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.