Saturday, March 6, 2004

The Thai classic movies channel

I've been away for awhile, taking some time to relax. While staying at an small island resort, I caught parts of a couple of Thai movies from the 1970s playing on the UBC Film Asia channel.

Generally, the movies were being shown around 10 o'clock in the mornings.
Sorry, no titles. I asked the others at the resort who remembered the movies (my girlfriend related how small she was when the movies were out) but no one could recall the titles.

The first scene I saw was a couple of guys in hand-to-hand combat atop a bus that was suspended on the edge of a cliff. It was all pretty nicely stylized, with their silouette shown against a blazing setting sun. I was riveted. But that was the only martial arts (Thai boxing!) scene I caught. The rest of the film, which had to do with a gang rivalry of some sort, degenerated into gun battles. But the action and acting was all still pretty cool. It was comparable to the Shaw Bros films of the same era.

One thing that really bugged me was the sound. It was all in Thai and pretty well in synch, but it had been dubbed. The voices were all too loud and everpresent for it to be the actual recorded soundtrack.

The music was also pretty hokey, coming off way too dramatic and elaborate in comparison to the action it was accompanying. This formula has been carried to present-day Thai soap operas. The music is always gushing with intensity, even though the action might be an intimate scene with just two people talking. It makes things unintentionally hilarious, especially when the actresses really get going and starting screaming and throwing fits.

The second 70s film I saw was a Korean War drama - a Thai soap-opera take on MASH. Along with troops from many other countries in the world, Thailand sent troops to participate in that 1950s UN "police action" to stem the tide of communism from North Korea from invading South Korea. The Thai troops all took Korean girlfriends, and much of the drama had to do with the fact that the Thais were leaving their Korean mistresses behind - at least one pregnant.

There was some decently staged battle scenes, with the help of the Royal Thai Army and Air Force. Even these were a mishmosh, though. In some far-off shots, 60s-era jet fighters were used. American tanks were dressed up with brush in hopes they would look like Chinese-Soviet tanks. Close up shots used some stock footage of American World War II fighters and bombers. Things really got bad when a bridge was blown up and the vehicles falling off it were clearly Matchbox cars.

Overall though, I liked the style of these Thai films from the 70s. If anything, I'm interested in watching more and looking for the stars and tracking what they are doing now.

Thai World View offers some more information about old Thai films, as well as more contemporary stuff. There's even a smattering of Thai "westerns", including Fah Talai Jone.

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