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Old 01-30-2007, 11:51 PM
Closet SCREAM fan
 
Scored: 4
Views: 10,181
Default Singapore Sling



Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: January 30, 2007

Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 5/30/2006
MSRP: $29.95
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes



A "Singapore Sling" is a mixed cocktail invented at a Singapore hotel in the early 20th century. The current recipe (the exact details of the original having been lost) calls for a mixture of cherry brandy, gin, grenadine, cointreau, benedictine, pineapple juice and lemon juice. Before slipping Singapore Sling the movie into my DVD player, I had knowledge of what the drink was, but had no idea why the movie was named after it. Well, by the end of the film I realized two things. First, I realized why it was called that. Second, I realized that the viewing experience would have been so much more pleasant if I had known to mix a few of the drinks myself before sitting down and watching the movie.

WARNING: Contains spoilers

The Story

inline ImageWe open in the countryside during a pounding rainstorm. A man (Panos Thanassoulis) lies next to his car, barely conscious and bleeding from a gunshot wound. Through his voiceover narration, we learn that he is a former police detective who has spent three years trying to find "Laura", his lost love. Meanwhile, not far from the car, two women (Meredyth Herold and Michele Valley) are enthusiastically burying the body of their chauffer, whom they have just stabbed.

The two women reside at a luxurious villa nearby, and both are quite clearly insane. The older of the two is "mother", and she treats the younger one as her daughter. The two of them engage in nightly games of violence and sexual roleplaying, and one of their favorites is to re-enact how they killed a young secretary named Laura.

inline ImageAs it turns out, the unnamed detective came to investigate the villa because of his suspicions that it had something to do with Laura's disappearance. Summoning all his remaining strength, he knocks on the front door of the house. The two women take him prisoner. He refuses to talk, so they name him "Singapore Sling" after they find a notebook on his person which contains a recipe for the drink. From there he is quickly drawn into their world of torture, perversion and sadism.

inline ImageIt is a depressingly true fact that, amongst the midnight movie subcategory of "arthouse cinema" - a category to which Singapore Sling very much belongs - there are a large number of films which are held by common wisdom as being so brilliant, so daring and so innovative that critics and fans alike will praise them endlessly and without regard to how good they actually are. Subconsciously, viewers usually know that it's expected of them to like and praise a given movie, because by not doing so would set them apart from the crowd. Of course, the problem with this herd mentality is that it can't make any real distinction between movies that are actually good, and movies which are pretentious and bizarre enough that common wisdom dictates that they must surely be good. Sometimes the herd will elevate movies like Eraserhead that genuinely deserve this status. Other times the herd will make questionable choices, elevating even the most inane and pointless of Alejandro Jodorowsky's films into "classics".

inline ImageSingapore Sling is one of these movies. Though it is not yet regarded as a classic of any kind, it does have its admirers. Its sexual element, its disturbing violence, and its general level of weirdness all give it the appearance of a daring, shocking and provocative work. But is it any good as a movie? In a word - NO. True, from a technical standpoint it has some virtues, including excellent black and white cinematography (an artistic decision, since the film came out in 1990) and detailed, finely honed sound design. Unfortunately, as a movie, it is pretentious, overlong and frustrating.

inline ImageWhat makes the movie so unbearable is that director Nikos Nikolaidis creates a plot where there isn't one, stretching a series of scenes and sequences into a movie that runs almost two hours. Almost every scene runs longer than it needs to (and "needs to" is a relative phrase in this instance; a lot of scenes have no purpose at all). This massive, overlong hulk of a movie is supported by a plot that is as basic and simple as they come. It builds to an utterly predictable climax where the characters kill each other off, thankfully saving the audience from any more pointless tedium. The story is muddled, something which I suspect was purposeful on Nikolaidis' part. It is never really clear whether the "daughter" character is actually the detective's missing love Laura, or whether the detective simply thinks she might be. Such ambiguity works for some movies, but it doesn't work here. This isn't really a plot. It's a story that serves as an excuse for the director to throw in plenty of bizarre, meaningless imagery.

Singapore Sling does not receive a recommendation from me. It is a pointless exercise in sex and violence made by a filmmaker who likely believed he was much, much smarter than his audience. The movie is too long, and only fans with the strongest stomachs will be able to tolerate its most graphic imagery. Synapse Films released many fine movies in 2006, but Singapore Sling is not one of them.

Image Quality

inline ImageSynapse presents Singapore Sling in an anamorphically enhanced 1.66:1 presentation, and the results are astonishing. Apparently this was a title that was heavily bootlegged during the VHS era, and if I know my bootlegs then I can imagine just how badly the film's beautiful black and white images must have suffered. Thankfully, all is corrected here. The clarity and contrast are absolutely outstanding, and the presentation is only marred by some very noticeable vertical lines and an unusually high number of scratches and blemishes during certain parts of the film.

Sound

The movie's soundtrack is in Dolby 2.0 Mono. Singapore Sling is a truly bilingual movie. The two female leads deliver their lines in English, while the detective delivers his voiceovers in Greek. That's where the problems start. The audio quality itself is well above average (one of the best Mono tracks I have heard in years, in fact), but the subtitles presented to translate the Greek dialogue run into problems. Synapse struck its transfer from a film master that had English subtitles burned into the frame for the Greek part of the soundtrack. Unfortunately, the translation on those subtitles left a little bit to be desired, so Synapse decided to create their own optional subtitle track. The problem with this was that the player-generated subtitles needed to be big enough to completely cover the burnt-in subtitles, resulting in what you see below:
inline Image inline Image

The optional subtitles also translate a few phrases of French dialogue as well.

Having the option of a precise translation is nice, but overall the burnt-in subtitles are the preferable option, since the player generated ones are too distracting visually.

Supplemental Material

Supplements are limited to a trailer and a still gallery.

Final Thoughts

Singapore Sling is a perfect example of an arthouse exploitation film gone bad. Despite the great image and sound quality, this DVD gets a thumbs down because of the movie it contains. The film will waste your time and, with this release's MSRP at a whopping $29.95, it will waste your money as well.

Rating

Movie D
Image Quality B+
Sound - B+
Supplements C

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 1 hour 52 minutes
  • B&W
  • Chapter stops
  • Not rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Burnt-in English subtitles
  • Optional English subtitles

Supplements
  • Trailer
  • Still gallery

Other Pictures

 

 

Extras
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Old 01-31-2007, 02:33 AM
The Eighth Samurai
Gotta disagree on this one...was an engaging amalgamation of exploitation, film noir, horror, arthouse, and black comedy. It drug on for a bit too long, but overall was an interesting experiment in cinema.
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Old 02-03-2007, 12:55 PM
Johnny Hallyday forever
from the director's official site.

//When I was shooting "Singapore Sling", I was under the impression that I was making a comedy with some elements of Ancient Greek Tragedy. Later on, when some European and American critics characterized it as "one of the most disturbing films of all times", I started to feel that something was wrong with me. But then, when British censors banned its showing, I realized that, after all, something must be wrong with all of us.//

The movie received the following awards at Thessaloniki Film Festival 1990

* Best Film Direction
* Best Cinematography
* Best Actress Meredyth Herold

It also received...

* Best Art Direction Award by the Ministry of Culture
* Best Editing Award by the Ministry of Culture

And after all this.... I think I agree with the review.
It is a pointless film, trapped in it's own microcosmos. Very well made (Nikolaidis is a very well known master of it's craft here in Greece) but it goes from nowhere to nowhere.

If you can though, track down his film MORNING PATROL. A post-apocalyptic thriller, unbelievably haunting and sombre, simply a masterpiece. And I don't use that word lightly.
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