I'm a big fan of the classic cocktail known as the Singapore Sling, though I'll confess I might not've tasted one had someone described it to me as a combination of gin, cherry brandy, sour mix and pineapple juice. Just reading those ingredients together makes my stomach churn a little, and yet I continue to imbibe Singapore Slings.
The 1990 film by director Nikos Nikolaidis, "Singapore Sling" is fashioned from similarly disparate flavors, although the finished product is not the kind of frothy, pink concoction that I'd revisit anytime soon. In fact, there's a little of the Things That Cannot Be Unseen about this extreme, surrealist film noir horror-satire. Simultaneously hypnotic and repulsive, "Singapore Sling" is an absolutely one-of-a-kind film-watching experience.
A private detective in search of a missing woman tracks the lady's last known whereabouts to the mansion of a demented mother-daughter duo. Delirious from a gunshot wound to his shoulder, the nameless detective collapses on the doorstep of the mansion, only to be kidnapped by the women. And what women they are! The daughter, a Molly Ringwald lookalike, has an absolute mania for masturbation and the mother, a mad-eyed harpy, may not be a woman at all. What ensues is a supremely grotesque, brazenly depraved, fourth-wall-shattering kick to the frontal cortex. This taboo-crushing horror show runs through a catalog of sins including incest, gluttony, cannibalism, golden showers, flagellation and emetophilia* as the detective is repeatedly subjected to tortures physical, sexual and mental.
*You'll want your safe search ON if you need to Google that.
Oh--and did I mention this film is an homage to Otto Premiger's beloved mystery film "Laura?"
Allow me to rewind my thoughts for a moment. "Singapore Sling" is a beautifully lensed movie. Shot in crisp black and white with a loving eye for shadow and light, this ranks with the most evocative entries in the film noir canon. The costuming on the mother and daughter is straight out of "Sunset Boulevard," with gypsy bangles, flowing gowns, and seemingly infinite layers of lace and satin.** The look and feel of the film is overall very Norma Desmond meets Clovis Trouille--in short, incredible to look at. This richness of production complements the bizarre, over-the-top ghastliness of almost everything that happens on screen. Pulsing offal, steaming vomit and heinous torture are all revealed with the same elegant lighting as the beautiful eyes, full breasts, and delicate hands of the actresses. Revolting and erotic in a Sadean manner, this film crams the luxurious and the scatological into frame together in shocking bacchanal of excess.
**I aim to age like the mother in this film--she's got this amazing Nina Hagen/Helena Bonham Carter vibe that I envied like crazy!
Speaking of bacchanalia, it's tempting to view this movie as a latter-day Greek tragedy, given its country of origin and some of the horrific plot elements. The mad ladies could easily be maenads destroying a latter-day Orpheus. But I'll leave that for a more skillful mythologist to unpack!
All three performances are astonishing. In the role of mother and daughter, Michele Valley and Meredyth Herold are by turns alluring, shocking and hilarious. Their stuttering episodes of orgasmic overstimulation along with their off-putting asides to the camera provide a weird air of almost-comedy (and sometimes definitely-comedy). I was reminded of Stephen Sayadian's "Dr. Caligari" in their most affected moments, but there's also a jarring realism to their scenes of eating, regurgitating and masturbating that's truly something to behold. Panos Thanassoulis' largely wordless portrayal of the detective conveys an air of sadness and desperation that provides flashes of humanity in the absurdist story.
"Singapore Sling" is about as avante garde as a narrative movie can get--it challenges the viewer's sensibilities and confronts him or her with images that can't be un-seen. It's a movie that's not easily forgotten, even those parts that one wishes one could erase from one's brainspace.
Thank you to friend of the Empire Dreaded Rhubarb for recommending this film!