Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thai film review roundup: Insee Thong, Khu Gam, Operation Black Panther

Thai films continue to captivate bloggers worldwide, and I wanted to spotlight a few of the recent reviews I've come across.

On Coffee Coffee and More Coffee, film critic Peter Nellhaus is digging Insee Thong (อินทรีทอง, Golden Eagle), the last filmed appearance by action star Mitr Chaibancha. Peter seeks to put things into perspective, stating "Insee Thong is a key film to understanding Thai cinema", and that for all its technical flaws, it is actually an entertaining film.

I would go as far to say that, except that it's in Thai, and roughly made by Hollywood standards, it has everything current audiences are looking for in a movie, and more.

Insee Thong is available on DVD with English subtitles, but the condition of the film is pretty poor. Still, it's a rare, subtitled example of 1960s Thai action cinema starring Mitr and his frequent leading lady Petchara Chaowarat.

Next, Lakorn Central has a look at Khu gam (คู่กรรม), an oft-adapted tale of star-crossed romance between a Japanese officer and a Thai woman set in Thailand during World War II. A novel by Thommayanti, Khu gam has been adapted around a half dozen or so times. There was a film in 1973 starring Nart Poowanai, Sayun, Ling Lee Ju, and Rachun, another in the 1980s starring Jintara Sukkapat and Warut Worrantum and a 1996 film, Sunset at Chaophraya, starring Thongchai "Bird" McIntyre and Apasiri Nitibhon. The '96 film was adapted from a popular TV series that also starred Bird. There's been a sequel, Khu gam 2, a 2004 soap opera with Sornram Theppitak and Benz Pornchita na Songkhla, a soap opera series of the sequel and most a stage musical with Japanese actor Seiki Oseki in the lead. From the comments on Lyn's blog, it looks like lakorn fans favor the 1980s film with Jintara and Warut.

Last, but certainly not least is Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!, which reviews Operation Black Panther (แหย่หนวดเสือ), a loopy 1977 spy spoof directed by and starring Sombak Metanee. In a bit that could be in an Austin Powers movie, there's an action sequence that involves a car with two front ends. I'll let Die, Danger's Todd explain:

Sombat's car ... looks to be made out of two Mini Cooper front ends welded together, complete with opposite facing steering wheels. This allows Sombat to drive the car from either end, something that is demonstrated to amusing effect in an early chase scene where he keeps hopping from one seat to the other to extricate himself from whatever apparent dead-end his pursuers have backed him into. (Yes, I know there's such a thing as reverse, but what's the fun in that?) A later chase in an underground parking garage sees Sombat and his female accomplice (played by Aranya Namwong) each taking control of one of the car's steering wheels and working in tandem to evade the bad guys who are baring down on them. Finally, a well placed burst of machinegun fire from one of the heavies separates the two halves of the car, leaving Sombat and Aranya to complete the chase by each driving their own truncated half-cars with the back ends dragging noisily against the pavement.

And that is far from all from Todd -- he's also reviewed Insee Thong and in doing so surveyed Mitr's entire Red Eagle series. He must have VCDs of old, unsubtitled Thai action films stacked up to the ceiling. For example, there's his ongoing "Films of Sompote Sands" series, which I intend to try and summarize at some point soon.


  1. Thanks for the mention! I was excited to see Coffee Coffee and More Coffee's Insee Thong review. The more bloggers trying to introduce English-speaking audiences to the joys of vintage Thai popular cinema, the better.

  2. Oh, and, by the way, I'm on the verge of having to knock a hole in the ceiling to accommodate that stack of unsubtitled Thai VCDs. Damn you, eThaiCD, with your free international shipping!

  3. I would hope word will filter back to people of influence within the Thai film industry that film preservation is a good idea, and that subtitles are a necessary expense on DVDs if an international audience is to be cultivated.

    Thanks for the shout outs, Curtis and Todd.


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