Sunday, August 8, 2021

Krai Thong 2 (1985)

... aka: ไกรทอง 2
... aka: Kraithong 2

Directed by:
Sompote Saengduenchai

Krai Thong is a famous Thai folk tale dating back to the early 1800s and has been the subject of numerous books and film and TV adaptations over the years. The story basically involves a crocodile lord (who can go from human to large crocodile form) called Chalawan, who resides in an opulent underwater cavern and frequently terrorizes villagers. He falls in love with, and then kidnaps, a beautiful human girl, whose wealthy father then calls on the services of master crocodile hunter Krai Thong to rescue her. Fantasy elements aside, the character of Krai Thong was apparently based on an actual historical figure of the same name, who was also renowned for his bravery and crocodile hunting skills in his day. The real Krai Thong had a temple built in his honor and there's also a special Krai Thong Garden at the Muang Boran Museum in Thailand; which is the world's largest outdoor museum.

The first known film adaptation was made way back in 1958, but, like most other early Thai films, it's missing, was probably destroyed and is most likely gone forever. And then came a second adaptation called Chalawan (1972), which was also made by Saengduenchai but currently m.i.a. itself. And that brings us to the same director's second stab at the story: 1980's KRAI THONG (aka Legend of the Crocodile), which is one of the only 80s Thai genre films that was ever released with English subtitles. This sequel, which may have actually been made and released prior to the usually-given 1985 release date, features the same stars, same sets, same props and same model crocodile as the first film. Though this is going to be considered pure schlock pretty much everywhere else, this was considered a major production in Thailand at the time and the cast features the countries biggest stars.

While Krai Thong, the 1980 version, was never given a legit U. S. release (the English subbed version was made for the Hong Kong market), this sequel did. Well, sort of. Instead of being released as is, it fell into the hands of Tomas Tang and his Filmark International company, who had the film chopped to ribbons and English dubbed plus had new scenes added to it by Godfrey Ho, which tossed an evil, claw-handed sorceress, some jianshi (hopping vampires) and other unrelated things into the works. That version was released on VHS in a number of countries (France, Greece...) under the new title CROCODILE FURY in 1988. Later on, this same Filmark version was released on DVD on the Cult Action label.

The opening credits begin as all movies should: with a series of random crocodile attacks. It's shown swimming around with screaming victims in its mouth and then making a quick snack of a guy brushing his teeth. We then cut to a busy waterfront village where some kind of celebration is taking place and everyone's singing and dancing. Yes, folks, it's a musical number; only this one isn't so bad. That's not because the music is great, or because two angry / jealous women get pissed off and suddenly start pelting people with melons, but because it ends in a crocodile chomping down on one of the men. Legendary hunter Krai Thong (Sorapong Chatree) hops into the water, goes all crocodile whisperer and manages to sweet talk the croc into letting go of its prey. Even though I couldn't make out the dialogue, I imagine he said something along the lines of, "Why eat this puny human when there's a delicious fat water buffalo right over there?"

The crocodile then turns into a human woman; Wimala (Aranya Namwong). In the previous film, Krai Thong and Wimala had fallen in love, but the two were unable to be together because, well, he's human and she's partially crocodile and it just wasn't meant to be. Also, Wimala has some anger issues she needs to work on. Instead, Krai Thong was "gifted" brides in the form of the two pretty but spoiled daughters; Tapao-Thong (Supansa Nuengpirom) and Tapao-Kaew (Ampha Phusit), of a wealthy man after he saved them. Though Krai Thong initially had little interest in his new wives, he has now accepted his lot in life and just wants to live a normal life. Wimala, on the other hand, is pretty bitter about the whole affair. With her crocodile king husband Chalawan (Sombat Methanee) dead, she's been living a lonely existence in their gold underwater cave, with only Chalawan's other wife; Luemlaiwan (Duangcheewan Komolsen, who was Miss Thailand in 1976), and an old mystic guy named Thao Rampai (Sor Asanajinda), who sits in a giant crocodile skull meditating 24/7, as company. If you can call it that.

There's another man-who-can-transform-into-a-giant-croc on the block called Aikiam (Lak Apichat), who shows up and starts terrorizing the village during a hilarious (and thankfully also LONG) montage which shows it tipping over boats, stealing oars from people, whacking people with its tail and gobbling up all kinds of villagers, including a guy who pushes his girlfriend into the water, an old pervert who attempts to rape a young woman on his boat, a crocodile wrangler who attempts to lasso it, a bunch of buck naked little boys, a whiny wizard (played by extremely annoying "comic" actor Lor Tok, who was very popular in Thailand at the time) and even a newborn baby. When another man tries to save a young woman from the croc's jaws, he grabs her legs and pulls her pants right off! Krai Thong indeed.

Aikiam rips the head off a water buffalo after it shits all over his face (!!) then decides to take over Chalawan's lair, become the new crocodile lord and lay claim to his former wives. He also kidnaps Kaew and drags her down to the cave to add to his harem. Wimala is receptive to the new guy and plots with him, though Luemlaiwan rejects him and tries to protect Kaew. Chalawan is revived by the old mystic, which leads to a battle between the alpha crocodile men. Krai Thong shows up too, looking for Kaew. There are a couple of poorly choreographed and edited kung fu fights with subpar wire work and Krai Thong gets to ride on the back of the Aikiam crocodile and stab it on the top of the head about 100 times.

Story-wise, this is a mess. The 1980 Krai Thong did a much better job in this regard because it had the folk tale to use as its backbone, while this is a brand new story. However, this sequel does manage to eclipse the original when it comes to sheer mindless fun! It goes from one crocodile attack scene to the next at such a quick clip you never get bored and a lot of these scenes are downright hilarious... some even intentionally so! Sure, main characters all get sidelined in the process and we don't really care much about their stories, but if you're just wanting to see dozens of people being attacked by large model crocodiles, this is a rousing success. The highlight, which seems to be trying to one-up the wedding reception scene in ALLIGATOR (1980), is when the crocodile attacks Krai Thong's wives and their friends at their home, which features people getting thrown around everywhere, a guy scalded by boiling water, a woman being bitten on the ass and legs and arms being ripped off.

Apparently there are a number of different cuts of the film floating around. The Crocodile Fury version with newly-added footage is the shortest, running 87 minutes, but it's also the only version in English. The most common print, which has been issued on VCD and DVD a number of times in Asia, runs a little over 92 minutes. According to ThaiWorldView, there's a third, longer cut; an extremely rare 109 minute version released only on Betamax in Thailand. Later versions of Krai Thong were made in 1995 and 2017 (both for the TV network Channel 7) and 2001 (a theatrical release).


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