It was the Singapore Agent who told me about the poster guy on Rambuttri. “Rambuttri like Rambutan,” he said. “But with a tree at the end. Look for the restaurant with the good pad thai, next to the massage place. That’s where you’ll find the poster guy.”
The pad thai restaurant next to a massage parlor? In Bangkok, this means nothing at all — on the restaurant-and-massage-filled Thanon Rambutri, doubly-so. But it made for a treasure hunt. And, as you know, I LOVE treasure hunts.
[If I had taken a photo of the guy selling posters, I would have put it here. But my breath was wrenched away when I saw him. I forgot my camera. I forgot this blog. I only saw amazeballs.]
His folding table on the sidewalk, nestled between a jewelry stall and a t-shirt vendor, was piled high with old Thai posters for 80s American action movies, Chinese porn, and Japanese yakuza deliciousness. They were ripped, frayed, stained with water or coffee or blood. They were just $10 a sheet. They were gorgeous.
“Michelle, can you get me a coffee and a pack of cigarettes?” I licked my leafing finger, and started sorting. Holy shit — is this Nikkatsu Noir?
I’ve only seen a couple of the Nikkatsu flicks: Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill. Dark 60s Japanese yakuza flicks that sit between American noir and parody, musicals and cool. This had to be. It was. The Drifters (Sasurai, さすらい). Released in Thailand in 1967, five years after it was made, it was a Hiroshi Noguchi flick. Check out those Chow Yun-Fat jacket/hat/scarf combos, and those sunglasses of awesome. Three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves like a broken record: it’s so cool it’s so cool it’s so cool. So I bought it.
And the others, too, like International Secret Police: Key of Keys aka Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi (1965). I’ve never seen Senkichi Taniguchi’s Toho original, but this was What’s Up Tiger Lily! In Thailand, it was shown without Woody Allen’s overdub, and called James Bond 008 (Jom-Pi-Chid 008.) But it did star two Bond girls, from You Only Live Twice. So that’s cool.
And speaking of Bond ripoffs, how about this 1967 poster for Jun Fukuda’s gorgeous Toho spy-musical, Ironfinger aka Hyappatsu Hyakuchu (1965), starring Takarada Akira?
Finally, among the piles of Toho and Nikkatsu sheets, I managed to find a Seijun Suzuki poster. Youth of the Beast (野獣の青春, Yajū no seishun, aka Wild Youth), a hallucinagenic Jô Shishido flick. From RT’s description: “Why is Jo’s partner more interested in guns than in women? Why does Hide, the notorious gay gangster, always slash the face of anyone who mentions his mother? What does this all have to do with the Takeshita School of Knitting?” I loved that the artist couldn’t settle on one still to use, and just used them all!
Not all the posters I bought were pulp Toho or Nikkatsu features. This Chinese flick caught my eye: Blue Falcon (1968, Hong Kong). The Josephine Siao movie is lost to time, they say, but based on the poster that makes me want to cry.
Speaking of Hong Kong, here’s a cheeseball one for the Jackie Chan / Sammo Hung / Yuen Biao 1988’s Dragons Forever (飛龍猛將):
And David Cronenberg’s Rabid:
And that absurdly bad Tim Curry flick Times Square.
How can I stop buying this crap!? But it just tastes so damn good!
Michelle had long since bought me coffee and cigarettes. And a fresh mango juice. She’d wandered up and down the street, buying a couple of dresses from a few blocks away.
“Babe, you know we don’t have walls for all of these,” Michelle said.
“Can I have just a couple more minutes?” I was deep in the zone of terror. Terror that I’d miss something. Terror that I’d regret not buying one of these beautiful works of awesome.
“You want sexy movies?” the poster guy asked. I glanced at Michelle’s back, then said no. Although this poster for the probably atrocious 1979 Supersonic Man — shown in Thailand 11 years after it was released — was pretty sexy in its own way.
Just watch the trailer.
That’s how good it is.
But I couldn’t leave without a Thai poster for a Thai movie. At least one. Among all the piles of Japanese and Chinese and American posters, there were just about none. But then I found one. And it was perfect.
Wisit Sasanatieng’s homospectacular Tears of the Black Tiger. A masterpiece of garish cowboy melodrama. Just like this poster stall. (The salesman was wearing a cowboy hat, you see.)
I can’t recommend any place in Bangkok more. If you want to go, here’s what to do: go to Rambuttri. Look for the restaurant with the good pad thai, next to the massage place. Good luck! ;P
Huge thanks Tina L and Brian T. for narrowing down the actual movies, many of which I didn’t know when I bought the posters. Thanks, guys — you’re rockstars!!!