33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a very black comedy. It is a Greek film but most of the dialogue is actually in English. Only the voiceover narration is in Greek. It was shot in 1990 by Greek director Nikos Nikolaidis and stars Panayiotis Thanassoulis as the detective and narrator, with Michelle Valley and Meredyth Herold as the psychotic mother and daughter. This incestuous pair of lesbians (technically bisexual) live in an isolated mansion playing bondage and sadomasochistic games with each other and with various "lucky" visitors who pass their way and who unfortunately all end up buried in the backyard. The film is not at all as dark and forbidding as it may sound. It unfolds in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. It is not a horror movie as such. Neither is it a thriller. It is a weird amalgam of film noir, comedy, bondage film, surrealistic art film and absurdist cinema. It received decidedly mixed reviews, some viewers liking its boldness and novelty, others lambasting it as utter trash. Personally I found it quite intoxicating and will vouchsafe its place as a cult classic.
Nikos Nikolaidis is obviously a fan of film noir and of Otto Preminger's 1944 classic, "Laura," in particular. He borrows heavily from it, everything from the feel of the film, to the storyline, to the photography, to the music. The film opens with David Raksin's instantly recognisable theme from "Laura" which over the years has become synonymous with the noir genre. The music recurs constantly throughout. There is even a vocal version sung by Julie London midway through. The missing woman the detective is searching for is also called Laura. There is a portrait of the daughter in the mansion, very much like the portrait of Laura in Preminger's film. For those unfamiliar with "Laura," Preminger's classic tells of how a police detective falls in love with the portrait of a woman whose death he is investigating. He finds out that she isn't actually dead. There follows the suspicion that she may have murdered the woman found in her room. That original plot forms the backstory to Nikolaidis' bizarre and totally off-tangent "tribute" to the earlier work. The events here, if we are to believe the psychotic mother, take place several years after the events of the original film and its presumed happy-ever-after ending. This is what a sequel to Laura might be like in a parallel universe with a director and storyteller high on acid.
A knowledge of Preminger's "Laura" would be of benefit in appreciating this movie but it is not a must. On the other hand, fans of the earlier film will almost certainly not look kindly on Nikolaidis' creation. In fact I see this film having very limited appeal in mainstream America or elsewhere for that matter.
The film is beautifully shot, one of the most visually arresting B&W films to be made in a long while. Sets are gorgeous despite its low budget origins. The women are dressed to evoke an early-20th-century, silent-film-era look. It is all very beautifully done. And that puts it in stark contrast to the activities that take place in this demented household. There is the standard bondage fare, gagging, leather bindings and a threatened whipping on a St. Andrew's Cross, all quite erotic if you like that kind of stuff, but in between is more disgusting, some would say revolting fare that is explicitly captured on camera. The women have a fetish for vomiting. They derive sexual pleasure from vomiting on their victims. The mother also enjoys urinating on her victims. You are treated to close ups of the disgusting mess made when masturbating with soft, squishy fruit. There is a scene near the beginning where our psychotic duo happily place the entrails of their victim into glass bowls on their dinner table. You can clearly make out coils of intestines, lobes of a liver and a still beating heart. This is about the time you realise that you're not in Kansas anymore. And that this is no Hollywood movie. The final death scene, carried out with the aid of a huge knife-dildo, is raptly choreographed to the swelling strains of the famous variation from Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody. This is a movie I guarantee you'll never forget. Audiences either love it or hate it. There are no in-betweens.
Synapse has unfortunately not managed to obtain the original negatives to this film. The print comes with the English subtitles for the Greek passages permanently burnt in. Because of the less than ideal, overly-contrasted, burnt-in subtitles, Synapse has provided an optional set of English subtitles placed in dark grey blocks which can be superimposed over the originals. Not ideal and not recommended because they block out quite a bit of the picture. Overall the picture quality on this DVD is actually very good. For the first three-quarters of the film, the picture is quite immaculate. Exquisite in fact. The gorgeous black and white photography is beautifully transferred. It's only in the last quarter where there is an inordinate amount of dirt and various print defects, like circular imprints as well as several instances of missing frames with resultant skips and jumps onscreen. But these aren't all that distracting. Viewers with sensitive constitutions may want to stay away. Viewers with "good taste" should also be warned to stay clear. But if you're up for outlandish perversions, off-the-wall mayhem, all stitched together with a touch of class, this will fit the bill.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
On a rain swept night, in the garden of a lavish villa, two women -- "Mother" (Michele Valley) and "Daughter" (Meredyth Herold) bury the not-yet-dead body of their chauffeur. In a nearby car, a nameless man (Panos Thanassoulis) nurses a gunshot wound. Daughter waxes nostalgic about the time when "Father" would kill all the servants, leaving Mother and her to merely bury them in the garden. The man intrudes into the bizarre household and the two women subject them to their own brand of hospitality. In this case, it's not a case of what happens next, but rather a case of what doesn't happen next! The threesome engage in a lengthy series of revolting acts culled from the Marquis De Sade Cookbook, which include vomit, golden showers, sodomy, transvestism, incest, torture, electroshock and yes, murder, all of it in gorgeous black-and-white photography to the strains of Julie London and Rachmaninov.
Ever since a friend loaned me a tenth-generation bootleg of this film on VHS ten long years ago, my love affair with this sugary piece of perversity remains unabated. Singapore Sling continues to break my heart in sixteen places in between bouts of raucous laughter and peeking behind my fingers. A true cult film, audiences have either walked out en masse or return again and again to the auditorium for repeat screenings.
A catalog of depravity and artful indulgence, Singapore Sling has no real plot. The audience is left to surmise that "Daughter" is not really "Mother's" daughter (they're far too close in age) and in one instance, we're left to wonder if "Mother" is indeed a female. The male interloper, later dubbed "Singapore Sling" by his captors, is unlucky enough to have wound up on the doorstop of this house of horrors. Mute, and only speaking in voiceover, we learn that he is forever chasing lost causes with female names, the latest being Laura (in a nod to the 1944 Otto Preminger masterpiece). Was Laura in fact a former part of this ongoing sadomasochistic play party who was later murdered? The film never tells us.
Singapore Sling will always hold a special place in my heart as I was the creator of the Unofficial Singapore Sling Web page back in the mid 1990s. Working closely with director Nikos Nikolaidis, I was given tons of rare stills, press books and errata about the film. It was through Nikolaidis incredible generosity as he encouraged me in my baby steps in cyberspace that I learned just how important the Internet would become in my own special line of cinematic research. Nikolaidis is best known as a director of TV commercials in his native Greece, although he directs feature films from time to time. Shot in 30 days on a shoestring budget, Singapore Sling would shock and delight audiences throughout the world, its most notorious exposure being its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
The key to the film's success lies in its two female leads, Michele Valley and Meredith Herold. As the whispery and melodramatic Mother, Valley had worked with Nikolaidis numerous times on previous features. It is Herold as Daughter -- a pixie-ish, adorable creature who maintains an unspoiled innocence through the film's countless scenes of sex and brutal violence who truly carries the show. According to Nikolaidis, Herold committed to work on the film while working on commercials with him. Once the film was completed, she was courted and then married by a rich movie buff -- and never acted again! "She still waits in the rain for Singapore Sling," Nikolaidis would sigh.
That the film is finally on DVD is cause for rejoicing. After suffering from bootlegs of dubious quality and even the legitimate Greek video release, one can now count every bead on every lampshade. Relying heaving on a claustrophobic atmosphere of antique-strewn interiors, viewers can now finally enjoy the elaborate set design that was once concealed in bitmapped shadows.
The only reservation this reviewer has with this release is the paltry extras included. The film is in anamorphic widescreen (1.66:11), and the animated main menu intended to mimic a battered silent film is delightful to look at. The film is broken up into 16 generous chapters. As for Special Features -- there is a photo gallery of only 10 paltry images, all done in sepia! However -- one can stand up and cheer for the inclusion of the film's trailer which is in pristine, excellent shape. In a voice approximating 60 Minutes' commentary Andy Rooney, "Don't you just hate it when you get a pricey restoration of a film on DVD and you get the trailer all worn and beaten, seemingly taped off a 25-year-old TV broadcast?"
The one other revelation the DVD release affords us are new subtitles. While filmed in the English language, there are moments of Greek (in voiceover courtesy of Singapore Sling). Due to the film's subtitles being permanently burned into all existing prints, Don May and the fine folks at Synapse have included huge, easy-to-read subtitles of accurate English translations. These subtitles are an option to viewers -- and in an instance of going above and beyond the call of duty -- the French phrases uttered by Mother in moments of homicidal abandon ("I want proof! Proof!" "On a long path, I saw a little rabbit, running, I want to catch it with my hands, but, he was too far, too far."). This is indeed a first for all English speaking fans of this film.
A final sobriquet is in order for the uninitiated who don't know if this film will be to their liking. Like the cocktail for which it is named, Singapore Sling is a tasty libation made of three different types of gin that can render the victim immobile. Those who wish to partake of this film's many powerful pleasures should best have a taste for gin.