yak won't let him go soeasy!

Phra AphaiMani is one of the cheapest fantasy movies I've seen. It's not a surprise. IfChaibancha made 266 movies in fifteen years I guess not all of them would looklike Ben-Hur! It starts of quite good with the lady giant kidnapping him, butafter that it's mostly talk for an hour until they escapes and there's a littlebit of adventure and then more talk and talk and talk. I guess it would be moreentertaining if there was subs, as usual. But it sure has it's highlights. Ireally adore the cinematography, clothes and actors - even if the only excitingprint is in pretty bad shape. Both the pre-credits and probably some scenes inthe middle of the movie is lost for example and the print has a lot of damagesand scratches. But it's amazing of Triple X, as the Thai company is called, tohave released this! s

When thereis action it's fun and cheesy, with unconvincing - but charming - specialeffects. The Yak is, for example, destroying a big boat and drowning theseamen, which looks cool. But the best thing is that this is probably the firsttime underwater-zombies made an appearance on film! Yeah, what we have here areliving dead guys with skeleton faces and looks like they're dressed in burialshrouds! Very cool!

It's niceto look at and has cool actors and underwater zombies, but Phra Aphai Manidrags a little bit too much without subtitles for me to recommend it to folkswho hasn't that extreme interest in odd genre movies. It's out on a very niceDVD in Thailandand I've also scanned the other side of the cover to show you the gorgeousposter they printed there.


lördag 19 maj 2012

The final appearance of Thep Thienchai?

I always enjoy movies shot in Thailand, and even if I actually didn't watch Surf Ninjas, I had to check if it's correct that veteran Thai comedian Thep Thienchai makes an appearance as "Gong Man". The movie itself is a dreadful, unfunny, mainstream crap-heap starring some unknown "talents", the non-talent of Rob Schneider and Leslie Nielsen cashing in another easy paycheck during his golden years. But to be fair, it has some glorious locations - among them, I think, that fantastic cave from countless of Thai action flicks from the eighties (it was a popular location of Philip Chalong). 

Anyway, it took some time and some logical thinking - and I found the five seconds Thep Thienchai appears, doing is trademark silly grin to the camera and then running to the gong and performs his... gonging. That's it. But it's also the best in the movie. Could this be his last feature film performance? Maybe, and I like it. He takes over the screen totally, does his job and then leave the disaster to the rest of the unfortunate cast and crew. 

Lets end with a vintage grim from one of his most famous productions, James Band 007, a movie everyone must see before they die. Seriously.

The Three Tigers from Suphan (สามเสือสุพรรณ, 1981)

The influence of westerns, both American and European, is hard to deny when watching Thai action movies. Most countries have tried their hands one this very American genre, but except Italy few have succeeded. What's interesting with the Thai westerns is that they never pretend to be set in the US. They still keep Thai traditions, environments, religion and music (well, not always - how many times have Morricone's music been "borrowed" for Thai movies really?) but still manages to sneak in lone gunslingers, bandits, thrilling duels and bar fights? Wisit Sasanatieng's masterpiece from the year 2000, Tears of the Black Tiger both celebrated and poked fun at Thai westerns - but it's mostly a loving tribute to the past of Thai cinema (going so far with casting Sombat Metanee as the bad guy, a brilliant choice). The Three Tigers from Suphan is supposedly based on a true story, but I don't know so much about it. So don't ask me.

The story revolves around a band of thieves and criminals, bandits, dressed identical uniforms and cowboy hats - only in black of course. They call themselves "The Black Panthers", and they steal from the rich and give to the poor (I think). Most of the story is centred around three of them, one of them played by Thai movie stalwart Sorapong Chatree. But the group, led by en elderly man, seem to lose focus on their moral and some of the members starts to give themselves little treats - for example attack innocent villagers, stealing and raping. This is not the only problem of course, because the police is near and wants to stop them once and for all!

I saw a bootleg-version, ripped from TV. So I guess this is a bit shorter than the supposed to be. The story goes very fast sometimes and I'm not sure about the exact storyline because of this (the one above is just a guessing, because as usual there's no subs). It's still an pretty engaging movie with one big action sequence, the money shot of the movie: a very spectacular ambush of a train, filled with nice stunts and a high body count - and one juicy chopped of arm by sword! I'm not sure who they're attacking, but it almost looks like a Japanese army or something!

The rest of the movie has some shoot-outs and fistfights, but the train-sequence is very hard to beat when it comes to action here. Because of the quality of the DVD it's hard to say what the budget was, but somewhere behind that lousy VHS-quality it looks like a quite expensive and ambitious movie. I mean, if they can afford squibs it's usually a bit more money in the bank. One sub story is quite interesting and I wish I had could understand the dialogue. One of the three tigers keeps contact with his wife and mother, and the drama around this is good and gives some depth to the bandits. Because usually it's hard to keep an interest in criminals who have no strong motive for robbing people - but I'm sure that would be much clearer with subs.

Yeah, I know.  A pretty pointless review of a movie I could understand to 50 %. But because there not other English info someone needs to write something. Please correct me if you feel that the storyline is way wrong and if there's something more I should add about the movie or the history behind it. 

fredag 18 maj 2012

Land of Grief (แผ่นดินวิปโยค, 1978)

In July 2011 a disaster would strike Thailand. Triggered by the tropical storm Nock-ten, flooding destroyed properties to a value of 45 billion dollars. 65 provinces was affected by the water and over 500 people died. It's the fourth most costly disaster ever. It ended in the middle of January 2012, but when me and G visited the country in March this year we could still see damage and it was something that caused a national trauma that won't be forgotten for a long time. When disasters happen in Thai movie it's often water involved. Sompote "Sands" Saengduenchai's 1978 disaster-drama Land of Grief is probably his most serious movie, even if I had a hard time following the story without subtitles. I don't think it's worth even trying to, but what we have here is Sorapong Chatree playing a the hero. It's set around a small town plagued by a gang of bandits, killing and robbing people. It all ends in a disaster, a terrible disaster, cleaning the land like an act of god. In the centre of it all is an ancient pagoda and the last we see in the movie is how it's rebuilt (it's a real pagoda) and reconstructed after what once happened. 

It takes 75 minutes for something to happen in this movie. Ah, I'm sure a lot of things happen in the first hour also - but the lack of subs made it virtually impossible to understand what was going on. It's drama, some comedy, some romance and of course the sadistic gangsters doing their evil deeds. It all ends when they brutally kill a family, executing them one by one, and maybe that's what sets of the disaster. A fury from mother earth herself.

First strikes winds, a nasty storm. Then an earthquake and finally tidal waves... and yeah, then some more store another earthquake! This is old-school disasters. Miniature houses and landscapes ripped apart by thundering earthquakes, families flushed away in slow-motion from the tidal wave, lightning attacking the bad guys and one character dies a bloody and graphic death when he's impaled by a tree! Sompote learned from his mentors at Toho, from Kurusawa and Honda. To make the audience suffer he must make the characters suffer - and with delivering a lot of character-development in the first hour it feels a lot more engaging when they die one after another in the last half. The effects is fairly well done also. Like always, it's easy to see that their are miniatures - but works fine considering the probably very low budget.

The mood also changes during the last hour. It's darker and nastier, far from the family friendly thrills in the beginning. Sorapong Chatree, an excellent actor, does his traditional hero - a free spirit who walks from village to village. Hardly anything new from him, but he's good - as usual. Like always, the only bad things in this movie is a couple of scenes with animal-killings. Well, I don't think we actually see them kill the animals (snakes and a lizard), but it's enough for me seeing them getting ripped in pieces by medicine men and chefs.

I was prepared to just skip this movie, but the last half made it so much more interesting. It also reminds me of what we saw in Thailand. One day me, G and Tong visited Sompote in his office and home outside Ayutthaya. After a couple of hours talking and walking around we left, but we asked if we could stop by the studio close to the entrance. "Of course", which was good - I wanted to take a photo of the giant crocodile we saw on our way inside.

The studio was more or less wiped out by the floods. Thousands of posters laid out on the floor to dry. Many of them melted together from the water. But there, leaned against a wall, the pagoda stood. The original miniature used in the movie. This time it made it.

It defeated the disaster...

Tah Tien (ท่าเตียน, 1971)

Fresh after many years in Japan under the supervision of both Kurusawa and Ishiro Honda, Thai visionary and all around monster-fan Sompote Saengduenchai (aka Sompote Sands) came home to Thailand with a whole new concept: Kaiju, something that's never been done in Thailand before - and Sompote had to be first. I manage to collect a budget of 120 000 dollars (which was quite much in bath during this time, as you can imagine), hired hot star Sombat Metanee and set out to do the ultimate first Thai monster movie. The result became Tah Tien.

It's a bit hard to follow the storyline, but it seems to be a mix of Thai mythology and just the wacky imagination of Sompote. A giant snakes swims ashore, vomits an egg and swims away. A frog crawls out from it's cave, eats the egg and vomits it again! The egg explodes and a small woman appears. She then transfers her soul (or something like that) to the frog who not long after this befriends an old and they smoke huge cigarettes together. Just look at this:

Anyway... the snake (or maybe we should call it a serpent?) transforms into a man who starts searching after his egg...woman...frog. At the same time Sombat Metanee is a hunky jungle-adventurer with his trademark curly hair and muscular, manly arms (sorry, got carried away there...). He and his team meets a gorilla, a rhino and in the end even a couple of dinosaurs fighting each other! Their adventure leads back to Bangkok where one of two statues outside Wat Arun, Thosakan the demon guardian and a Chinese old man with a club becomes Godzilla-size and starts tearing down the scenery and slowly fighting each other!

Tah Tien is one of the most bizarre monster movies ever made, mostly because it completely lacks a coherent storyline and it seems like Sompote and his team just created scenes that I wanted to see in a movie, ignoring basic dramaturgy. Now, this is what I like. I like the chaos, the freedom. Sure, it's cheap and sometimes not very smart - just watch the comedy scenes - but that's the whole point. And it was a big success, not only in Thailand but in the rest of Asia. Just don't expect something of Toho-quality. This was Sompote's first movie and he was trying everything for the first time.

The monsters are very simple rubber constructions, some of them are probably just papier mâché (for example the rhino). The are stuff and hardly movie - but I think in the case of the statues at Wat Arun it's the meaning, because they are statues and not traditional living creatures. Yeah I know it's a movie, just trying to force some logic into everything here! ;) The miniatures are also very primitive, but it didn't stop Sompote from filming them in close-up and really showing us the goods. I like that. I hate when miniatures are used in the background. Even if they are primitive I want to see them!

Most people would probably loath Tah Tien but I can't get enough of stuff like this. It brings out the eight year old boy inside me - or at least his happiness over seeing a movie which just is fun, bizarre and fun. I'm not saying it's a movie for children, because it has both blood and nudity - but mixing that with family entertainment makes this movie even better!

When I was in Thailand I actually visited the area where the final of Tah Tien was shot, and I got a chance to meet one of the statues... but the wrong one!

In the last shot you can spot the one, on the right,
that's not doing anything in the movie!

I'm doing my best posing in front of the wrong statue.
Well done Fred!

söndag 13 maj 2012

Tiger from River Kwai (ข้ามาจากแม่น้ำแคว, 1975)

I smell a co-production here. Tiger from River Kwai is a western movie (probably) shot in Spain with an Italian crew starring a Thai movie star and a Hong Kong nobody as heroes plus an American actor doing his usual bad guy routine. And that's cool! Krung Srivilai is the Thai actor and Kam Won Lon, who I never heard of in my entire life, plays the other hero in this light-weight western-adventure directed by Franco Lattanzi. The Spaghetti Western Database mentions a Hong Kong producer, Fu Sheng, and it wouldn't surprise me if there was Thai money involved also. Why would they use a Thai actor and shoot scenes in Thailand? Like I wrote above, I can smell an international co-production miles away and here we have one.

Krung is playing a nice Thai guy who goes to America to deliver the ashes of a dead friend to his family. Well, not only that, but also an elephant statue filled with gemstones! Somehow a gang of bandits have heard this and they decided to rob the "Thailander", but they make a mistake and tries to rob a Chinese restaurant owner instead, Kam Won Lon, and this makes him involved in protecting his new Asian friend. But the bandits won't give up, and the leader (Gordon Mitchell) does everything in his way to get the stones... including innocent families and fucking around with the wrong sheriff... Luigi Montefiori!

Tiger from River Kwai is a quite entertaining western, but neither original or creative. Putting martial arts in westerns is nothing new and the odd thing for me is just putting a Thai and a Chinese together against Gordon Mitchell. THAT's original, but never makes any sense. It's even hard to understand why they would hook up and fight together. But Krung is a good actor, and one of the finest action actors from Thailand. He had a bit rougher look than Sorapong and Sombat and also played more unsympathetic characters (at least before Sombat decided to go more dark later in his career). Here he's very good in a western environment and his fistfight against Gordon Mitchell is hardly unique, but very good entertainment. What makes him more bizarre is the strange English dub they given him - some very odd accent, it's not Thai, that's for sure. But that Chinese dude has it even worse. He's dubbed by someone who sounds like a valium-drugged child-molester! Yeah, it's a very slimy and weak voice.

Also watch out for Luigi Montefiori, but his character is more of a cameo than anything else - but he's a nice addition to the cast if nothing.

Tiger from River Kwai is an interesting East meets West, but lacks the personality and spectacle it needed to be something special. Why not use more traditional Thai stuff? Why just let Krung kick around like some normal drunk? Why choose such a pale Hong Kong actor as... I already forgot his name? It's never boring, or badly made, it just needed that extra boost of... something. If I was the producer I would have taken Gordon Mitchell and his gang to Thailand, followed by Montefiori - and letting them be confused over a much more exotic and interesting country than the US. That would have resulted in some pretty interesting action sequences.

But hey, that's just my imagination! To see this movie you either have to own the VHS or download an VHS-rip, but rumour says that MYA Communications will release it on DVD, which would be awesome. I would be first in line to buy it!

torsdag 10 maj 2012

The Thai actors in The Man from Deep River

I'm a big fan of Italian exploitation and today I watched Umberto Lenzi's groundbreaking cannibal-adventure The Man from Deep River. Shot in Thailand - the beginning in Bangkok and then the hero travels with train to the countryside (and I can spot a sign saying Wang Poh) and after getting himself he guide to travel out in the jungle he gets caught by a local tribe and... romance and cannibalism occurs. Like life itself.

Shooting in Thailand means Thai actors and there's a whole bunch of what I think is experienced, professional actors. The only one I know about is Pipop Pupinoy and he's hard to recognize without his trademark biker-moustache!

Here's the other Thai actors with bigger or more advanced parts. Their name is in the credits, but if someone can tell me more about them I would be grateful! 

I can swear I've seen this guy before - but where and what's his name?

Prapas Chindang


Song Suanhud

Sulallewan Suxantat

torsdag 3 maj 2012

The Vampire (จอมเมฆินทร์, 1985)

In 1973 Sombat Metanee starred in his only, I think, vampire movie. Since then it's considered a lost movie and the last pieces of film probably deteriorated many years ago. What we're left with is posters, lobby cards and the nice photo that I've added last in this review - but maybe most important, the 1985 remake starring Thailand's favourite baddie Rith Luecha. So I decided to take a look at that version, the first Thai vampire movie I ever seen. But first of all, The Vampire is only a title I made up. If I translate จอมเมฆินทร์ it's "Private Cloud", and I have no idea what that means! After discussed it with friends and some thinking hear at home and decided to use this generic title until someone suggests a better one.

A crazy scientist with an eye so lazy it literary hangs out from its socket somehow makes a dangerous vampire, maybe even Dracula (Rith Luecha) comes alive again. Dracula quickly kills the old sleazebag with a bloody spear through the throat and infects another man with the vampie disease, so he can have himself a vampire-slave. Now he wants young female meat and starts to attack women every night until the villagers (it's always villagers in these movies!) decides they have to do something. A holy woman, armed with powerful magic, sets out to kill Dracula once and for all!

This is a very fun and entertaining movie, even if I don't get all of the story. Rith Luecha is not bad at all as the nasty vampire and seem to have a lot of fun with his fangs and cape, and being able to suck the blood from young virgins. The director goes all the way with scary eyes, shadows and jump cuts to make Dracula disappear. It's a good old-fashioned vampire-movie with more interest in entertaining than maybe telling a good story. Except the spear through the throat and a few squibs (in Thai movies from the eighties they always find an excuse for some traditional gun-fighting) it's not really blood, but cozy and silly - just like I expected it to be.

What I miss is maybe a castle, to make it even more old-fashioned than it is already. They could have used the crazy scientist more, maybe made him a slave to the vampire or something - but he's fun while he's alive at least.

Out on VCD from Lepso - and believe it or not, it's the same movie on the discs as on the cover, which with a release from this certain company can be quite rare nowadays. The quality is OK crap-quality. It's possible to watch, but expect a nice brutal headache after ninty minutes of blurry and dark vampire-action.

tisdag 1 maj 2012

Taloompuk (ตะลุมพุก มหาวาตภัยล้างแผ่นดิน, 2002)

My hobby since my early teens is to watch every disaster movie made in the world. Nowadays it's getting harder and harder, not because there's not enough titles but because there's nothing stopping them from becoming more and more! Thanks SyFy Channel, you're ruining me! It's extra fun to watch non-American disaster movies and the Asian part of our world has been quite effective churning out big and small melodramas with natural disasters in a big supporting role. I've only seen one Thai disaster movie before, the extremly mediocre Tsunami 2022. So I was a bit worried when I put Taloompuk into the player...

Based on a true event when a tsunami caused a big disaster in Thailand during the fifties or early sixties. That's at least the backdrop to this classic love story. Almost a Romeo and Juliet, but between a young Buddhist man and a Muslim woman. Their families both opposes the relationship and most angry of them all are another man, maybe the brother of the woman. But the further the problem escalates between the families something is creeping up on them, a disastrous storm getting closer and closer... and soon they are in the middle of the eye storm fighting for their lives...

Taloompuk is in every way possible superior to Tsunami 2022. The latter one is mostly an excuse to blame the tsunami on gay corrupt politicans, and that's quite far from the truth. In this movie the disaster just is there, a part of life. The movie actually begins with something that looks like authentic photos from the real disaster, including dead bodies and destroyed houses. It sets the atmosphere pretty fast and when the rest of the movie is a very well-acted, serious and good drama without any form of exploitation it raises above a lot of other similar movies. Don't expect a wall-to-wall disaster movie, the first hour is spent on fleshing out the characters with romance and melodrama. But that also helps us care for the characters when the disaster strikes during the last 45 minutes.

The cast is good, but the only one I can identify is the excellent Chatchai Plengpanich - famous from the notorious Cannibal Mercenary, but also a well-known edgy character actor. One of my favourite actors together with Suchao Pongvilai (who actually starred in Tsunami 2022 if I don't remember it wrong).

So, how's the disaster? The film is focused on the human drama, but spends a lot of time in the disaster area during the disaster. We have some crumbling buildings, a huge tidal wave coming in over the town, lots of water and chaos - and a surprisingly effective decapitation in the middle of it all. It's spectacular and quite well-made, but this is not a movie about special effects or action. But I'll recommend it anyway, both to fans of good dramas and to disaster-aficionados. 

Tiger Show (พยัคฆ์ยี่เก, 1982)

Another day, another movie without subtitles. But what to expect from me? Here's an interesting film, Tiger Show, obviously a co-production between Thailand and Hong Kong with Sorapong Chatree and David Chiang in the leads. There's another Hong Kong actor playing the bad guy, but I can't for all the booze in the world remember his name or where I've seen him. Probably in a Shaw Brothers production. Pipop Pupinyo and Rith Luecha shows up doing their traditional baddies also, which is a pleasure as usual.

If I get the story right Sorapong is a stage actor, a traditional singer and dancer in a travelling theatre group. David Chiang is somehow involved in this also, or something related. Anyway, they're a rivals and always gets into fights and adventures with each other. But of course there's bad guys nearby and they try to steal (maybe) something from the group, my guess is something valuable they use in the show. This intensifies the attacks and soon it's a matter of life or death! Because the villains is using small airplanes to shoot harpoons from, killing everyone in sight!

A spectacular movie in every sense, this one deserves a restored release - I'm not even sure it's out on VCD or any other format. Maybe VHS? What the movie lacks in story because of lack of subtitles it regains with a lot of action. This actually has some quite impressive, but not original, fight scenes - both from Chatree and Chiang versus an army of henchmen. Like all Thai action movies from the eighties this also ends with a big battle at the bad guys camp with a lot of exploding tents and huts, people falling from guard towers and squibs. It's quite bloody in parts, with a couple of the typical Hong Kong blood squirts when swords hits a body (done by squeezing a bag of blood in your hand when you grasp the wound).

The most impressive stunts is the aerial footage with these small airplanes battling each other up in the sky plus some nice parachuting also! Not bad for a very obscure movie in other parts than Thailand. I think this also became a lakorn, a Thai TV-series 20-25 years later. So it must have been a big hit when it came.

When watching this it also strikes me how often Thai male actors have no problems with playing around with gender, sexuality, or just appearance. Sure, this is about Thai traditional theatre where make-up and choreography is very special, and in some ways effeminate. But I can't even count how many times I've seen Sombat Metanee doing his drag-routine or actors like Sorapong continue to do his more feminine acting style - just for fun, a good laugh, but they always takes it a little bit further than, for example, American movies. Just like when you see action heroes cry in Hong Kong and Japanese movies, it's easy to understand that being a man is not just being cold and brutal - it's about emotions and letting yourself go.

But that's a another story in Thai cinema and I'll leave it for now - or until I find a movie which deals with it specifically. Tiger Show was great movie, recommended. Good action, good actors and a lot of stolen music from Indiana Jones!