fredag 18 maj 2012

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!