Jao Insee (Review)
aka The Eagle
Directed by Chalong Pakddivijit
In the beginning of the Awasan Insee Daeng review, we went over the origins of the pulp heroes and the violence romance stories. Now we’ll specifically look at the character of Insee Daeng. From what I can put together from bad translations of Thai websites, there were 9 original Red Eagle tales, and author Sek Dusit quit writing them after the death of Mitr Chaibancha in 1970. That wasn’t the end of the film series, nor the end of the stories, as pulp comics and stories would continue to be published for decades. Here is a collection of covers from various Thai pulp comics.
Insee Daeng would make occasional returns to the silver screen after Mitr Chaibancha’s death, but it would be an irregular occurrence. Information on some of the movies are so scarce I don’t know if they are supposed to be part of the canon or their own reboots. Insee Payong features the daughter of the original Insee Daeng, Rome Rittichai, returning to Thailand, while the 2010 film Insee Daeng is a clean reboot.
Sek Dusit has revealed that Insee Daeng was inspired by Rock Hudson in Captain Lightfoot, and Insee Daeng became one of the most popular pulp heroes. It is no surprise that Mitr Chaibancha would be chosen to portray Insee Daeng on screen, as he was the most popular actor in Thailand at the time, appearing in 1/3-1/2 of the films produced each year. More discussion on the Thai film industry at the time and Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat will be in the opening to the Insee Thong review. I gotta leave some sort of hook to get you to come back (and it also fits in better there, as you will see!)
Sek Dusit Insee Daeng stories:
The Red Eagle
Dragon’s Flight (later renamed White Dragon)
Red Eagle Filmography:
Jao Nak Leng aka The Gangster (1959) – Deals with the origins of Red Eagle and his first big case against gangsters.
Thap Samingkhla (1962) – Red Eagle fights against The Snake Gang with the help of the police and a female detective from Hong Kong.
Awasan Red Eagle aka The End of The Red Eagle (1963) – Insee Daeng retires after a defeating more bad guys. Or will he….?
Pisat Dam aka Black Demon (1966) – Red Eagle fights against a spooky villain Black Demon
Jao Insee aka The Eagle (1968) – You are currently reading the review of this. Don’t you pay attention?
Insee Thong aka Golden Eagle (1970) – The final film of the main series, Red Eagle becomes Golden Eagle to take down an impostor Red Eagle who is murdering journalists and is part of a secret communist gang.
After the death of Mitr Chaibancha, Insee Daeng films would occasionally be made…
Bin Diao aka Solo Flight (1977) – The main character wears a black mask, but I don’t know if he is supposed to be the same character or not.
Phrai Mahagan (1980) – The title means “Ghost” something, and it looks like the main character is supposed to be the original Red Eagle
Insee Payong aka Proud Eagle (1988) – Features Thai action queen Jarunee Suksawat as the long-overseas daughter of the original Red Eagle returned to Thailand to take up his legacy and killing lots of bad dudes.
Insee Daeng aka Red Eagle (2010) – The reboot of the series updating it into a modern superhero.
There was also a Red Eagle TV series in the 90s that’s now impossible to find out much about thanks to the flood of 2010 Red Eagle links. And for you die hard fans, there is a softcore version of Insee Daeng called Nang Paya Insree Daeng (นางพญาอินทรีแดง) that features a female Insee Daeng. I am unable to find out what year this was made, but it is almost certainly not official.
Posters for all of these films are included at the bottom of this review.
Jao Insee features Red Eagle getting drawn into the middle of a big conspiracy of murder and mayhem, causing him to go undercover once again, not as Insee Daeng, but as a safecracker in need of a razor blade as he joins the evil gang lead by a guy in a white mask. Who is killing important people with knives with skulls on the end? No, not the Dolph Lundgren Punisher! Featuring Rome’s partner Oy suiting up as a masked crimefighter herself and machine-gunning down dudes.
The print on this still looks terrible, but only small sections are missing huge chunks of the film. It clocks in at close to two hours, so it probably mostly complete. It still features the semi-modern dubbing, due the Thai films at the time being shot on 16mm film with no synch sound, thus sound was provided by the theaters by actors giving lines as the film played. Like most of these films, there are just way too many damn characters, so here are the most important ones:
We have some other familiar cast members. Comic Relief Guy (from Legend of the White Snake and Awasan Insee Daeng) returns as a party guest and a cop. Several of the evil goons are also reuses from the previous film playing completely different evil goons.
It’s party time! Except this party has invited a special guest…MUUURDER! Rome and Oy are there, as are some bad dudes who we know are bad because they look sinister. Rome is playing the part of a drunken billionaire, as usual. Someone is knifed in the back with a skull-handled dagger! Could it be the fault of those gang people there? The police think so, and gun down a lot of gang members at a hideout (though a few ringleaders escape by car.) The main Detective is later targeted at his home by another skull knife assassin, who is stopped by Detective, but the assassin is then killed by another skull knife killer.
Skull knives are the new black.
Red Eagle is on the case during the opening credits, sneaking into a bad guy hideout. I was unaware this was part of the action and thought it was just reused footage for the titles until things started happening. We wonder what he’s after until we see a bedroom with a hot babe sleeping. Ah! Insee Daeng, you perv! Before he can wake her up to seduce her, she’s murdered off camera by a skull knife while he’s fighting a guy. The bad guys think he did it and tell the cops.
So Rome grows a beard and goes undercover at a tough bar to try to get recruited into the gang as a safecracker named Sing. The gang itself is getting more bold, gunning down someone at a party, killing weaker members of the group, and even kidnapping police officers.
Insee Daeng encounters an Evil Masked Dude who seems to know his secret identity or must mentions Rome a lot. His face is an all white rubber mask with black hair, wearing a suit. Looks very creepy and teleports in for added spooky effect.
The film continues to be interesting as the kidnapped police detectives are going to be executed in the woods by five members of the gang, when suddenly a taxi drives by and out pops Oy wearing all black with a black mask and a giant machine gun! She lays waste to most of the gang, though a few guys manage to escape.
Police then start raiding gang hideouts, gunning down many gang members. This makes Sing even more valuable to the gang. Finally, over halfway through the film another woman shows up for Undercover Rome to seduce. She instantly is smitten, but it is all a ruse to try to steal from him, and a trick of one of the gang leaders we’re calling Bowtie. Rome passes as he catches her, so Bowtie is happy. Intragang rivalries almost end in Sing getting murdered by other gang members until a note from Lynx (signed O.O in what might be the first recorded use of emoticons) distracts the angry gang member. Sing is brought before a kaleidoscope star that asks him questions.
I guess Sing passes, as he’s invited to the meeting of the evil council. Sing is given a skull knife and a target. The gang is still targeting the police, kidnapping Detective and throwing him in a room where water rushes in to drown him, the other main detective is seduced by a woman in league with the baddies and captured…but the next morning, meaning he at least had a night of fun. Until he’s tied up by baddies and put on a roof blindfolded near the edge as gang members stab at his stomach with knives. Luckily, Insee Daeng arrives to shoot all of the baddies and save both cops.
The film then pads with more cop raids, lots of violent gun deaths on both sides as people we’ve never seen before battle it out, shooting anything that moves. This ignites more gang civil wars, as soon everyone is killing everyone, people even try to take down Sing and Bowtie. Evil Masked Dude comes out of hiding to kill people. The cops storm the last compound, marching in along with a woman in the reddest shirt you ever saw. The washed out colors you normally see make the shirt brighter than humanly possible.
Both the cops and Insee Daeng run around during the civil war and gun down every goon they see. As does Oy, who is dressed again as Lynx. Eventually practically everyone bad has reached a violent death, and Insee Daeng has reverted back to his Rome persona being so drunk they have to invent a new word for how drunk he is. Lynx reveals she’s Oy to the cops…and they’ve caught Insee Daeng! Except it’s the comic relief guy who Insee Daeng switched his clothes with during the mayhem. Yes, this is a running gag.
Jao Insee was surprisingly good, the plot was pretty complicated, but even without subtitles you could follow most of what was going on. Though I was lost as to the dramatic revelation of who Evil Masked Dude or Kaleidoscope Star guy were. But that doesn’t matter, what matters is Insee Daeng acts cool, takes down giant gangs, the cops massacre everyone, Rome is drunk, Oy dresses up and gets in on the machine gun action, there is a creepy masked teleporting evil guy, and a gang killing as many targets with special knives as they kill their own members in bitter infighting. The pace of action is quickened from Awasan Insee Daeng, and would continue to get more action filled as we move into Insee Thong. Though I think Insee Thong is probably the best introduction to the series for beginners to Thai cinema, Jao Insee is not a bad place to start, and would make a great second choice.
Rated 8/10 (Clown town, Me so angry!, I told you to remember that face!, What is going on with this guy’s head?, no smoking, car 78 where are you?, red red sweater, who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?)
Red Eagle Film Posters: