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CHANG

Thailand / USA, 1927 (MIFF 1992, Retrospectives)

Director: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

In 1927, the explorer-filrrunaker team Schoed­sack and Cooper travelled to the Siamese rain forest to shoot this adventure extravagan­za. An obvious prototype for their 1933 epic King Kong, it is a highly entertaining film in its own right. Chang, according to renowned film historian Kevin Brownlow (in The War, The West, And The Wilderness), is "spellbinding ...Sequence by sequence, the picture was planned to seize an audience by the hair, to excite them as no ordinary film had ever excit­ed them. And the magic works today. Chang is the audience picture supreme."

As in their other films, Schoedsack and Cooper went for pace, tension and excitement. Fearless observers of the jungle lore, they skil­fully restaged events for the camera, at least once getting more than they bargained for. In one sequence a baby elephant was separated from its mother and tethered to stilts. "I knew she would get the baby loose but I didn't know she was going to tear down the house" Cooper later recalled.

Shot entirely in Siam, the film tells the story of a farmer and his family who have set­tled a small patch of land on the edge of the jungle. Their existence is a constant struggle against many wild animals around them. 'Chang' means elephant, and the climactic ele­phant charge is still one of the most exciting sequences ever committed to film.

The film, available now for the first time in 45 years, has been completely restored with a new score by Bangkok composer Bruce Gaston.

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