Just got back from watching the latest Bond film, Skyfall, and most enjoyable it was too. The last time I saw James Bond in action he was helping Queen Elizabeth II parachute into the Olympic stadium in London. Fortunately this time around he bypasses Buckingham Palace and the royal corgis and he's back to his day job of saving the world, or rather MI6, from a particularly weird villain.
Skyfall is definitely one of the most enjoyable of the Bond films. There is actually proper acting in this one. Daniel Craig, who at times resembles a forlorn bloodhound that's just misbehaved, is really getting his teeth into the more vulnerable Bond character and his exchanges with Judi Dench as M are a delight to watch. To top it off nicely is an intriguing, campy villain in Javier Bardem, whose haircut is as bad as it was in No Country For Old Men.
The cinema buff
Skyfall was a rare excursion to the cinema for me, yet this was my main form of entertainment during the early days in Thailand, primarily because it was an inexpensive way to spend an evening. According to a dilapidated diary I kept in 1969, I went to the cinema 52 times in just over eight months _ that's a bit scary. In fact, it sounds almost like desperation.
It would be nice to say they were all great movies, but of course many of them were decidedly dodgy, or to use the correct cinematic term, ``rubbish''. How can I otherwise explain going to something like Return of Dracula? But it didn't matter. It was a cheap night out in Bangkok. Living in the Makkasan area, it was just a quick walk to Pratunam. A delicious three-baht meal of kao moo daeng in the market and then 12 baht for the ticket in such cinemas as the Paramount, Metro and Hollywood on Phetchaburi Road. Sometimes for fun we sat in the front row for six baht. It was worth it just for two hours of air conditioning.
On pay day we went upmarket to Siam Square where we would splash out a massive 20 baht for a ticket at the relatively new and quite splendid trio of cinemas _ Scala, Siam and Lido. There were no multiple complex cinemas in those days so when a big film came out at the weekend there would be massive queues and the ubiquitous ticket touts had a field day.
The Metro and Paramount were almost next to one another which led to a silly experience involving the 1969 film Goodbye Columbus. I watched it one night at the Metro and the following night decided to go to the Paramount for another movie. I duly took my place in the cheap seats and didn't take much notice of the usual trailers and ads. There was even a trailer for Goodbye Columbus, the film I had seen the night before. But the trailer seemed to go on and on, until of course I realised I wasn't in the Paramount but had mistakenly gone into the Metro again. It was too late to go elsewhere, so for the second night running I sat through Goodbye Columbus. Fortunately it wasn't a bad film, but I'd seen enough of Ali MacGraw by the end of the second showing.
Partly because of the nearby cinemas I developed quite an attachment to the old Pratunam food market which sadly was torn down in the early 1990s. In its place arose the usual mishmash of plazas, malls and places selling inedible fast food. It was not an improvement.
The old market used to be a regular rendezvous for many of the Bangkok Post's late shift editorial staff around 2am-3am, when considerable quantities of food were consumed and even more considerable quantities of the amber liquid.
Apart from witnessing the odd punch-up, it was a prime vantage point to watch the world go by, or rather that motley part of the world which happens to be in circulation at three in the morning. It was quite a cross-section of villains, beggars, general riff-raff, stray dogs and assorted night owls, many of undetermined gender.
The transsexuals were always a reliable source of entertainment, parading up and down in what can best be described as ``creations''. Unfortunately it was about that time of night that the mascara began to look a bit of a mess.
They would also have occasional squabbles featuring a wonderful array of stiletto heels, handbags and stuffed bras flying about all over the place _ quite a sight.
Looking at the diary, there were a few decent films in that first year that might jog memories among fellow wrinklies. The most entertaining was definitely Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Every self-respecting crooner in Bangkok was singing Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head every night for the next few years. Another good one was Rosemary's Baby starring Mia Farrow. Really creepy.
Then there was my favourite spaghetti western, Once Upon a Time in The West, starring Charles Bronson. I still enjoy the memorable extended opening sequence as a gang of outlaws wait for Bronson's train to arrive at a remote station in the desert. All very atmospheric _ just like Pratunam market.
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About the author
- Writer: Roger Crutchley