Friday, June 21, 2013
The Sidewalks of Bangkok (1984)
Time for a first for my blog, a first that I'm surprised it's taken me this long to get to-Reviewing a Jean Rollin film!
Jean Rollin, for those not in the know, was a French director who used to make porn films, then started making kinda artistic movies that tended to involve vampires (usually of the lesbian variety), lots and lots of nudity, a slow pace, and dreamlike atmopheres.
The "Mask of Fu Manchu inspired" Sidewalks of Bangkok is one of Rollin's most accessible films, as it's just a simple crime flick. But mind you, when I say it's one of his most accessible films, I don't mean it's good! Au contraire, when it comes to boring, The Sidewalks of Bangkok is on par with Zombie Lake! Yes, fellow Rollin fans, I went there!
The film opens with the death of Rick, a spy, who was in Bangkok, acquiring a tube containing a biological weapon. All he left behind was a film reel with random shots of Bangkok. One thing of importance in it, however, is the presence of Eva (Yoko), a local dancer who Rick got friendly with. The other secret agents who look over the film assume that Rick gave her the tube for safekeeping.
A short time later, an agent is killed and the film is stolen by underlings of Rita (Brigitte Borghese), a gang lord. She sends an agent of hers, Claudine (Francoise Blanchard) to Bangkok to assume the role of Djong, a secret service contact, and the real Djong is killed.
Eva is a dancer at a bar run by a small-time crime lord name Tong (Jean-Paul Bride, who's dressed up to look like Fu Manchu). One of Rita's lady goons tells Tong to get Eva to give him the object that Rick gave her, but given the presence of the French secret service, they decide to smuggle Eva out of the country first.
Claudine goes to Eva before the secret agents can, and pretends to be an acquaintance of Rick's. She tells Eva that Rick is in France, and wants Eva to come over to him. Eva believes Claudine, and she is soon smuggled out of Bangkok via a ship, with the help of a Captain Bruissu (Jean-Pierre Bouyxou), and is sent swimming out into the bay when the ship docks in France. As secret service agents try and get ahold of her, Claudine continues stringing Eva along as she heads towards Rita's chateau...
Like I said before, The Sidewalks of Bangkok is boring! There's pretty much no plot or character in the film, there's just a macguffin everyone's after, and one woman travels a lot to get somewhere. That's the extent to this movie's story. If only there was more plot written, then I could get behind the movie more.
As if the film wasn't boring enough, about fifteen minutes in, there's a long string of nude dancing (including one chick who I'm pretty sure was doing The Robot-Either that or she's a terrible dancer), nude massages (that sure looked like one hell of a massage!), and nude mud wrestling.The stretch might not be a particularly long time, but it sure as hell feels like it!
The character of Eva just exists, and I barely gave a crap about her character in the slightest! She's a largely weak character, who is incredibly boring, and does almost nothing of note. Like I said, she just exists. Yet the majoity of the movie follows her!
There's a moment near the end of the film that really pissed me off! I won't spoil it, but it reveals that the movie's following of the nothing Eva character was entirely pointless! The movie is just a big time-waster!
When I saw the part where the secret service guys were tied to train tracks, I went "Really, movie?! Really?!". It's hilariously stupid, but if this movie is meant to be in the style of old serials, then I can't fault its cliches. What I can fault the movie on is that it saves those two secret agents from certain death...just to kill them moments later! *seethe*
There's one REALLY stupid scene partway through the film. One of the agents is at the Bangkok harbour looking for Eva, and he comes across Claudine. At a stalemate, with both their guns pointed at each-other, Claudine suggests that they both drop their guns. She does, and then so does the agent! What the hell?! And then the dumbass agent is immediately attacked by a three henchgoons, none of whom have guns!
Now I haven't seen The Mask of Fu Manchu, so while it doesn't seem like this film has anything to do with it, I wouldn't know. But considering this movie is supposedly inspired by Mask, it seems pretty insulting to have the Fu Manchu character be some wimpy low-rent gangster who gets killed twenty minutes in!
Sidewalks is said to be reminiscent of old serials, namely in its cliffhanger structure, and I suppose it could be viewed like that, but I didn't really see it that way.
The acting in Sidewalks is all passable. The best is definitely Francoise Blanchard (R.I.P.) as Claudine (who sports a hilariously 80's harstyle), partly because she's awesome, partly because she's the only main character worth a damn who gets to have more than five minutes of screentime. Her character does undergo a baffling 180 chararacter change at one point though. Yoko, who plays Eva, is dull as dishwater though.
Tong, the Fu Manchu lookalike, is nothing but set-dressing for the first twenty minutes, then he's dispatched. The actor playing him is ok, but nothing special.
The film is shot very well, and the locations are all great, but when it comes to the effects, they really aren't very good. There's rarely any blood, bullet wounds, or even torn clothing when people are shot, and one of the few times there are, the bullets hit offscreen. And there's one guy who gets his throat slit (what would-be rapist puts their knife down to rape someone?!...Actually, would be rapists, do just that! Instant karma at work!)-In the first shot, it's painfully obvious that it's just a line of fake blood over his neck, but in a following shot, there's an actual wound. Too bad it's in the wrong place though!
Another positive is the groovy soundtrack the film has!
There are a few minor issues with the subtitles. There are some sentences that lack commas, the word 'There're' is used at one point, a character's name is misspelt once, and it keeps calling Rita's base a castle, even though the characters say chateau, which is what the base is.
So, to finish, I don't recommend The Sidewalks of Bangkok at all. There are much better crime flicks you could watch instead. Like Reservoir Dogs. Go watch Reservoir Dogs! I just rewatched it, and it's such a great flick! You'll sure do better with that than this boring time!...