(front VCD cover of Cobra Thunderbolt)
At the time you’re reading article, yo probably have seen the Live Nude Geeks episode in which Mr.X, Charley, and Cecil riff this movie. So if you guys watch it, consider yourself lucky. Mainly, because you’re not only listening to funny commentary, but you’re also watching a movie that is pretty hard to find…even in its country. That’s right! As a Thai guy, I’ve never heard about this movie before until Alex Jowski told me about it. Cobra Thunderbolt (“นักรบประจัญบาน”) is produced by Sahamongkol Films. You know, the same studio that brings us every Tony Jaa movie. But before we analyze this film, let’s take a look at Actionsploitation genre in Thailand back then.
A gold mine called Actionsploitation
Back then, Thai people loved action films A LOT. Whether it’s run-and-gun style or martial arts, if your film had a fun plot and great choices of actors, it would be successful for sure, especially in 70’s-80’s. Of course, they are considered “campy” or “stupid” by today’s standard, but who cares? I enjoy watching some of them when I grew up. Anyway, there were three hottest directors involved in this genre.
1) Chalong Phakdeevijit [ฉลอง ภักดีวิจิตร] (a.k.a. Philip Chalong)
Most of his films involve run-and-gun style of plot and usually take place in jungle. His films were so famous, he was the ONLY director in Thailand to get Chris Mitchum, Olivia Hussey, Greg Morris (from Mission: Impossible TV series) , Robert Ginty (from The Exterminator), Erik Estrada (from CHiPs), and Sam Jones (from Flash Gordon) in his films. You read these names right, they appeared in Thai movies!
2) Kom Akradetch [คมน์ อรรฆเดช]
Although some of his films has awesome gadgets or basically a cop action film, we all know him as King of Martial Arts films at the time because most of flicks he made were heavily rely on awesome fight choreography.
3) Toranong Srichua (ทรนง ศรีเชื้อ)
Something to do with ‘Nam, shoot-em-up scenes, and hot chicks (probably hot sex scenes in some cases) are main reason why we love his films. Although his new comeback movie called “2022 Tsunami” is a failure (to say the least, 2022 should have been released by The Asylum), we still remember his unusual style of directing…including Cobra Thunderbolt.
A villain named Kangwan owns a war factory and send weapons to Asian
liberation army. He needs new kind of high-tech weapon. Then, he knows
that Colonel Dave, a crippled war veteran, has an awesome battle tank named Cobra Thunderbolt (in Thai version, it’s called “Wrangler”) that has machine guns/missile rockets/etc. So after Colonel Dave refuses to give a tank, Kangwan kidnaps Dave’s wife and requests blueprint of a tank. Dave tells Dick(a soldier who has been jailed and then escapes) Lt. Molly (his daughter), and an outspoken journalist named Emily to help him. Unfortunately, Dave’s wife was killed, so cue up a revenge, lots of explosions, and Cobra Thunderbolt in action! Meanwhile, a police department tries to investigate this case, but our heroes stand in the opposite side…
As you can see, it sounds like those movies you’ve seen on VHS when you was 8 years old. The plot lacks reason and realistic, but who cares? It blows my mind and has a gigantic tank!
To be honest, this one is kinda better than most of Thai action flicks around that time. The pacing here is pretty good and action scenes are intense.
Sorapong Chatree, the most popular actor at the time, played Dick. His performance here might not be as good as his other films from the same era, but he’s pretty good in this one. And Krung Srivilai played Col. Dave. I’m kinda surprised to see him bald here because he had hair in most of his old film I’ve seen, so it feels pretty weird here (BTW, he’s bald now)
What about our lovely Lt.Molly and Emily? Well, I search their name and, if I remember correctly, there’s a rumor that an actress who played Molly passed away few years ago. That’s pretty sad to hear.
It’s the only thing that I hate about this film. You think the dubbers in Godfrey Ho’s movies are the worst? Well, dubbers in this film did horrendous job with boring/no-emotion tone of voice. It ruins lots of elements that bring excitement to audience.
If you guys love Cannon flicks or any B-movies from 80’s, you’re going to love this one. It’s amazing. I hope Sahamongkol still have a print of this film so they can remaster and release it somewhere else.
PS. The print available on YouTube is Japanese VHS rip. Check it out.