Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Krai Thong (1980)

... aka: ไกรทอง
... aka: Kraithong
... aka: Legend of the Crocodile, The

Directed by:
Sompote Saengduenchai

This extremely hokey but fun Thai horror / fantasy / comedy / tragic romance (!) was based on a Thai folk tale popular enough in its home country to prompt not only this film and a sequel (1985's Krai Thong 2) but also as 2003 remake directed by Suthat Intaranupakorn. Here in the U.S.? Well, not many have seen it. There's currently no IMDb listing for this title and very little information about it online, so I'm happy to finally be providing some. Things begin with hilarious scenes of a giant crocodile going around a village feasting on various people. It eats a little naked kid who jumps directly into its mouth (!), knocks an old lady into the water and then eats another young boy before disappearing into the depths of the sea. When it resurfaces it's in an underground cave and it transforms into a man. He - Shalawan (Sombat Methanee) - is the arrogant, hundred-year-old "King of the Crocodile," who likes to occasionally head up to "human town" to get a bite to eat. Shalawan believes that human flesh makes him stronger, but he's really just killing people cause he's bored and justifies it by saying that humans hunt and kill crocodiles, so why can't he hunt and kill humans?

Shalawan shares his cave dwelling with his two wives; Vimala (Aranya Namwong) and Luemlaiwan (Duangcheewan Komolsen), as well as his wise old gray-haired grandfather. Gramps is some kind of mystic and warns his grandson that he needs to stop going up to the surface to terrorize humans. He has a premonition that if Shalawan doesn't cool it, he'll be killed. Shalawan doesn't heed his warnings and continues his wicked ways. Annoyed by his bickering wives, who constantly fight for his affections and get into a slow-motion cat fight where they punch each other in the face, he decides to try his luck with a human woman. Thankfully, the pretty Tapao-Thong (Supansa Nuengpirom) hasn't let the recent crocodile slayings keep her out of the water. Shalawan kidnaps her, takes her to his lair, shoots her with a laser from his finger and then hypnotizes her into being wife #3.

Tapao-Thong's rich father, who seems to get his jollies kicking his chubby son around, makes an offer to any man in the village. Get his daughter back and you not only get her as a wife, but he'll also throw in his other daughter Tapao-Kaew (Ampha Phusit) at no additional charge. In comes Krai-Thong ("Sorapongse Chatri" / Sorapong Chatree). Krai, whose father was killed by a crocodile, now has a vendetta again all crocs. He goes to study the art of prayer, meditation, magic and hunting from "crocodile wizard" Acharu Kong (Chamnong Bamphensab) so he's ready to do battle with Shalawan. Because he has "diamond fangs," only a special "Magic Pike" (spear) can destroy the evil Crocodile King once and for all.

Strangely, the battle between good and evil isn't saved for the big finale and happens about twenty-minutes before then. This then tries to go the ill-fated romance route. Krai-Thong isn't really that interested in the wives he's "won." He's actually fallen in love with Vimala, whom he laid eyes on for just a few seconds earlier. Krai parts the sea like Moses (!), goes down to the cave and casts a spell allowing Vimala to walk among humans, with plans on making her his third wife. His other two don't take too kindly to that, get jealous and try to arrange for some men to gang rape her (!) Moral of the story? Well, I guess humans and crocodiles just weren't meant to be together.

This one tries to have it many ways all at once. There's romance, lots of goofy comedy and lots of gator attack scenes, blood, gore and cheesy fantasy special effects. The gator rips off a head and bites off legs and Shalawan has a nightmare where his face is on fire and he gets decapitated. The same exact large model gator, which is actually a very good design, was previously seen in co-director Sompote Sands' CROCODILE (1979), which - unlike this one - actually did receive a release here in America.

Unlike the sequel, there's a print of this floating around that does have hard English subtitles (which are tough to read and frequently cropped out of frame). No one seems to know just when this was made or released. The production year is usually listed as being 1985, but I've seen it listed places as 1980 as well.


1 comment:

CavedogRob said...

Wow! Sounds like a real rarity! Thanks for posting it!

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