Crocodile (1980)

Crocodile (1980)

From The Slimy Depths Of The Ocean… Nature Explodes With Savage Fury!

Dr Akom is a scientist whose family is all attacked and killed by a giant crocodile that is terrorising a Thai village. After a university professor explains to him that the crocodile is a result of atomic testing, Akom enlists the help of local fisherman Tanaka to help him track and kill the beast. All the while, the local authorities are trying to do their bit to stop the crocodile which is continuing to destroy villages.

 

A Thai horror film? Now there’s a first for me. And it’ll be a last if Crocodile is anything to go by. I should point out early on that this is an American release of a film called Chorakhe and has been butchered to smithereens by the distributors, edited into oblivion and given a terrible dubbing job to boot. However, this mess leaves little desire for me to actually track down the original release and see if it is any better. Flipping between wanting to copy Jaws and the apparent desire of director Sompote Sands to make a Godzilla-like monster flick, Crocodile will try the patience of even the most ardent creature feature fan.

Crocodile makes some of the shameless Italian exploitation films of the 80s look good. I don’t like using the term incompetent as anyone who makes a film has at least had the opportunity to do so as opposed to an armchair critic like myself. But there is a basic level of incompetence to the whole thing – an incompetence that can be partly blamed on the bargain bin budget. For a start, the film looks like it’s been shot on second-hand film that someone else has already used a few hundred times. It’s washed out, it’s fuzzy, and it’s not focused. Coupled with the really bad dubbing job that it has been lumbered with, there’s not much for the eyes or ears to feast upon. It doesn’t matter how good a film may be, if it physically looks like it’s been dragged from the drain, then it has lost the battle before it begins.

But that would be too easy to dismiss Crocodile for those reasons. The actual content of the film is just as mind-numbingly appalling. Though it runs for ninety minutes, sitting through five is a struggle and a half. Starting with a Godzilla-like story about the crocodile rampaging through fishing villages, Crocodile limps from scene to scene with as much energy as a drained battery. There’s a complete lack of storyline – don’t let the synopsis fool you as I did my best to reword the blurb on the back of the box. I’m not even sure whether everything that it says in the synopsis actually happens because there’s little dialogue and I had no idea who everyone was supposed to be and what was supposed to be happening. Unsurprisingly, there is no credited writer. Either the person wanted to remain anonymous or there simply wasn’t one – both sound plausible.

I wasn’t expecting great things from the actual crocodile so I’m glad that I wasn’t surprised. Frequent use of miniature sets is obvious when you’ve got a real crocodile scurrying around on them or swimming in a few feet of water along a feeble river set that has been built in someone’s bath tub. There’s croc stock footage too, badly integrated into the film and passed off as original material. The croc changes size and shape in every scene but when it has been brought to life with so many different techniques it was always going to be impossible to maintain consistency. The scenes of it attacking the villages look familiar especially after you realise that it’s the same scene (the same villagers desperately trying to escape gives it away) which has just been cut up a few times across the film.

The problem isn’t so much that the effects are terrible (which they are truly), it’s that the film is so badly edited that it’s impossible to even get a good look to see how bad things are. Scenes are woefully shot, not properly framed, badly lit and just overly incoherent. This isn’t just the crocodile scenes but everything. When the croc attacks, the scenes are so frenetically edited that literally every new frame of footage is a different shot. Everything looks so murky that it’s hopeless to even try and guess what’s going on.

The final third borrows wholesomely from Jaws, as a group of men set off on board a boat to kill the crocodile including the salty sea dog with a personal grudge against the crocodile and the young upstart who wants to make a name for himself. Despite the plagiarising, Crocodile can’t even muster a decent moment during this part of the film and actually ends with no clear resolution – has the beast been overcome and did the hero survive? If someone knows, please tell me because the film ends abruptly. The Jaws-like theme music which signals the crocodile’s presence can be overlooked given how pretty much every killer shark/crocodile flick has featured a similar one since.

I could single out numerous sequences from Crocodile which would have you rolling with unintentional laughter. But you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the shot of a pair of divers carrying along a giant underwater bear trap in an attempt to capture the crocodile. On a list of one hundred ways to kill a crocodile, this would not come anywhere near the top. The reason I highlight this sequence out of many is just the absurdity of the film. It’s not once played for laughs and takes everything seriously yet cheese like this just cries out for a light-hearted tough. Look at Alligator to see how easy it is to bring a more comic touch to such material.

 

The American Humane Association rated Crocodile as unacceptable due to the footage of a real crocodile being slashed to death with a knife. I’d have just rated it as unacceptable due to how woeful it is. Has to be a contender for one of the worst films ever made and definitely one of the worst to come out of Thailand.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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