"The Rosetta Stone of trash cinema"

A reader warns: Do not dismiss the glory of Thai Ultraman

By Andrew Leonard
December 6, 2008 1:18AM (UTC)
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When I exclaimed in awe yesterday at Wikipedia's careful exclusion of any consideration of "Thai-produced Ultramen" in its delineation of the many flavors of Japanese Ultramen, I confess I did not expect to think much more about that subsection of the Ultraman ouvre ever again in my life.

Foolish, foolish me.


Feast your eyes one of the great HTWW reader comments of all time, proof yet again that for any given topic, someone, somewhere on the Internet knows everything there is to know about it.

Oh, man, Andrew, if you haven't seen the Thai Ultraman flicks...

Thailand's copyright laws apparently allow them to steal intellectual property from elsewhere with impunity (I'm not sure of specifics). So in the '70s (or it looks '70s, given the budgetronic sleaziness), Thailand basically made its own Ultraman/Kamen Rider films, using the trademarked costumes. Hard stuff to find, but the one I have, 5 Kamen Riders Vs. Hanuman, is a masterpiece, the Rosetta Stone of trash cinema. I'm always amazed by the absurdist cruelty and lurid, ridiculous violence of Thai popcorn flicks (Hanuman, the Thai version, picks some dude up and crushes him like a grape in his hand... blood squishes through his fingers!), from an essentially Buddhist country. Mix that cartoonish ultraviolence with (intentional?) slapstick silliness and garish psychedelic wipes (plus brainbending Thai sacred music and corny Thai pop-rock) and you have something so utterly, indescribably bad/brilliant that neo-Moaist palaver can only wither in the face of it. I swear, this thing is better than Inframan, the Hong Kong Ultraman knockoff from the late '70s (starring a young Danny Lee!). At least the Shaw Bros. had the decency to change a sylable or two in the hero's name! -- Rupert Bottenberg

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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