Angkor: Cambodia Express (Kampuchea Express) (1982)

 

 

 

Director:     Lek Kitaparaporn.

Starring:     Robert Walker Jr. (Andrew Cameron), Woody Strode (Woody), Christopher George (MacArthur), Nancy Kwan (Sue), Lui Leung Wai (Mitr Saren), Nit Alisa (Mieng), Suchao Pongwilai (Montri).

American journalist travels back to Cambodia to get the girlfriend he had to leaved behind after the Khmer Rouge came to power

 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Cambodia. Members of the Khmer Rouge take a group of men women and children and beat them to death with clubs. A hidden photographer, named Montri, takes photos of the crime against humanity.

There is a press dinner held for Western journalists. The government officials give the party line to the journalists. Andrew "Andy" Cameron is one of the journalists. He feigns a bad stomach ache and sneaks out of the dinner. He goes out onto the yard and finds a woman waiting for him. Her name is Mieng. They run and hide. Mieng says she thought she would never see Andy again. Andy says he could never forget those fond memories of the times they had in Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia).

Andy tells Mieng that everything will be fine now because he will take her with him. She says these are her people here and her homeland. Andy reminds her that at the current rate of killings there won’t be anybody left in Cambodia.

And what would her mother do without her? She says: "He won’t let me go." Andy wants to know who is "he"? She says that after the fall of Phnom Penh, they caught her, took her and others to an isolated place and shot everyone. Mr. Mitr Saren, however, was taken from the truck and he then spared her life. She is still living with the man.

Andy says he has to get back to the press dinner or they will become suspicious. But he will get Mieng out.

From behind Andy is grabbed by Montri, who tells him to be quiet. Andy look around and sees Montri. He’s very happy to see the photographer. But Montri is very depressed. His family is all gone. He says he followed the trucks going out to an isolated place. He saw the massacre of the group of captured Cambodians: men, women and children. Montri tells Andy that he must get these photos out to the world to tell what’s happening in Cambodia.

Montri hears noises and crawls out the window. Outside he hears voicea of the guards talking around a fire. He is seen and one of the guards shoots at him. Montri starts running. He steps on some glass and gets badly cut in the foot. This really slows him up and a guard finds him and knocks him out with a blow to Montri’s head with the butt of his rifle.

The foreign journalists are escorted on an airplane to be flown out of Cambodia. Andy passes by Mieng in a military uniform and sitting in a jeep with three men. Andy stops to look at her, but this draws attention to Mieng and she averts her eyes from him. Mr. Mitr Saren notices this and gets very suspicious.

Before the plane takes off, the military come onto the plane asking for Mr. Andrew Cameron. They want to search his baggage and his clothes. They find the film on Cameron and start roughing him up a bit. Cameron pleads for help because he fears that the guards will kill him. Mr. Mitr Saren tells Andy to put on a shirt and pants he has with him. He tells Andy the guards might indeed kill him, especially if Cameron doesn’t collaborate with them.

The fellow turns out to be an interrogator. He starts slapping Cameron. So Andy starts answering the questions. Yes, he was here in Cambodia two years before the take over by the Khmer Rouge. He says he came back to Cambodia because the government asked him to come.  The one thing he won’t say is that Montri gave him the photos. Andy says someone placed the photo strip in his room. For this Andy gets slapped again. They keep Andy awake for long hours at a time. They want to know the people that Andy got to know while in Cambodia. Andy answers that those people are all dead now.

The military takes Andy for a ride through the people-packed streets of Phnom Penh. Andy stands up in the jeep looking for people he knows. Mieng starts yelling at Andy. Andy jumps off the jeep and goes over to Mieng to give her a hug.  Andy tries to talk Mieng into going with him to get a travel visa, but Mieng says she just can’t leave Cambodia. He has a wedding band for her, but she tells him to give it to her when he comes back to Cambodia.

Andy is arrested again and finds himself in prison once more. Meanwhile, Mieng is in bed with Mr. Mitr Saren. They speak Cambodian and Mieng doesn’t look too happy.

Mieng is able to get herself into the prison. She brings Andy some food. Andy’s beat up appearance shocks her.

Mr. Mitr Saren brings Andy into an interrogation room. There he sees a man who has been slapped around a lot. Mitr Saren lifts the man’s head off his chest and Andy sees the man is Montri. Andy screams that that this group of Cambodians are a bunch of bastards. Mitr Saren tells Andy that they will release Montri if Andy will sign a confession that he is a spy for the CIA.  Andy refuses to sign, so the guards drive a nail through one of Montri’s hands. Andy lets out a loud grunt, grabs the paper and a pen and signs the confession. Andy starts throwing up onto one of the prison walls.

Andy is now put on an airplane and flown out. He sees Mieng in the crowd hugging the airport fence.

A woman doctor named Sue drives Andy around a refugee camp at the border with Cambodia. Sue tells Andy that this is a wild goose chase, but Andy says that he has been able to keep in touch with Mieng with the cooperation of friends at the Chinese Trade Delegation.   They go to the hut of a man, Wan Ten, who can get Andy inside Cambodia. They talk with the fellow. Andy wants to be taken 30 km into Cambodia. Wan Ten says on the other side of the border there is a large mine field and the Khmer Rouge. They have to run in and run out of Cambodia and he doesn’t believe Andy can make the runs. So Andy bets him $100 dollars that he can beat Wan Ten in a race.

Wan Ten gets way ahead of Andy in the race, but Andy keeps plugging along. The race is very hard on Andy. He finishes the race, but long after Wan Ten arrived back at the camp.

The doctor tells Andy that there is a man they call Mad Mac who might be able to help Andy. He has a private army up in the hills. But Andy will be risking his life. Andy is desperate and he will take that chance.

Mitr Saren comes out to the place where Mieng with others like her have to work as virtual slaves of the government. They speak in Cambodian. Mitr Saren is not happy with her stubbornness and has to leave without her.

Andy walks along a trail. He is caught in a trail-side trap. He is blind-folded and then taken to the secret camp of Mad Mac. They take him to Max’s office where he has hanging up a portrait of President Richard Nixon.

Andy shows the one eye-patched man his credentials and when Mac sees that he’s from the press he tells Andy that he’s had it with all these press bastards. He says the press cost "us" the war in Vietnam. He adds: "We could have won."

Andy says he will join the private army, but Max says he doesn’t hire cowards and candy-asses. He screams at Andy to get out. So Andy grabs a grenade and pulls the pin. He puts his hand with the grenade on Max’s desk and lets go of the clasp. The two men stand-off staring at each other until Max gives in and throws the grenade out the window.

Max says to Andy: "Welcome to Max’s brigade." He gives an order to get Woody in here on the double. Woody asks where’s Andy from? He’s from Austin, Texas. Woody says yeah, he looks like one of those rich kids that went to college just to get out of the draft.

He takes Andy to the barracks and shows him the coat he can use. And now Andy is put through a rigorous physical training routine every day he is at camp. Woody watches Andy’s rather weak performance and tells Andy that he’ll never make it.

Woody becomes real friends with Andy. He opens up to Andy and tells him about his own life. He says he could never cut it in civilian life and being over here is better than being in an old folk’s home in the USA.

The radio carries the new that Vietnamese troops have invaded Cambodia to go after the Khmer Rogue. There is heavy action along the Angkor Trail leading into Thailand. The new government will be called Democratic Kampuchea. Lots of Cambodian refugees are leaving Cambodia by the Angkor Trail.

The private army is going out to fight the Viet Cong. Andy wants to go in the worst way, but Mad Max won’t let him go because he still hates reporters. He throws Andy into a wooden cage. Andy shouts out to Max: "You fucking bastard!" Woody comes over to the cage to tell Andy to stop yelling because Andy is not yet ready for combat.

Andy shows back-up at the camp. He challenges Wan Ten to another race for another $100 dollars. This time Andy gets way ahead of Wan Ten and now it’s Wan Ten who is struggling to finish the race. So now Wan Ten will take Andy into Cambodia.

As they go along, Wan Ten tells Andy to sit down and rest while he checks out the way ahead. A cobra snake is about to bite Andy when Wan Ten kills the snake with a poison dart from his crossbow. He says to Andy: "You sleep, you die."

The two men now go through the mine field very slowly examining the ground with their knifes as they go along. A water buffalo scares the hell out of the guys as it runs past them in the jungle. A little later the water buffalo steps on a mine and is killed.

Mieng and an older woman talk in the work camp barracks. Mieng looks very sad.

The two men are early to the rendezvous place. Wan Ten waits for awhile, but soon tells Andy that he has to move on to see his people. Tomorrow they will rendezvous at the mine field. If Andy is not there on time, he will leave him and Mieng behind.

Mitr Saren comes to visit Mieng. Andy has found the camp and yells for Mieng. Mitr Saren comes to the window and looks outside. He doesn’t see anything so he closes the shutter.

Andy climb ups the remains of a tree and goes in through a window. There he is caught by Mitr Saren and two of his men. Mitr Saren asks Andy what shall they do with him? Andy says Mitr Saren’s time is up because the Vietnamese are coming for him. Mitr Saren says by that time he and Mieng will be in France.

In the morning Mitr Saren takes Andy into the Khmer Rouge encampment. Two guards take Andy away. They are about to shoot Andy in the head when two shots ring out and the two guards go down. Andy hits the dirt wondering if he has been hit. Then he sees Woody coming to the rescue. Boy is Andy happy to see Woody.

Woody takes the army over to the Khmer Rouge encampment and open fire on it. Mitr Saren grabs hold of Mieng and pulls her along behind him. A big fire-fight breaks out and Max’s troops are winning. Max is in the thick of the fighting while Woody pushes forward.

Max kills three Khmer Rogue after they already surrendered. Now that things are quiet, Andy makes his appearance. Max is shocked to see him still alive. Andy asks him for one man to take him to where he needs to go. Max, of course, refuses, but Woody defies Max and tells him that he is going with Andy. He says he quits.  Max threatens to kill Woody because he is committing and act of desertion. But the troops all point their rifles at Max and threaten to kill him if he tries to kill Woody. So Max has to watch as the two men leave his army.

Wan Ten reaches his people. They are now refugees. A Khmer Rouge patrol comes across a woman and they gang rape her. Wan Ten tries to go to her defense but one of his people holds him back. The patrol starts leaving. A man stays behind and is going to shoot the woman when Wan Ten hits him in the back with a poison dart. The woman turns out to be a young girl. She is still alive, but quickly dies.

Woody and Andy reach the work camp and break into one of the rooms where Mieng is being held. Andy gets her away from the guard and Woody decides to let the guy live. That was a mistake, because the young fellow pulls out a pistol and shoots Woody. Woody shoots the guard multiple times blowing him out of a window.

Andy is determined to take Woody to the refugee camp. The older man gives the deed to his farm to Andy, but Andy is still going to get Woody out of there. Realizing this, Woody takes his pistol and shoots himself through the mouth.

When Mitr Saren is at the camp he shoots the older woman (maybe Mieng’s mother) to whom Mieng was talking right in the head. And now Mitr Saren and his men are going to hunt Andy and Mieng down.

Andy and Mieng walk through the mine field.. Wan Ten suddenly jumps out and takes down Andy. He is about to stab Andy when Andy yells that it’s him and not an enemy. The Vietnamese artillery opens up on the mine field area killing some of Wan Ten’s people. They try to get out of the mine field as fast as they can. One of the dead is Wan Tan’s wife. And now Mieng is hit by shrapnel. Andy calls out for help and Wan Ten pulls himself away from his wife to help Andy and Mieng.

Crossing a stream Mitr Saren shoots Wan Ten with his pistol. Andy starts fighting with Mitr Saren to save his and Mieng’s lives. Mitr Saren is winning so Mieng grabs a bamboo spear and runs it into Mitr Saren’s back.

Andy now piggy backs Mieng back to the refugee camp, but along the way she dies. Andy is devastated when he realizes that Mieng is dead and starts crying over her body. He goes back to the river’s edge and shouts at the rising sun: "Why her?!"

 

Wow, I just read the review on IMDb and it was way too critical.  This is a low budget film and you can't compare a B film to A films.   The film tells a bit about the role of Cambodia in the Vietnam War.  You could say that Cambodia was collateral damage from the Vietnam War.  It was torn apart by the forces set in motion by the Vietnam War.  And for awhile Cambodia, under the Khmer Rouge, became a place where many war crimes were committed.  Especially hurt were the intellectuals, professors, teachers and journalists, but all classes were affected by atrocities.  Yes, the acting wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either.  Robert Walker Jr. (as Andrew Cameron) was a bit too skinny for my tastes, but he was supposed to be a regular guy, not a soldier.  He did well, especially for a B picture.   The actor I enjoyed seeing the most was the black actor Woody Strode (as Woody), an actor who I have always enjoyed. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

1953 (November 9) – independence for Cambodia from the French.

1953-1970 – period of effective rule over Cambodia by Norodom Sihanouk.

1963 – Sihanouk makes a change in the constitution that makes him head of state for life.

1965 (spring) – Sihanouk makes a pact with the People's Republic of China and North Vietnam to allow the presence of permanent North Vietnamese bases in eastern Cambodia and to allow military supplies from China to reach Vietnam by Cambodian ports.

1966 and 1967 – Sihanouk unleashes a wave of political repression that drives many on the left out of mainstream politics.

1967 (11 March) – a revolt in Battambang Province leads to the Cambodian Civil War.

1968  --  Richard Nixon is elected president of the USA. 

1970 (18 March) – while Sihanouk is out of the country traveling, Prime Minister Lon Nol convened the National Assembly which voted to depose Sihanouk as head of state and gave Lon Nol Emergency powers.  The new Khmer Republic was immediately recognized by the United States.

1970 (May 1 - June 30) -- US invasion of Cambodia.

1973 (January 27)  --  the Paris Peace Accords ending the Vietnam War are signed.

1974 (August 9)  --  Nixon resigns the office of the presidency because of the Watergate Affair. 

1975 (April) – the Khmer Republic falls to the Khmer Rouge. Prince Sihanouk becomes the symbolic head of state of the new regime while Pol Pot remained in power. He would spend the next few years as a hostage of the Khmer Rouge.

1976 (4 April) – the Khmer Rouge force Sihanouk out of office again and into political retirement.

1978 (May 25) – Khmer Rouge purges East Zone.

1978 (December) – the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia begins. They oust the Khmer Rouge. Vietnam installs Heng Samrin government of People's Republic of Kampuchea.

1989 – the Vietnamese withdraw from Cambodia. They leave behind a pro-Vietnamese government under ex-Khmer Rouge cadre Hun Sen to run the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK).

1993 – Sihanouk once again becomes King of Cambodia.

1998 – Pol Pot dies. Civil war ends in Cambodia

1999 – end of the Khmer Rouge.

2012  -- death of Prince Sihanouk

 

 

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