Insee Tong aka Golden Eagle
Thailand 1970
Directed by Mítchai Banchaa .

An evil communist hypnotist and the "Red Bamboo" gang threaten to overturn the Thai government and start a socialist revolution. The cops can't break the case. Only the legendary "Golden Eagle" (Mitr Chaibuncha) can untangle the complicated plot and save the day -- unless Red Eagle stops him! Red Eagle! Golden Eagle! Who will survive? Not our hero, as the movie is famous in Thailand for being the cause of the star's death in the last reel.

Rome (again, Mitr Chaibancha) used to be the hero Red Eagle, but gave it up for his girlfriend Oy Vasana (Petchara Chaowarat). Unfortunately, when the red menace infiltrates Thailand, one of the villains, Poowanat (Kanchit Kwanapracha) disguises as the Red Eagle to kill, and ruin Rome's reputation. Meanwhile, the hypnotist Bakin (Ob Boontid), is mailing out red glass Buddha statues that he uses to kill his victims through the power of his mind! He is so powerful, we are told later, that he has even "hypnotized his own soul!" Top that!

Rome decides to do the masked hero thing again, to restore his rep, but he switches color, to be "Golden Eagle." The logic of this escapes me, but everyone who meets him grasps this intuitively. "You must be the real Red Eagle!" they decide almost immediately upon seeing him. But of course, the police captain is out to bring in the Golden Eagle anyway, no matter what side he's on.

After lots of sweaty fistfights and shootouts against an assortment of sleezeballs, goons, a suspicious "faggot" (as the subtitles not so kindly put it), and Jiew Tong, the villainous Chinese businessman, Golden Eagle and the occassionally cross-dressing captain discover Bakin's island fortress and head over via boat and helicopter for the final battle.

The interiors, the cars, the clothing, the hairstyles, all of these are so deeply seventies you will drown in it. Our hero is totally goofball, and often somewhat sweaty, his superhero costume pitted out after any amount of exercise. His special tools are laughable. A particularly great moment comes when he rescues an imprisoned girl by reaching into his glove and pulling out -- after much fumbling -- a secret gadget which turns out to be nothing more than a simple iron file, which he then uses to slowly file away the girl's chains. As a superhero, the guy needs some work. His girlfriend, on the other hand, kicks ass, and probably should have had her own mask.

The hypnotist villain, with his sinister van dyke, is great but underutilized. The action is poorly choreographed, and the storyline skips around erratically (likely, scenes are missing from the poor print). The final battle is overlong, and as with almost every action movie that introduces a helicopter, slows down to show endless helicopter landing and take off scenes.

Another unfortunate side-effect of the helicopter was the death of the star. In the final scene, he grabs a rope ladder, and the helicopter takes off with him holding on. There isn't really any reason for him to do this in the plot, the movie could have just as easily ended by this point. The actor falls off of the ladder, to his death. This is not shown in the movie, rather, it ends with a freeze frame and some text about the accident (though according to this wikipedia article about the star, his fatal fall was caught on film and left in the theatrical release. And so, on October 8, 1970, Mitr Chaibancha, who made hundreds of Thai films, gave his life to making INSEE TONG. The results are less than spectacular, but fans of seventies action and spy cinema will find much to enjoy.

[The quality of the print on the Thai DVD of Insee Tong is unbelievably horrible, discoloured, and occassionally the scratches and white "rain" make it impossible to tell what's going on. But, on the other hand, this is a million times better than not seeing the movie at all, so three cheers for getting it on DVD in the first place. A morbid extra on the DVD is footage of the cremation of Mitr Chaibuncha, which you probably shouldn't watch if you are squeemish about seeing a dead body paraded around and displayed before being cremated. Lots of crowd scenes, people crying, people just sort of hanging out. Strangely this extra looks like a bootleg video, in that the cremation footage is being projected, and occasionally a person can be seen in silhouette in front of it. Also included is a music video comprised of movie footage, put to the song "Insree Tong." This song did not appear in the movie. The recording is obviously from a poorly kept LP, with lots of hiss, pops, and occassional skips. Finally, there is a photo gallery of lots of portraits of Mitr Chaibuncha and stills from other films. All together, I am totally impressed by these extras! This is what DVD extras should be!]

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 15, 2006.

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