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BANGKOK, CITA CON LA MUERTE (Clifford Brown, 1985)

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BANGKOK, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH (VSOM dupe from Spanish television broadcast; No official North American VHS, DVD release)

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A colorful, amusing mix of Kung Fu fighting, Asian aesthetics, modern day pirates, BANGKOK CITY OF THE DEAD (1985) mixes comic book-style imagery with crime film elements, some self parody and a adventure plot with a not-so-happy ending. Franco has tried this before, notably in the delightful LOS BLUES CALLE POP…. (1983) and La sombra del judoka contra el doctor Wong (1985).

BANGKOK is fascinating to the serious Jess Franco student but may not engage interest as a serious action film with Jess Franco-style martial arts interludes included. The formulaic plot combines drug running, Thai pirates (led by Lina Romay), karate fighting, kidnapping, comic relief and tourist footage which on first viewing looks cribbed from an unknown source.*  [Update: the DoP of this film, Juan Soler Cozar, read this review and kindly informed me that he was actually sent to Bangkok to shoot some street footage, and that it does appear in the film. I was very surprised that they went to the expense and trouble to do this, especially considering the production’s obvious micro-budget.]

The yacht-going daughter of a millionaire is kidnapped by pirates. Her father (Eduardo Fajardo) hires a bumbling private eye named Panama Joe (Bork Gordon) to locate her. The daughter’s boyfriend is also on the kidnappers’ trail. Panama Joe discovers the crooks are led by a drug smuggler (Antonio Mayans), who is in turn being double crossed by Queen Amania (Lina Romay). The detective roams around the faux Asian locations, tries to play both sides against the other, while uncovering deeper layers of corruption and double dealing.BANGKOK is dialogue and plot heavy to no good end, and Gordon’s imitation Inspector Columbo ramblings just do not spark enough interest. The characters are shown talking in cartoon dialog balloons during the opening credits, but Franco unaccountably drops this unusual device immediately and never picks it up again. What’s left is a C-minus adventure with some ill-timed comic relief and ineptly staged karate stand-offs, in which the participants miss each other by miles. Gordon (Christian Borck) just seems a disheveled guy, actually a German comedian/television actor, who wandered in. Like the karate stuff, comedy-parody needs timing. The lines and martial arts blows rarely connect. Actually, I managed to find some amusement in the martial arts showdowns where the fighters miss contact with each other by such obvious distances that it looks like children playing at karate fighting. This is all likely due to a crushing schedule/lack of budget. Nonetheless the colorful cinematography frames the locations with skill and makes the Canary Islands seem like Southeast Asia, at least for 90 minutes.

Lina Romay has a few touching moments as the pirate leader, but she is once again miscast, and her familiarity as Lina Romay distracts from her performance. In one embarrassing scene, shes dances around in a tight swimsuit accompanied by a mechanical band. The result might been cute in 1973, but at this late date it is unfunny and unflattering to the talented Ms. Romay. Veteran character actor Fajardo (DJANGO)  turns in a professional but unexceptional performance as the millionaire.

The movie benefits from its luminous cinematography and occasionally hectic energy but needs a more interesting focal point.. The Far Eastern locations, represented via the aforementioned stock footage are given an atmospheric boost by Pablo Villa’s (Franco and Daniel White) brassy score, some of which recalls music heard in Franco’s earlier FU MANCHU AND THE KISS OF DEATH/KISS AND KILL (1967). Given the negatives I’m at the stage where I can still engage with and enjoy even an understandably flawed genre mashup such as this one. It’s obvious that Jess Franco took it serious enough to attempt to deliver a multi-faced entertainment package under impossible circumstances. As he told me when I interviewed him on his Golden Films Internacional period, these productions were «poor» i.e. made at very low coast, with little or no resources and rushed out to theaters or hidden away in the offices of producer Emilio Larraga to be lost forever. I had some fun watching it but have no idea where one could see it outside of fan websites. I am not aware of any DVD release, although it may have appeared on Spanish VHS.

The version I saw was from the wretchedly unreliable VSOM and had no English subtitles. A good quality HD transfer from a print or negative with  language options is required for a more in-depth consideration, but it’s an example of Franco’s 1980s exotica.

*Thanks again to Juan Cozar for additional information on the production of this film.
(C) Robert Monell [1998: New Version: 2020

Bangkok, Cita con la Muerte
1985 87 Minutes. Spanish TV broadcast.Director:  «Clifford Brawm» sic (Jess Franco)/ Director of Photography: Juan Cozar./ Produced by Golden Films Internacional S.A. in Alicante and Bangkok, Thailand.Cast: LINA ROMAY, ANTONIO MAYANS, JOSE LLAMAS, HELENA GARRET, BORK GORDON, EDUARDO FAJARDO

Written by Robert Monell

29 junio 2018 a 9:38 PM

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