The Sidewalks of Bangkok (1984) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Movies in the grade B world don't get made for the same reasons that a great commercial filmmaker or a great artistic filmmaker might go about things.

Here's how this one happened. The director (Jean Rollin) had a friend who was in charge of providing fill-in product for French theaters. This producer/distributor, Andres Samarcq, arranged a prestigious release of a new Jean Rollin film in some cinemas that had a gap in their programming schedules.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that Samarcq informed Rollin of this before Rollin actually had a movie ready.

The really bad news was that the film had to be planned, written, cast, filmed, edited, and printed in 15 days.

No problem. For a chance to get in several theaters, Rollin would think of something. Samarcq had just gotten back from a trip to Bangkok, and told Rollin that his own 8mm vacation movies would make an excellent basis for a film. Rollin nodded politely, despite knowing that these amateurish 8mm shots of hotel swimming pools and tourist sites could not amount to anything. In deference to his generous benefactor, Rollin went home and wrote a superspy script about international smuggling from Bangkok to France. It was ten pages long, and had about 20 minutes of really dumb dialogue, padded out by another 50 minutes of stripping and sex.  In case you are not a fan of Eurotrash cinema, this was a rare departure for Rollin from his typical films. Most of them are about lesbian vampires.

Although the first half of the film is supposed to take place in Bangkok, all of the filming was done in France. The lead villain is supposed to be like Fu Manchu, an inscrutable Oriental wheeler-dealer who owns a sex club in Bangkok. The character was played by an obviously European actor, who looked a lot like Anthony Quinn wearing an old Hollywood Fu Manchu costume. The only Asian person in the cast was an unknown named Yoko, a diminutive childlike actress whose tiny stature (she's about 4'6") belied her adult acting capabilities. She turned out to be competent and energetic, despite never having acted in anything but sex films. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast did not follow her example.

The little action in the film consists of people running (interminably - they padded out the ... er ... running time) and "playing guns". They point guns at each other and act like little kids playing cowboy. They do this in two ways. Option 1-  the camera focuses on the shooter making bang-bang faces, then cuts to dead bodies. Option 2 - the shooter aims from far away, at which point the camera then takes the shooter's perspective, and some guys pretend to be shot in the distance, holding their chests, stumbling around theatrically, and breaking their falls like characters in the early silent Westerns. You expect them to say "ya got me, pard".

The only interesting element in the film is a cliffhanger structure reminiscent of the old serials. Yoko runs through a train yard, between two long trains, pursued by a vicious dog. How can she possibly escape? (An arm reaches down and pulls her up a train-car ladder which the dog can't climb.) Two guys are tied to a railroad track in the face of an oncoming train. I didn't make that up. How can they escape? (The same evil doggie shows up and chews the ropes.) They repeat the cliffhanger premise many times. The overall effect of this structure is to make the film seem like 10 separate chapters stitched together into a film.


Yoko displays her breasts on several occasions, and the rest of her body in a nude whipping scene.

Many, many women in smaller parts, including those playing unnamed characters, display their breasts. Several go full-frontal as well.

The only real plot is that Yoko has been given something that everyone wants, so lots of people compete to get her and the thing, whatever it is. They are all evil, but some are more evil than others, I guess. By the way, Rollin did figure out a way to work his friend's home movies into the plot. At the film's beginning, when the plot premise is revealed, some spies are in France, reviewing footage of Bangkok ...

DVD info from Amazon.

  • full screen

  • no meaningful features

I guess you don't really need any further review. From the time somebody told him - "if you have a movie, I can get it into some theaters" - until the time he had a film, only 15 days elapsed. Fifteen days from nothing, not even an idea, to completed film. And it is every bit as good as you'd expect.

But it does have copious female nudity from Yoko and many others.  By the way, according to the notes on the DVD box, Yoko has left the business, and her current whereabouts are unknown. 

The Critics Vote

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The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, D. As a international thriller, it is boring and cheesy, with some "bad movie charm", but not much. At least you can see what is going on. The photography is not incompetent at all, but the script is, and the acting is impossibly bad except for little Yoko. It possibly could be rated C as a nudie flick, because there is a substantial amount of nudity, including many full-frontals.

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