Singapore Sling (1990) Dir. Nikos Nikolaidis, Greece, 111 mins
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and we're off to new pastures today with a dip into Greek cinema. This was a movie I half-watched some time ago, and never quite got round to polishing off, so I suppose this one is half rewatch and half first time viewing. Singapore Sling is a movie that has featured on many a top ten most disturbing film list out there, and having watched it I'm still not quite sure where I fall on that argument. Yes, there's plenty I here that is very graphic and very full on, but in places it is a deliberately overblown pastiche of the film noir that you can't help but laugh. Undoubtedly the most twisted comedy movie I've seen since The Human Centipede: Final Sequence, this one is riotous and repellent in equal measure.
What fascinated me about this movie from the get go is that everything screams 40s or 50s crime thriller – the black and white shooting style, the dialogue, the clothing – it's all so bang on it's easy to forget this was a movie shot in 1990. The use of the soundtrack from 1944's Laura doesn't hurt in that respect. But there are many, many extreme moments that distinctly tell you this is not a classic film noir.
The plot itself follows a distinctly lost soul, a former private detective who is seeking out a woman whom at first was just a case but soon became much more to him – Laura. The belief is that she is dead, hence the movie's subtitle – The Man Who Loved a Corpse – and it is in this search that he encounters the deranged, unnamed mother and daughter duo that we come to learn hired Laura as a secretary before killing her. So, when the detective – who comes to be nicknamed Singapore Sling by the twisted duo – comes into the house they knock him out, tie him up and force him into their crazed games.
And what a plethora of games they have for him – poor old Singapore Sling really goes through it. Alongside the torture of being starved, not given water and tied helpless to a bed, he gets urinated on, vomited on, sexually violated and eventually finds himself drawn into a nightmarish world of demented fantasy, where the daughter steps into the role of Laura and the mother plays the role of her tormentor. The tension grows between the three of them until murderous intent becomes the order of the day, and the ending – dare I make this pun – has all the hallmarks of a Greek tragedy.
The movie is also loaded with comedy moments – Michele Valley is wonderfully exaggerated mother, the fading doyen of the household, a gothic grand dame who slips into French every now and then. Daughter Meredyth Herold steals the show for me – her long, fourth-wall-smashing monologues to the viewer are rarely short of staggering and she also has a bumbling, clumsy manner of sexuality that switches between cringingly uncomfortable and laugh-out-loud funny. Even Panos Thanassoullis in the role of Singapore Sling really inhabits his broken, lovelorn, depressed character. And he speaks Greek – a very cosmopolitan approach to filmmaking, with three languages on display here.
For me, it's one of those movies where to laugh whilst simultaneously wondering whether you really should be laughing. The director himself was stunned at the reaction, as he had simply set out to make a black comedy and certainly not a piece that would go down in history as one of the most extreme ever made. Grotesque would be the best single word I could come up with for this one, in a way that swings from truly horrifying to hilarious.
RATING: 9/10. As much as this one was somewhat confusing to watch, trying to really pull apart its intentions, there's something absolutely mesmerising about this. It's rare I can honestly say a film is unique, but this one undoubtedly is. A cross between Laura and The Vomit Gore Trilogy, this one brings shocking moments of extreme alongside a near-spoof of old school black and white cinema. Well worth seeking out for fans of the more unusual end of cinema!