February 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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DVD Film Review

Tears of the Black Tiger   – A Five Star and Film Bangkok Production starring Chartchai Ngamsan and Stella Malucchi
Written and Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng
Music composed by: Amornpong Methakunawut
  Available on: Pathé DVD Video P9040DVD  
Running Time: 97:00 mins
Presented in 1:85:1 ratio (approx) Widescreen version 16.9 Dolby Digital.
Language: Thai with English subtitles.
Amazon UK

tears of the black tiger

After having reviewed the soundtrack CD of this curiosity – probably the weirdest film music I have ever heard, I was curious to see the film. Lately it has appeared on the sales shelves of several retail chains here in the UK so I took the plunge.

This is what I said about the CD:-

"The music embraces a bewildering plethora of styles. The opening track 'Mercy', belies its title for it is a cheerful upbeat number that has a tenor voice over what sounds like an oriental Palm Court Orchestra. 'The Moon Lament' has a husky soprano voice with a shaky delivery, sliding up and down to her notes, the tune a rather sentimental country and western seasoned with oriental figures. 'When the Rain Bid the Sky Farewell' has the lady continuing her musings over a mix of waltz and tango rhythms the music veering in a more westerly direction. The sentimental 'Destiny' from the male vocalist lunges back towards traditional oriental. 'Beautiful Beach' suddenly sidetracks towards Hawaii with the guitarists sliding all over the place, so does the female vocalist. In 'Splendid Night Sky' the lady's huskiness rivals that of Marlene Dietrich. "

"Six out of the thirteen tracks are purely instrumental and most are repeats of earlier material. For example, Mercy, this time round has whistling replacing the vocal. Elsewhere, listen out for the simulated gun shots, they give a whole new dimension to the western genre! "

"File under – Curiosities (very curious!) One of those CDs that is so bad that its good; fun in small doses"

The film itself has several other musical curiosities. Bits of Dvorak’s New World Symphony are used as source music for the lovelorn heroine's lamentations. There are a number of cheap references to Morricone’s spaghetti westerns scores. The heroine’s sung laments sound rather more Celtic than Far Eastern considering this is a Far Eastern Western that boasts plenty of horseback chases, gun fights and Thai cowboys in black hats (everybody is bad, bad, bad in this film except Miss Goody-two-shoes, the wailing heroine).

You will notice that Uncut has remarked that this film is "Mad as a bag of spiders". An understatement. The convoluted plot is about the frustrated romance between a poor peasant boy and the daughter of a rich and powerful local politician. It begins when the protagonists are children – the girl being a really obnoxious little brat - and continues through to their time at college together. In saving her virtue he becomes involved in a fight and is expelled. After he discovers that his father has been killed by pillaging rival villagers he joins a band of bandits and becomes a murderous outlaw who captures the heroine’s unwanted (by her, just by her dad) fiancé etc etc….

Just to give you an idea of the battiness of this film. The songs lyrics appear at the foot of the screen with musical symbols. Some scenes have painted backcloths in garish colours and huge moons. There are many crazy gun battles. In one duel the fired bullets meet and scrape against each other and the trajectory of one is altered so that it returns and crashes through the teeth of the chap who fired it! In a duel with a rival bandit, the hero uses a pistol that acts like a machine gun. His rival is puzzled to find himself alive until a deadly snake killed by the hero drops out of the tree above him onto his hat. In another scene a bullet ricochets around the room at lightning speed before hitting its target. Up comes a card "Did You See That? Let’s play it again in slow motion" – which they proceed to do! Towards the end, in the climactic battle, a bazooka shell hits a chap in the stomach lifts him off his feet, hurls him through several rooms before splatting him against a wall at the top of a flight of stairs. Yes there is lots of blood-letting but it all looks like so much strawberry jam that you are convulsed laughing rather than being sickened. The two stars are so wooden that they make Robert Taylor and Vera Ralston* look positively animated.

A ‘Tom and Jerry’- type Far Eastern Western that’s so bad it’s good. Weird but fun.

Ian Lace

**(*)

* You could well be too young to remember Vera; she was the wife of Republic Studios’ Chief Executive, Herbert J Yates, and she appeared in a number of that studio’s westerns.

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