From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
It's been the longest time since I wrote 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 big budget and it was also unusual to have famous foreign actors in a Thai film. However, I forgot to tell you about another genre 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 the 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 on the big screen here. Later, he also made several features that included epic special effects sequences in the mid-80's as well as released 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 films made in 1980. I remember watching it years ago and completely forgot about it, until recent months when I read that Synapse Films will be releasing it on Blu-Ray. This is kinda unusual for me to see the international release of a Thai movie getting this treatment. Hell, the best quality version available of the Thai release of Crocodile is almost as clear as a second-generation VHS! So I can't confirm to you whether the 35mm print of this film exists here or not. Regardless, I'm surprised to see that there is a "cult following" for 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 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 mysterious creatures, so it's up to them to get revenge on this crocodile. Actually, the first scene shows a 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...sound familiar?) before cutting straight to the first exciting sequences, in which a Super Croc gets its first victim: a buffalo. I'm not kidding. This scene mesmerized me so much now I want to give you the play-by-play commentary.
That scene alone takes about 2 minutes. 60% is basically intercutting between a crocodile slowly crawling in the jungle and a group of buffalos that grunt and stand in a paddy field. The intercutting 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 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) that shows a man slashing a dead crocodile! Is this a Deodato film 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 those things going on. This is yet another film that falls into the cliche' of several exploitation films in the past that has only boring filler scenes or death scenes and that's pretty much it. I mean, there are moments that I think it's quite clever (like when it intercuts to the picture of roasted duck on a table to a flock of ducks that tries to swim away from the Super Croc or when our heroes' wives talk about how their husbands are always busy, which could have been improved as a key plot point), but most of the time it's just the heroes walking around in a laboratory or the Super Croc just swimming 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-wrecking-miniature set sequence that Sompote is famous for. It's a pretty fun and exciting scene...until I realized that after Super Croc kills everyone, then 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 GOOD SHAPE!
Nonetheless, our heroes and one fisherman finally go 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 kill the beast with an explosion. Okay, so Crocodile doesn't have 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 into its mouth. And after the victorious moment and triumphant music, the words "The End" appear 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 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!
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.