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.


Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968)

... aka: Gill Women, The
... aka: Gill Women of Venus, The

Directed by:
"Derek Thomas" (Peter Bogdanovich)
Pavel Klushantsev (uncredited)

After a narrated explanation of our space program, this hops right into some more narration from a man living in the year 2000 reminiscing about a woman he'd met and lost several years ago. We now head back to 1998 just as the first manned spaceship to Venus has set off on a 26 million mile trip. Tragedy had befallen a previous attempt when a meteor hit it and caused an explosion, killing everyone on board. This follow-up attempt in a rocket has just two passengers; astronaut Howard Sherman ("Ralph Phillips" / Yuriy Sarantsev) and ship captain Alfred Kerns ("James David" / Georgiy Teykh). They're able to get away with such a small crew because Kerns' invention, "Robot John," does much of the work. Listening intently from home base are Commander Billy Lockhart ("Roberto Martelli" / Vladimir Yemelyanov) and astronauts Hans Walters ("Murray Gerard" / Georgi Zhzhyonov) and Andre Furneaux ("Aldo Romani" / Gennadi Vernov); whose job it is to help out the other mission if things go haywire again. And, of course, they do go haywire. Listening to the sounds of the other ship crashing landing over their radio, the rescue mission is underway.

On their way there, Furneaux (the narrator) wonders "... if maybe there wasn't some reason Venus had been named after the Goddess of Love." Foreshadowing! The men finally land, get an adequate oxygen content reading (uh huh) and set out looking for the other ship. They hear strange, siren-like calls, have an encounter with a man-eating tentacled plant and get in their hovering "space car" to do some sight-seeing, where they spot a dinosaur. Meanwhile, Sherman, Kerns and Robot John are out and about looking for shelter. They encounter vicious upright-walking lizard people and eventually find some caves hidden behind a waterfall where they can hide out until they're rescued. The other astronauts encounter various other creatures like a Pterodactyl, an octopus and a dinosaur.

Meanwhile, near an ocean live a handful of fabled, mermaid-like "prehistoric women." These ladies are fair-haired, hot and decked out in clamshell bras and hip-hugging spandex pants with flared bottoms. They lounge around on the rocks catching some sun, feast on raw fish, spy on the landed astronauts, worship the Pterodactyl God "Ptera" and have a memorial service for one of their fallen reptilian friends after one of the astronauts shoots it with a laser. The queen, Moana (Mamie Van Doren), plots revenge on the astronauts for shooting one of their birds, so the ladies pray to the "God of the Fire Mountain" and cause a volcanic eruption. Can the five astronauts escape?

So here's the scoop on this hodgepodge of a production. Producer Roger Corman (credited as "Norman D. Wells" here) had acquired the rights to Pavel Klushantsev's Russian sci-fi adventure PLANETA BUR (or, "Planet of Storms"). Instead of releasing it as is, Corman had the film English-dubbed and re-edited, and let director Curtis Harrington film brand new scenes featuring Basil Rathbone (who was filming Harrington's QUEEN OF BLOOD at the same time) and Faith Domergue to add to it. The resulting film was released in 1965 as VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET. Just a few years later, Corman allowed another director, a young Peter Bogdanovich (billed as "Derek Thomas" and probably also the credited writer, "Henry Ney") to tinker around with the footage again to create a second all-"new" feature, which is this one.

All of the space footage and scenes with the astronauts (i.e. all of the good stuff) is from Planeta Bur. In addition, a few effects were swiped from the BATTLE BEYOND THE SUN; another Russian sci-fi film made in 1959 that Corman purchased the rights to. The scenes with the nine "prehistoric women" are Bogdanovich's. He also added new narration to the film to weave his footage in with the old footage. Any time I watch a film that's been tinkered around with and been re-released as something else, I never weigh the original footage into my score; just how well the new footage complements or enhances the old footage. In this case, that's not very well. Not to say this isn't enjoyable to watch. It is. There's a lot of fun to be had here, but almost all of that comes from the original Russian film, which I am now hyped to see based on what I've seen here.

Just one year after working on this, Bogdanovich hit it big with the excellent and still timely TARGETS (1968). Not long after that he'd become the critics new It Boy with such Oscar-winning films as The Last Picture Show (1971) and Paper Moon (1973).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...