Saturday, August 14, 2021

Chorakhe (1980)

... aka: จระเข้
... aka: 鱷魚大災難
... aka: Crocodile
... aka: Crocodilo Assassino (Killer Crocodile)
... aka: Der Horror-Alligator (The Horror Alligator)
... aka: Giant Crocodile
... aka: Giant Crocodile: Bloody Destroyer
... aka: Jorrakay
... aka: Krokodile

Directed by:
Dick Randall (English-language inserts only)
Sompote "Sands" (Saengduenchai)
Kazuo Sagawa (apparently credited on some prints)

Though this is usually listed as a 1979 theatrical release, I'm not entirely sure about that. Unless this and another film I'll be mentioning a few paragraphs down are indeed kin, the first release appears to have occurred in Thailand in February 1980. A few months later a Mandarin-dubbed version was playing in Chinese cinemas in April of the same year. An English-dubbed release, the one that most of us will be familiar with, was prepared by American producer Dick Randall and "presented" by Herman Cohen, which was released in the winter of 1981 here in the United States. However, even the English version has two different cuts; one of which (the "drive-in version") has a new credits sequence plus added nudity. Both the tamer and more exploitative prints played theatrically in the U. S., though the tamer of the two was used for later VHS and DVD releases. The more exploitative print was (supposedly; though I have been unable to find this cut) released to home video in some Asian and European markets.

With all of the above factored in, this is easily the most widely-distributed and viewed of all pre-1990 Thai genre films, even if it's not entirely Thai in origin. Depending on what version you see and in what language, you get an entirely different viewing experience. For instance, the U. S. and Thai versions are edited and scored differently and the scene order also differs between the two versions. Second, the full Thai version is said to be notably longer (though, again, I've been unable to locate this supposed longer Thai language cut) and has additional scenes not seen in the English release. Conversely, new scenes added to the English-language release (which were supposedly shot by Randall) aren't seen in the Thai version. In addition to that, some of the other releases in other countries are different than these two versions. Talk about confusing! And now that we're on the subject of confusing, I may as well just keep going here...

Korean sources list a movie that sounds almost identical to this one called 악어의 공포 / Ag-eo-ui gongpo, which translates to Horror of the Crocodile but is usually given the English moniker Crocodile Fangs because that's the English title used on the Korean posters. Seeing how both it and the Thai poster use the same art and the plot synopses match up, I strongly suspect this is the same movie. That said, The Korean Movie Database claims "Crocodile Fangs" was produced in 1977 and released in 1978 in South Korea. It lists an entirely different director (Won-se Lee) and has a cast and crew listing that's entirely different from Sompote's Crocodile, which utilizes mostly fake names in the credits, anyway.

Nearly every film source lists Crocodile Fangs (1978) and Crocodile (1980) separately as if they are two entirely different films, but are they really? Does the Korean version have a bunch of newly-filmed scenes by director Lee that were added to Sompote's original? And, if so, how on Earth did it manage to beat the original cut of the film to theaters by two years? Did this start life as a Korean production and then had additional work done to it later on by Sompote? Is the Thai version simply a shorter re-edit of the Korean one? Something definitely does not add up here. The fact the Korean film has yet to turn up in its original form means no one's really been able to clarify matters.

Here's what we do know for sure: It was filmed in Thailand. The special effects were indeed done by Sompote, as his famous model crocodiles (the same ones used in his later releases like CROCODILE THERAKWAD and KRAI THONG) are used in the film. (Note: This suggests that Sompote was not really the director and simply in charge of the original production's special effects and staging of the action scenes. The fact he was credited as "technical director" [fx director] as opposed to primary director on a number of his later films lends credence to this theory.) We also know that the cast is a mixed bag of performers from South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan and that as many as four different directors are credited on various websites. In addition to Sompote and Lee, Randall shot inserts to up the exploitation factor and Japanese fx artist Kazuo Sagawa (best known for his work on the Ultraman series) is sometimes also credited as a co-director.

There are at least four listed producers on various prints: one from Thailand, one from the U.S., one from South Korea and one who worked in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. A multitude of production companies are attached, including ones from South Korea (Han Jin Co., Ltd), Thailand (Sompote's company Chaiyo Productions), Hong Kong (Spectacular Trading Company Ltd.) and the United States (Herman Cohen Productions), as well as several other mysterious ones; the very Japanese-sounding Kyoto Pictures Ltd. and the very Chinese-sounding Dai Shi. So I can't even say with certainly what country or countries to even really attach to this film. Many had their hand in the pot at various stages!

There's certainly a lot to unpack here. Based on the information I've got to go on, I've drawn the conclusion that the original version of the film was the one released in South Korea in 1978. However, I'm leaving that title and the various alternative titles for it off of here for the time being. If that print ever emerges I'll either review it here separately (if it's a markedly different film) or combine entries / make adjustments to the release year for this one (if it turns out to basically be the same movie but with minor alterations).

Here are just a few prints of the film I've been able to turn up online and on various websites:

  • If the most common English-language and Thai-language versions are indeed derived from the 1978 South Korean film, the latter appears to be longer. The Korean Movie Database claims it clocks in at 100 minutes.
  • The most widely-distributed print of the film - the English-language version attributed to Herman Cohen Productions - runs a little less than 92 minutes. This same print is being used for most current DVD prints, like the one distributed by VCI. It is also the version I will be reviewing here today.
  • The website Asian Cult Cinema is currently selling an English-language version of the film that they claim runs 105 minutes, which would make it the longest version on the market AND five minutes longer than the running time of the South Korean film. Their print has the title screen Crocodile Fangs / Agowa Gongpu and is perhaps a composite of all versions. Has anyone out there seen this particular cut?
  • An Italian-language print with different opening credits (which lists "Sam Sands" as director) runs just 88 minutes. It also opens with a title card and stock footage atomic blasts not seen in the Thai and English versions. This appears to be derived from the Hong Kong release since Spectacular Trading Company is also listed in the credits.
  • The German-language VHS release titled Krokodile appears to be the extremely rare Randall cut of the movie. In lieu of standard opening credits, this has a different scene of two topless women struggling inside the crocodile's mouth! This video release also has a picture of American porno actress Lois Ayres on the cover for some reason. While she's obviously not in the film itself, it'd probably be much better if she were.
  • A print uploaded to Youtube by Wu Tang Collection that claims to be the original and uncut Thai theatrical version runs about a minute longer than the English-language one. While this has most of the same scenes found in the 92 minute English cut, the editing is different, a few scenes have been shuffled around and there at least a couple of different scenes not seen in the slightly-shorter English version.

"From the very beginning, man has been trying to destroy nature. Perhaps one day he may succeed..."

A hurricane / tsunami (this is recycled footage from an earlier Thai disaster film called แผ่นดินวิปโยค / Pandin Wippayoke / "Tragic Land" that Sompote also did the fx for) caused by an "atomic explosion" that we never see destroys a small island. It's also brought inland an unexpected visitor in the form of a giant mutant killer crocodile with glow-in-the-dark eyes that immediately starts chomping on humans and animals alike. In Bangkok, Dr. Anthony 'Tony' Akom (Thai actor "Nat Puvanai" / Nard Poowanai) is seeing an overload of patients being brought in from the disaster, which doesn't sit well wife his wife Angela, who's played by Chinese actress Tanny aka Ni Tien, a prolific presence in Asian exploitation who started her career in Taiwan then became a regular player in Shaw Brothers productions. Angela is pissed that Tony is always on call and always at work and feels like he's been neglecting both her and their "lovely little sparrow" of a daughter, Ann. Hey Angela, you marry a doctor for the lavish lifestyle their salary affords you, not because they'll be home all the time.

Tony, Angela and Ann go on a weekend vacation at a luxurious island resort along with their friends, Dr. John Stromm ("Kirk Warren" / Chan-il Sin) and his wife Linda ("Angela Wells" aka Angela Wang En-Chi aka On-Kei Wong aka Eun-hui Wang). Their fun doesn't last too long as the wives and the little girl all get gobbled up within the first 20 minutes. Soon after, what's left of Linda washes up on the shore, followed by fishermen snagging a number of human arms in their fishing net. Hitting the bottle hard and sinking into a depression, Tony resigns from his job at the hospital and decides to dedicate all of his time to seeking out his wife and daughter's killer so he can get revenge. He starts by breaking into a morgue and stealing Linda's leg so he can examine it (?!) News reports of sightings of a giant crocodile start flooding in, which further convinces him that a monster crocodile is the culprit.

The film seriously starts to drag at this point as our hero drinks, sulks, starts having vision problems, keeps hearing his child's voice calling to him and gets into numerous really stupid and redundant conversations with his friend, a herpetologist and members of the press, who don't take his giant crocodile claims seriously... at first.

However, the giant crocodile theory becomes impossible to deny once the croc rampages through a village / fruit market / touristy area, destroying most of it and killing or injuring dozens of people. It also eats villagers, fisherman, birds, a couple of female swimmers, a little boy, a monkey and a water buffalo, among other stuff. Scuba divers are sent underwater with a giant bear trap to try to catch it but the trap barely fits on the beast's tail and does no good.

Tony and John concoct drums of “liquid bait” and then enlist the aid of Quint, uh, I mean Tanaka Lujan (“Bob Harrison” / Manop Aussawathep), a hard-drinkin' salty crocodile hunter who has a boat plus some equipment that might come in handy, like a high-powered harpoon. And a machine gun. And dynamite. Tanaka also has some kind of spiritual connection to the beast and has a tattoo of a bird on his chest. Local legend has it that a winged animal will one day eliminate a giant creature and, even though that never actually happens in this film, it's a nice thought, I suppose. Once they're out at sea searching for the beast, they're joined (whether they like it or not) by an obnoxious reporter named Peter (Robert Chan Law-Bat), who hopes to document their journey. Even though this character is randomly introduced in the last 20 minutes, Peter ends up becoming the hero on the film! So then it should come as no surprise to learn that Chan was also one of the producers of Crocodile.

While I can't comment on the condition of the original version, this English cut is truly, truly terrible... and not in a good or entertaining kinda way either. The English dubbing and dialogue are both dreadful, the editing is abysmal, choppy and reduces many scenes to near-incoherence, at least one scene is repeated in its entirety (just with different dialogue added), the characters are boring and the crocodile attack scenes are tame and dull. Perhaps the absolute worst thing is the inconsistency in regards to the crocodile's size, which is extremely annoying! In some scenes, it looks like a rather normal-sized crocodile. In other scenes, it's perhaps a slightly larger than normal croc that could swallow someone whole yet could probably easily be stopped. However, in other scenes they try to make it seem like a Godzilla-sized threat that's capable of leveling an entire home with one swing of its tail! The victims are mostly just seen seizuring in the water and spitting up fake blood. Unfortunately, real animals are also forced into the action in this God awful film, including an actual crocodile that's shown getting sliced open and killed.

It's quite an injustice that this heap of crock-o-dull dung is one of the easiest to find South Korean OR Thai horror films from this era. And it's also pretty lame this is the easiest to find and most famous of all of Sompote's films, too. While many of his other films can undoubtedly be classified as bad themselves, at least they're more fantasy-oriented, wacky and fun to watch. This film, on the other hand, takes itself entirely too seriously, is utterly unoriginal, boring, glum and depressing and follows the beats of Jaws too closely.

I skimmed through the 93 minute Thai version as well and made note of a few bits that have been cut out, including a dialogue scene between Angela and Linda (whose names appear to have been reversed for the English version), a brief scene of Tony and John discovering Linda's remains (which are kept off-screen), a shot of a poor monkey being chucked into the croc's mouth and an underwater fight between a hatchet-armed villager and the croc. The scene where the crocodile eats a water buffalo opens the film, while in the English version it's been moved to the second half. This scene is also longer and gorier in the Thai version. Overall, it's basically the same crappy movie though, just edited a bit more professionally.

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