Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crocodile River (1965) with Lo Wei and Lau Leung Wa

The big question I had when starting up Lo Wei's Crocodile River (1965) was how much of it was going to be actually on location in Thailand? Given that the overseas Chinese market was such a big part of the Shaw Brothers' products' appeal in the 1960s, I'd think they'd make every effort to use real locations.

That's probably a foolish wish as some of those Umetsugu Inoue musicals that were set partly in Japan just used stock footage to indicate that locale.

As Paul Chang Chung enters the film, bicycling around a college campus in Thailand, it's clear that, yes, the filmmakers spent time in Thailand and shot a LOT of great location footage there.

They also, apparently, used local actors and, in 1965, they weren't exactly a bunch of Brandos.

There's some feud going on between boys from rival villages over a girl and her fiancee. Director Lo Wei shows up early on in the picture as a villain.

Then it's back to sightseeing as Paul Chang Chung goes to watch Muay Thai, takes a boat ride on the river, and even goes to the zoo. Yes, the Shaw Brothers studios did indeed film on location and, dammit, they are going to put all that footage on the screen.

Seems that Paul Chang Chung's girlfriend, Lee Ting lives with Lo Wei, her father, and that guy is the villain of the piece and at the center of the feud.

Then, there are a couple of surprising nude scenes from Lau Leung-Wa. For 1965, the naked backside and bare breast shots of the actress are a bit revealing, especially for a mainstream Shaw Brothers film. Additionally, as the nudity occurs before we see the actress' face, it's entirely possible that this shower scene was done using a body double. The scene certainly feels out of place and shoved into the film. But, hey, nudity sells tickets.

The following nude swim by the actress seems more like something that was shot on location and there's some possibility of it being a body double as well.

For more on the delectable Lau Leung Wa, duriandave provides a bit of background on the one-time Mrs. Lo Wei. Her career was indeed varied after getting her start in such a fashion in this sort of role.

Additionally, she was in a few of the titles in the Shaw Brothers' Journey to the West series. I don't think I noticed her when I watched all of those in a marathon session, but I sure as heck would look for her now were I to rewatch those titles again.

The rest of the film is pretty boring, despite some nice location work -- those scenes on the rocks near the river are quite well done and lovely -- even with the fighting going on.

Lo Wei was a competent director but -- let's be honest -- Paul Chang Chung is not a compelling lead; Lee Ting is not exactly an exciting ingenue; and the locals and plot are both dull.

It looks like Crocodile River was one of those VCD-only titles in the Shaw Brothers IVL/Celestial reissue series and it's out-of-print.

But you can sign-up here to be notified if it becomes available again.