Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Red Eagle beefs up, possibly into two parts

Wisit Sasanatieng's eagerly awaited next feature is Insee Daeng, or Red Eagle. Starring Ananda Everingham in the title role, this will be a reboot of a 1950s and '60s Thai film series about a masked vigilante crimefighter, who was portrayed by the great action star Mitr Chaibancha.

An aficionado of the old-time Thai action cinema, Wisit has been wanting to do Red Eagle for a long time, and now that he's finally been given the chance, he can't seem to stop.

His script grew so big that he needs two movies to tell the story. Here's what he says in an e-mail:

First, I tried to make only one, but it was too long. So I broke it into two parts.

Initially, Wisit sought to make both parts of the film in one shoot, similar to Lord of the Rings or the Matrix sequels. But his studio Five Star Production is being cautious. So he'll just shoot the first part and "wait for the feedback from the audience when it's released."

If it's okay, then they will make the second part. But if not, my Red Eagle should be the first and the last episode.

Now in pre-production and casting, Red Eagle is due to be completed toward the end of this year.

I really hope the film is a hit, and he gets to make that second part. I think people are going to be blown away by whatever Wisit comes up with.

And, I think the appetite for nostalgia is there. The Triple X company has released one of the older Insee Daeng films with Mitr and Petchara Chaowarat, as well as many other classic Mitr-Petchara films, including the phenomenal 1970 hit musical Mon Rak Lukthung. Some of their DVDs have subtitles, some don't, but they are worth getting. If the company didn't think there was a market for the old films, they wouldn't release them, would they? Maybe the prevailing cultural attitudes about old films and music is starting to be more accepting?

More information:
(Via Twitch; photo: A scene from Jao Insee, recently released on DVD by Triple X)


  1. There are actually two of the Red Eagle movies on DVD from Triple X: จ้าวอินทรี Jao Insee, and อินทรีทอง Insee Tong. The latter is the film which Mitr died during the filming of.

    The movie store chain Boomerang has decently large sized scans of several of Triple X's classic film releases. For example, here, though they seem to have taken some down. These are useful because they contain information like the original release date, which can be surprisingly hard to find. Of course, simply buying the DVDs would also help. I own a couple so far, and I'm glad I resisted my urge to simply buy up the whole set, because the quality is quite terrible, sadly.

    There are at least two different DVD series of classic Thai movies out there. There's the "Movie in My Heart" series from Triple X, which has released 20+ titles so far (only the first few have English subtitles), and the other is โครงการรักหนังไทย Khrongkan Rak Nang Thai "Love Thai Movies Project", from Happy Time. I don't know how many titles are in the second series so far, but there are no subtitles.

    In fact, after buying a couple of DVDs from the Triple X series, I've been meaning to write up a reaction on my blog (as well as a list of the titles), but haven't gotten around to it yet.

    I'm curious, what older films have you been able to find DVDs for, or DVDs with subtitles?

  2. That's damn tasty! I reviewed Insee Tong when it was released a couple of years ago on the old blog, but you are right to bring it up as a reminder. I thank you.

    So Jao Insee has been out for a year already. Well, it's new to me because I've just now noticed it and the other Triple X releases on the shelves at Mangpong.

    I've been meaning to do a posting about the old films. So here's just a few to start.

    What's this one? It says it has English subs on the box, and I've got it in my unwatched stack.

    The Triple X releases with English subs so far are Insee Tong, Choompae with Sombat Metanee, Tone (featuring The Impossibles), The Hell of Tarutao (also with Sombat), and the classic Ruen Pae (The Boat House), which I will be reviewing very soon. All worth watching.

    The poor quality of the releases has to do with the quality of the film. There are almost no provisions for film preservation in Thailand. The National Film Archive receives a pittance for a budget; the dedicated staff can only do so much. For some films, it's a miracle they have survived this long. It's an alarming situation, really.

    There is also most of M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol's old films. They are on the bottom rack in the Thai section of Mangpong and other stores. Dr. Karn is a good one to get but is hard to find. There's also Mue Puen, Salween, Mahout (The Elephant Keeper), Angel and The Colonel. Even his first film, Out of the Darkness is worth a look, just for the sheer spectacle of watching a Thai science fiction film (said to be the first). They all have English subs.

    Also, the Thai Film Foundation has some good old films on DVD, and have been very kind to include subtitles: Country Hotel, Ngern Ngern Ngern, Dark Heaven, Dying Forever and King of the White Elephant. You can arrange to order them through the foundation's website or pick them up at the foundation's events.

  3. I know I shouldn't expect Criterion Collection quality or anything, but it's still disheartening that the older films are so poorly preserved. I bought a couple of M.C. Chatri's films on DVD, too, and they're worse than the Triple X stuff, obviously just DVD transfers of full-frame VCDs, complete with fixed subtitles. And this is less than 20 years old.

    A friend and I once shot the breeze about how great it would be to get funding from some international organization to help preserve Thai films, since obviously the National Film Archive has no money. Just idle talk, but I'd still love to see more happen with that (or even be involved).

    At the time I Googled around and found reference here and here to work by Technicolor, complete with American film preservation expert Paul Stambaugh. I understand that it's through his involvement that films like King of the White Elephant have been restored.

    Both of those links are from 2004. I don't keep on top of news in this area very well at all (mostly through your blog). Do you know anything about the current status of preservation projects? I live close to the Nakhon Pathom branch of the Film Archive (and my in-laws live right near their main office in the National Library complex), but I've never been to either. Got to make the time...

    Oh, the film you linked is ชู้ Chuu "Adulterer", a 1972 film directed by Piak Poster, who also directed Tone (this blurb says Tone is Piak's first movie, but I thought Tone was from 1973, so someone's off). Lead actors Manop Atsawathep, Krung Siwilai and lead actress Wandi Sitrang.

    Oh yeah, and the DVD cover for Tone reminds me that there three DVD series of old Thai films, but two of them are from Triple X. Tone is #2 in the คิดถึงหนังไทย Khit Thueng Nang Thai "Missing Thai Movies" series. (I've also seen this referred to on the web as the Thai Memorable Film Project, but I don't know if that's its official English title or someone's own translation.)

    I really need to write up a full list of the three series (I've been jotting the details of ones I see in stores in a little notebook).

    I have a lot of passion for these old films and their preservation, even if I haven't seen many, if only because I can't stand the idea that such an important cultural heritage is this badly neglected. I know I'm all talk and no involvement so far, but I'm trying to educate myself little by little. Including actually watching some of the movies. ;)

    And I can't wait for Wisit's remake. Should be great.

  4. I'm a great fan of Wisit, and I can't wait for this one!

    Ananda's also getting quite a high profile in Singapore, with his Shutter, and 2 other recent local productions - Pleasure Factory and The Leap Years.

  5. The restored King of the White Elephant premiered at the Phuket Film Festival last year. It's a very strange film - being made in English language with a cast of non-professional actors. The performances are so precious. I covered it on the other blog (still slowly mirroring the content here, as you suggested awhile back).

    The Boat House is still in process. In watching the DVD, I see it isn't in near as bad of shape as the other films, so I can see why Khun Dome chose it for restoration -- it isn't such an impossible task. It was a Hong Kong co-production, so I think a print might have been sourced out of HK.

    Those were the only two restoration projects going at the moment.

    Occasionally new prints of old films are struck for special screenings at the film festivals.

    Thanks for the translation work on Adulterer. It's good to know I've got another Piak Poster film waiting. He's one of the great directors, and is still around, though he's not working anymore.

    Rikker, how about a meet-up at the Film Archive? I know Khun Dome loves to have visitors so he can talk about his work and publicize the sorry state of film preservation in Thailand. Shoot me an e-mail and we can discuss the arrangements offline, if you're interested.

  6. Stefan, what was the reception like on The Leap Years?

    Having Ananda should make Red Eagle bankable in Thailand, and if they are able to sell it overseas, then that's even better.

  7. Hi, all. Does anyone know how many films there were in the original Red Eagle series? I remember reading somewhere that Mitr made at least six. From what I can tell, of those only Insee Daeng, Jao Insee and Insee Thong are available on VCD or DVD. I'd love to be corrected about that if I'm wrong, though.

  8. I think you are correct Todd. There have been a few other attempts to resurrect the series after Mitr died. Krung Srivalai has donned the mask, and there was a female Insee Daeng as well. I don't know if any of those films are available for home video.

  9. Yes, I've seen a VCD available of the film featuring the female incarnation of Red Eagle. Looks to be from the 80s or 90s,

  10. There's a brief Thai Wikipedia page about the Red Eagle series, which gives these details:

    The character was created by writer Sek Dusit (เศก ดุสิต), inspired by Rock Hudson, and the first Red Eagle stories were published in 1955. The first Red Eagle film was จ้าวนักเลง Jao Nak Leng "The Gangster", starring Mitr and released in 1959.

    Subsequent Red Eagle movies were อวสานอินทรีแดง Awasan Insee Dang "End of the Red Eagle" (1963), ปีศาจดำ Pisat Dam "Black Demon" (1966), จ้าวอินทรี Jao Insee "The Eagle" (1968), and อินทรีทอง Insee Thong "The Golden Eagle" (1970).

    That makes five movies, but I don't think that means there couldn't have been one or more others.

    It also states that there were numerous efforts to revive the series by such directors as Tanit Jitnukul and Saranyu Wongkrajang, but the films never got made.

    Then in 1998 it was made into a TV series by Channel 7, starring Rueangsak Loichusak and Kullanat Priyawat, directed by Chatchai Naksuriya. This series took several liberties with the character, though. For example, whereas the original Red Eagle's alter ego was Rome Ritthikrai, from a wealthy family, in the Channel 7 series the alter ego was named Falan, and was a journalist.

    And then it mentions, of course, the upcoming Wisit adaptation.

    If I find any other better source for Red Eagle info, I'll get back to you on that.

  11. I found this source for a sixth Red Eagle movie with Mitr, a 1962 film called ทับสมิงคลา Thap Samingkhla (I'm not sure of the literal meaning of the title, but it seems to be an allusion of some kind).

    That same page also has an image of the (young) actor wearing the Red Eagle mask from the 1998 TV version, which it also says was made into a three-film series in 2003 starring the same lead actor.

    Still doesn't mention the female incarnation (or the Krung incarnation that Wise Kwai referred to). It's fun to try to piece the information together, though.

  12. Thanks for the information! I knew I came to the right place with my question. I, too, will get back if I'm able to drum up any more information.

    So I'm guessing that Awasan Insee Dang aka "End of the Red Eagle" is the film that Triple X is currently offering on VCD under the title Insee Daeng with a date of 1963. I've seen that film, and it doesn't come across like it would be the first in the series.

  13. The same page that had the information on Thap Samingkhla says that the first film (Jao Nak Leng, 1959) is completely lost.

    Of the six, it sounds like 1963, 1968 and 1970 are present and accounted for in either VCD or DVD format.

    That leaves 1962 and 1966.

    Here are movie posters for the six:
    #1 Jao Nak Leng, version 2, version 3
    #2 Thap Samingkhla
    #3 Awasan Insee Daeng
    #4 Pisat Dam, version 2
    #5 Jao Insee
    #6 Insee Thong

    I also found a poster for a (the?) Red Eagle movie with Krung: พรายมหากาฬ Phrai Maha Kan.

    And here's a poster for a Red Eagle movie with a different actor--Singha Suriyong is billed at the top, so I think that's who plays Insee Daeng. This installment is called บินเดี่ยว Bin Diaw "Flying Solo".

    Here is a nice poster for the female Red Eagle movie, titled อินทรีผยอง Insee Phayong "The Arrogant Eagle".

    A teaser poster for the Red Eagle film that was to be directed by Saranyu Wongkrajang, but never got made.

    And finally, there are a whole bunch of what I assume are Red Eagle knockoffs featuring masked heroes (though I don't know the actual release dates). For example, here, here, here and here. The second one is even called เหยี่ยวราตรี Yiaw Ratree "Night Hawk", keeping with the bird theme.

    I found most of these posters on this thread at the Thai Film Foundation. There's a wealth of information on the forum there.

    Okay, now I'm all Red Eagled out.

  14. Leap Years, in my opinion, turned out better than expected. Being based on a novella helped as well, since it has a relatively strong (?) story to begin with, written by a prominent local writer.

    It made its debut on 29 Feb 09 (heh) and is still in the cinemas, so credit to its longevity where films are usually pulled off the screens after 2-3 weeks, what more for a local movie, though this week it's down to 1 screening a day. You can still catch it if you wish, when you're here :)

  15. So the only Red Eagle-movies released on DVD and VCD is Awasan Insee Daeng, Jao Insee and Insee Thong? I haven't been able to find any of the others (the first one is lost, so that will be hard to find anyway...).


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