Jao Insee (Review)

Jao Insee

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 Claws
Black Rose
Savage Battle
Death Roars
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:

Insee Daeng (Mitr Chaibancha) – He’s Red Eagle, he’s awesome, and he’s busting bad guys while seducing the ladies.
Lynx (Petchara Chaowarat) – Rome’s long-suffering wife now has to pick up some slack and put on a costume to save cops from being murdered by the evil assassination gang. Luckily, she’s an expert at gunning down multiple armed men like most Thai women.
Rome Rittichai (Mitr Chaibancha) – Rome spends most of his time drunker than Barney Gumble at the Duff Beer Factory. But he is secretly Insee Daeng, the coolest man ever.
Oy (Petchara Chaowarat) – Oy helps Rome in his investigations and helps cover his slack while he’s undercover, when she decides to become Lynx.
Sing aka Undercover Rome (Mitr Chaibancha) – Rome goes undercover to infiltrate the evil gang who may know that Rome is Insee Daeng.
Detective Chart (???) – Detective Chart is still around, this time he has a new main partner and becomes marked for death by the assassination gang pretty early in the film (before the credits, even!) That’s some crack of dawn death marking if I ever did see it. I think he’s played by actor Adul Dulyarat, but I’m not positive.
Other Detective (???) – He’s the new detective on the beat who then gets beat by the bad guys, along with seduced, kidnapped, attempted murdered, and insulted. All in a day’s work for Thailand’s Finest…
Masked Evil Dude (???) – Masked Evil Dude is a criminal mastermind not afraid to run around with a ridiculous mask. Probably because he can teleport! Seriously, he can teleport! One would think with that skill you wouldn’t need a gang, just bamf your way into the local bank vault. Between the mask and the teleporting, he has a real Michael Meyers thing going on.
Bowtie Boss (???) – Mid-level boss in the gang that recruits Rome when he’s disguised as Sing.

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Awasan Insee Daeng (Review)

Awasan Insee Daeng

aka The End of Red Eagle

Directed by ???

Insee Daeng (Red Eagle) is the most famous super hero out of Thailand. Starting out as a pulp novel character, Insee Daeng was immortalized in film by popular actor Mitr Chaibancha, who became a legend before dying tragically while shooting the final scene of the sixth Insee Daeng film, Insee Thong. TarsTarkas.NET will review the surviving Insee Daeng films and the rebooted film, because that’s how we roll here.

Awasan Insee Daeng is the third Insee Daeng film, but it is the earliest surviving Insee Daeng film. Unsurprisingly, the vcd release is just titled Insee Daeng, which is the title of the original entry in the series, but that film is believed lost. We will deal more of the history of the Insee Daeng film series in our review of Jao Insee, and information about the stars Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat and early Thai film industry in the review of Insee Thong. For now, we’ll instead have a history of post-World War 2 Thailand, gun culture, and the pulp stories movement that gave birth to Insee Daeng and his contemporaries.

Thailand’s love of pulp heroes who take the law into their own hand has its roots in World War 2. During the war, Siam (as Thailand was known then) was invaded and quickly made a deal with Imperial Japan. But there was a covert resistance movement, known as Seri Thai or the Free Thai Movement. Before World War 2, the amount of guns in Thailand was minuscule, and most guns were breech-loading one-shotters. Seri Thai was armed by the Allies, while Japan used Siam as a staging area and guns flowed through it. By the end of the war, hundreds of thousands of guns were spread all over Siam, and soon rural bandit gangs began to form and terrorized the populace. The lack of police ability to control the bandit gangs lead to much dissatisfaction and unrest. Eventually this resulted in a Thai tradition, overthrow of the government, installing the Sarit regime in 1958. The Sarit made it a priority to take out the bandit gangs, though many persisted for years, and resurfaced as mafia in less than a decade.

The gangs controlling the countryside mixed with urban populace hungry for books was a perfect storm for the rise of pulp heroes who confronted the bandit gangs or were bandit leaders themselves that acted in a Robin Hood fashion. The stories were serialized in daily magazines, some of which became so popular people would line up awaiting the next issue, sometimes right outside the printing press. The four major authors associated with the pulp hero stories were Poh. Intharapalit, Phanomthian, Sek Dusit, and Soh. Navaraj. There is scare information on some of these crime/violence romance novelists and most of this information is from a single source that pulls from other sources in Thai. The common themes of the stories are main characters who are rich and educated, usually with secret identities, who fight against gangs, corruption, communist plots, and grand conspiracies while outsmarting the villains and simultaneously staying ahead of the police at every turn.

Poh. Intharapalit first gained fame with the 1932 drama Nakrian Nai Roi, but it was his “Three Buddies” stories that started during World War 2 that established his writing popularity. By 1947, he was editing the daily serial fiction magazine Piyamit, as well as writing the serial story Sua Bai (Tiger Bai)/The Bandit Called Bai). Sua Bai began the romance violence genre, with its story of a noble bandit who fights against a corrupt government. The unofficial story in the publishing world is that Intharapalit was “requested” to end the story by the police to to avoid their looking bad for failing to catch a fictional character. He then began a new series, Sua Dam (“Tiger” Dam/The Bandit called Dam), who would in a later series meet Sua Bai and team up. His four other famous characters are Dao Chon (Bandit Chief), Luk Dao Chon (Son of the Bandit Chief), Nakak Dam (Black Mask), and Yiao Thale (Sea Hawk).

Phanomthian started writing as a high school student, and later went to university in India. Upon returning to Thailand in 1955, he began publishing his stories in the magazine Ploenjit. Hao Dong (Wild Cobra) stands out because it has a female costumed heroine in the lead, sporting an all-black costume except for the giant cobra pictured on her shirt. Later creation Lep Khrud (Garuda’s Nail) featured a secret agent Cheep Chuchai vs. secret Chinese communists lead by Chang Suliang.

Soh. Navaraj was the youngest of the violence romance writers. His most famous creation was Yiao Ratree (Night Hawk), a hero with black outfit and a black mask in the shape of a hawk that fought crime by night but during the day was pretend madman and rich scion Man Damkoengdej. Besides aping Red Eagle’s costume, Night Hawk was also involved in fighting secret communist societies.

Sek Dusit began writing in his early 20s, gaining fame with a hero named Khom Phayakharaj in stories See King (Four Kings) and Khrud Dam (Black Garuda). Khom fought against criminal organizations threatening Bangkok, and the stories . In 1954, the 25 year old Sek Dusit would start stories of his most famous creation, Insee Daeng (Red Eagle). Millionaire son Rome Ritthikrai went undercover as hero Insee Daeng and fought against criminal gangs and communist plots, often injecting the cold war paranoia into his classic bandit tales. He is still alive, but now just writes astrology columns.

Sek Dusit

Sek Dusit says you got Capricorn in your Leo!

Here is a collection of covers of Insee Daeng and other hero books and comics.

As the Thai film industry was getting big in the late 1950s, it made sense that some of these hugely popular stories would end up on the silver screen. And while I can’t say for certain every pulp hero that made it to the cinema, I can give many examples of both direct book-to-movie heroes, and heroes that possibly started in pulp or were inspired by the pulp heroes.

In addition to the Insee Daeng series (a more complete summary of that film series will be covered in the Jao Insee review), Thai pulp bandit heroes movies include:

1958’s Hao Dong, starring Amara At-Savanon (2nd Runner-up Miss Thailand 1953 who starred in scores of films before retiring) as the bandit heroin with a cobra logo on her shirt. I do not know if this film still exists. More info in Thai.

Amara At-Savanon as Hao Dong

Hao Dong poster

Hao Dong poster

1958’s Mong Daeng (Red Bandit), which I can only find old ads for, featuring another female hero. There is a modern tv drama series by the same title complete with a masked female heroine with a whip. I am almost positive it is the same franchise, but not 100% positive.

Mong Daeng poster

Mong Daeng poster

Mong Daeng

Modern Mong Daeng artwork

1959’s See Kings based on Sek Dusit’s story, also costarring Amara At-Savanon. It was remade in 1982. More info in Thai.

Four Kings

Four Kings promo shot (autographed!)

Four Kings poster

1963’s Kewpit aka Poison Fang, starring Mitr Chaibancha and Amara At-Savanon. Kewpit is a black masked hero similar to Red Eagle, judging solely from the lone movie poster I could find. Thaifilmdb info.

Kewpit poster

1981’s Yord Ying Poo Ying Yai starring Sombat Metanee. This one I can tell you does still exist on an out of print vcd.
Yord Ying Poo Ying Yai

Yord Ying Poo Ying Yai mocks the internet for not locating a copy

And there is this movie that I haven’t IDed yet, but the picture was labeled Yiew Ratree:
Yiew Ratree

Who you callin' a Rat Tree?

And don’t worry, if you missed reading any of this, it will probably be ganked verbatim without attribution by a certain site profiling superheroes who live.

Awasan Insee Daeng is a typical Thai film of the time, filled with that Thai comic relief stuff in much of their films that I don’t understand. There are comic relief effeminate characters filled throughout, even one of the police detectives. These comic relief characters both allow for humor in the film and also serve a function in making the male hero even more hyper-masculine than you ever thought possible. But that doesn’t mean the effeminate guys are wimps, a whiny detective goes toe to toe with Insee Daeng and although he loses, he manages to bruise Insee’s face enough he has to lay low until he heals.
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