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< Crocodile
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It's been the longest time since I write a particular review here, so there's no better way to make a comeback than reviewing a movie from my country: Thailand! Yep. Several years ago I talked about "H-Bomb" (or "Great Friday" or "ตัดเหลี่ยมเพชร"), an Actionsploitation film starring Chris Mitchum and Olivia Hussey. As I said there, it was a phenomenon since the film was made on a high budget and it was also unusual to have famous foreign actors in Thai film. However, I forgot to tell you about another category of film that was quite popular back in the 70's: the tokusatsu (or the rubber suit action hero).

Enter Sompote Saengduenchai (or, as many of his film in foreign version credits, Sompote Sands), he was one of the crew behind the popularity of Ultraman TV series when he worked as an intern in Japan. So when he started his company called Chaiyo Productions, he brought them to Thai kids too! That was why he could get 7 Ultraman characters ("Hanuman vs. 7 Ultramans", a.k.a. "The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. the Monster Army") or Jumborg Ace ("Jomborg Ace & Giants From Wat Chaeng", a.k.a. "Jumborg Ace & Giant") which are Tsuburaya Production characters towards big screen here. Later, he also made several features that include epic special effect sequences until the mid-80's as well as releasing several Japanese animated films ("Doraemon: Nobita's Dinosaur" and "Ikkyū-san") in Thailand. Unfortunately, for younger people, he's mostly remembered for his controversial lawsuit between him and Tsuburaya on the rights and legal ownership of Ultraman characters that went on for several years, but that's another story...

Crocodile is one of his non-tokusatsu film made in 1980. I remember watching it years ago and completely forgot about it, until recent months when I read that Synapse Film will release it on Blu-Ray. This is kinda unusual for me to see the international release of Thai movie gets this treatment. Hell, the best quality available of Thai version of Crocodile is almost as clear as second-generation VHS! So I can't confirm you whether the 35mm print of this film exists here or not. Regardless, I'm surprised to see that there are some "cult following" among this movie, so it's time for me to check it out again...

The storyline is ridiculously straight forward. Arkom and Meen are two doctors who have their own wives (and one of them has a daughter). One day, they go travel to the sea and, sadly, their kid and wives get killed by a mysterious creatures, so it's up to them for the revenge against this crocodile. Actually, the first scene here shows the thunderstorm and water tornado (later on, our heroes find out that the Super Croc acts that way due to nuclear bomb testing, which changes the weather and animal behavior...sounds familiar?) before cuts straight to the first excitement sequences, in which a Super Croc gets its first victim: a buffalo. I'm not kidding. This scene is so mesmerized to me that I somehow want to give you the play-by-play commentary.

That scene alone takes about 2 minutes. 60% is basically the intercut between a crocodile slowly crawls in the jungle and a group of buffalos that grunts and stands in a padding field. The intercut goes on and on to the point that it becomes a comedic scene since it looks more like they are trying to talk to each other. Then, one of them gets eaten and it goes on for another 1 minute. Why does it have to be this long for just a scene about animal getting killed? I don't know, but later on there's a monkey that gets eaten and another scene (that takes place in crocodile farm) shows a man slashing a corpse of death crocodile! Is this a Deodato or what?!

Luckily, the answer is no. Because most of what happens in Crocodile is mostly action-based. There's no dialogue that shows the characterisation of each character, no social satire or epic speech like in Jaws, and not much of the things going on here. This is yet another film that falls into the cliche' of several exploitation films in the past that has only either boring filler scenes or death scenes and that's pretty much it. I mean, there are moments that I think it's quite clever here (like when it intercuts the picture of roasted duck on a food table to a flock of ducks that tries to swim away from the Super Croc or when our hero wives' talk about how their husband are always busy, which could have been improved as a key plot point), but most of the time it's just the heroes walk around in a laboratory or the Super Croc just swims around.

So let's skip to the real highlight of the film that takes place at a floating market. As you may guess, the Super Croc strikes here and it's a good showcase of a monster-wrecks-miniature-effect sequence that Sompote is famous for. It's a pretty fun and exciting scene...until I realise that after Super Croc kills everyone, destroys the place (to the point that some of the buildings are on fire!), and creates a whirlpool, the cops somehow finds several corpses IN A GOOD SHAPE!

Nontheless, our heroes and one fisherman finally goes out and hunt down this crocodile. To me, the very last act of the film was more or less similar to Jaws, in which the three main characters get on the boat and finally killing the beast through explosion. Okay, Crocodile doesn't have the clone of legendary "Smile You Son of a B-" quote, but the situation here is strangely familiar. The boat is about to sink. Some of the main characters are killed. THE hero here is alone with him and the creature. So while Chief Brody shoots an oxygen tank to kill Jaws, the Super Croc gets blown up since the hero throws a dynamite to its mouth. And after the victorious moment and triumphant music, the word "The End" appears abruptly just like in Godfrey Ho films! Yeah. What a great way to end the climactic scene we've been waiting for!

Joking aside, I have a mixed feelings toward this film. While it has some unintentional hilarity as well as special effects that remind me of old-school tokusatsu TV shows that I grew up with, most of the film is quite boring due to the lack of interesting dialogue and insightful characterisation, even for a B-movie standard or other Sompote's films. If you want to watch the film he's famous for or you are a fan of 70's tokusatsu, I recommend The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. the Monster Army instead of this one. Then, you might return to Crocodile and his later flicks to see how he marketed the film with special effects.

By the way, this is the Thai cut of the film (which, contrary to Wikipedia, it's about as long as the foreign one). I haven't got a chance to see to international cut that Synapse will re-release soon yet. But from what I quickly glance at, it re-orders several sequences and change details of the dialogue. However, some reviewers prefer Thai version to the foreign one. Who knows? I might review it later on just to see whether it's worse or not!

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