Monday, July 25, 2011

Operation Black Panther (1977)

Sombat Metanee was one of the biggest stars in Thailand during the seventies, and is still considered one of the most famous movies stars ever in the land of smile. What I didn’t know was that he had a talent for directing and produced a couple of major hits. One of them is Operation Black Panther, a James Bondish action-comedy complete with crazy stunts and action. The story, without subtitles, was a bit hard to understand but what I could figure out is that he’s supposed to be some secret agent/police/detective who live with his parents. Or at least terrorize them from time to time with pranks.

Now he’s going to infiltrate a big crime organization and to test his reliability he’s going to perform an assassination for them. But instead of doing he’s flees and a now they’re after him because he’s the only one knowing who they are and were they have their secret base! Somehow, along the way, Sombat get a female colleague, played by Aranya Namwong, who joins him in his fight against the Black Panther organization!

Operation Black Panther is made with a big juicy tongue firmly placed in the cheek. The whole pre-credits sequence is filled with “borrowed” footage from a Pink Panther cartoon, which also makes me think this is a reference to the Inspector Clouseau films with Peter Sellers and the rest of the movie is easy going. The only instance of something darker is when Sombat is breaking into the organizations secret base and tries to kill guards with strangling them, which creates a couple of very funny and black moments of comedy.

But most of the movie is spent on action and it boasts a couple of very creative moments. The first chase is with Sombat’s doubled-fronted car and then goes over to motorcycle. Lots of fast driving in a city I believe is Bangkok and a couple of very nice stunts. A few fights later and we’re treated to a very fun mini-chase with the car in a garage, were Sombat and Aranya take turns driving the car from the opposite side. Ah… fuck it, I’ve stolen a screenshot from the brilliant DIE, DANGER, DIE, DIE, KILL! to make it clearer:

The ending also has one of the worst miniatures since Amando de Ossorio’s The Ghost Galleon, but at least it’s easy to forget in the scene after when a nice explosion lights up the effect quality of the movie!

I’ve noticed, just as a detail, that Sombat has a tendency to strip almost naked in a lot of movies I’ve seen with him. Nothing bad with that, just a good thing, because he’s obviously the fittest Thai star of the seventies and isn’t afraid to show off his biceps and wide chest! He was popular both among women and men, and Sombat knew this "I never thought of acting, but I was good-looking, smart; I had sex appeal” – and that alone can create a career. The only difference was that he could act also, and direct – which he proven clearly with this entertaining piece of Thai popcorn-culture!

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