Director: Mitr Chaibancha
Aka - Insee Thong
This Thai action film was the final one in a series of Red Eagle films starring
Mitr Chaibancha that began in 1959 with Chao Nakleng. It is hard to find out
how many of them there were as there is so little information on older Thai
films in English. For example, a few sources wrote that Mitr Chaibancha appeared
in over two hundred films and yet IMDB only lists ten of them. Chaibancha
in fact was such a big star that in some years he was in half of all the films
produced in Thailand - but his biggest fame came from the Red Eagle films.
The character is based on a series of books written by Sake Dusit. In these
films the Red Eagle (Insee Daeng) does the typical secret identity trick
- without his mask he is Rome Ritthkrai, well-off, often inebriated (mao
in Thai) and afraid of any violence - but as the Red Eagle he rights wrongs
and protects his homeland from external or internal forces. Communism being
the main culprit.
And in fact, in the 1960s like every Southeast Asian nation there was a
Communist insurgency. It never got as strong as it did in some of the other
nations - the USA poured money into the country, modernized the military
but as we see that wasn't enough in other countries - what really did it
was the growing power of the King who became an object of veneration to his
people. And I should add the Red Eagle!
In 165 of his films Chaibancha teamed up with female actress Petchara Chaowarat
who was no piker with about 300 films to her credit. In the Red Eagle films
they are not romantically intertwined - Oye is just his assistant who from
time to time gets him out of scrapes with her fast thinking and judo chops.
In this one the Red Eagle has retired and decided to live the good life, but
someone has taken on his secret identity and is killing people who can be
witnesses against the Red Bamboo - an underground Communist group. They are
also killing people by sending them a crystal Buddha which when activated
can hypnotize people and scare them into a heart attack. The Mastermind has
a bit of a resemblance to Ho Chi Minh.
The real Red Eagle is forced to change colors and becomes the Golden Eagle!
At one point he infiltrates one of their homes and is discovered. He hides
by seducing and bedding the bad guy's sultry niece. I expect he kept his mask
on. Not sure what Oye would think of this. He also shoots dead a lot of the
minions when he is not breaking their face with his knuckles. Taking into
account this is 1970, the action which is plentiful is not bad - nothing Tony
Jaa could not do in his sleep - but not great either. The film was
fun, clearly cheesy from our perspective, felt quite Thai to me even to the
point of a transvestite but disappointingly had very little location shooting
in Bangkok. The Golden Eagle meets up with someone at Siam Square which he
tells them will be deserted at night. Today Siam Square is about the busiest
place in Bangkok with a sprawl of fancy malls.
Now the real life tragedy. In the very last shot of the film, Oye is flying
the helicopter to get our hero away from an island after all the bad guys
are dead and he hangs on to the ladder up to the cockpit. There was a mess-up
and Mitr Chaibancha slipped and fell to his death. He was only 36 years old
- grew up in poverty, became a light-weight boxer, joined the military and
was discovered for film. In the original film they show his fall but in the
dvd it is cut out and he is just shown flying away. In the film he is asked
about dying and he says not to worry, he will live for a long time. To this
day on the anniversary of his death, fans gather in Jomtien Beach where he
This dvd has English subtitles but is in pretty bad shape - with no attempt
at remastering whatsoever. I would love to see a few more in this series but
very few of their old films have made it to dvd and only a handful have subtitles
- the Thai film industry back then made over 100 films a year. God knows
how many are still around but there is no real attempt except from the Thai
Film Archives to preserve and remaster these old films which I find very
sad. I read that most of the films made pre-1970 were shot on 16mm which may
contribute to this. But I am happy I came across this one. I have another
action film but like this one it has no English title. It took a bit of research
to figure out what this one was.