Truly Out of Singapore

Lockport Union-Sun and Journal, 13 April 1933

“The soul stirring story of an innocent girl and the lust of a beast”

From Across to Singapore (1928), we are happy to bring you Out of Singapore (1932).

Unlike the first film screened for this section of Entangled Journeys, Out of Singapore was neither based on a much-beloved novel, nor did it have an elaborately designed set which had a historic ship. Consequently, not much appears to have been reported on it. From what little could be found, it can be safely assumed that it was no blockbuster of the year.

Or of the month it appears, having only a four-day run at the RKO Temple Theatre.

Elsewhere, the film was screened for longer duration. However, reviewers could not even be bothered to provide a plot synopsis. It was simply, the other feature “with Noah Beery, Dorothy Burgess, George Walsh and other well-known screen actors”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 Feb 1933, p. 10

But perhaps that is not our concern. As a project which is more interested in the representations of Malaya in film rather than the accuracy or the reception (or lack thereof, in this case) of these representations, what is interesting is the prevalence of the use of Singapore in titles for films with recurring themes of mutinies and lawlessness aboard ships. It was not enough for sailors to be sailing out of the legal jurisdiction of laws which prescribed behaviour onland, but they had to be sailing to or out of Singapore, this exotic cosmopolitan land where all hell breaks loose.

By 1942, when the film was reissued and screened in theatres once again, it was retitled “Gangsters of the Sea”. Clearly, Singapore was inconsequential to the plot given that it was dropped so readily. However, could this only suggest that “Singapore” was no longer enough to evoke ideas of lawlessness? Had the film distributors decided that they needed to be more explicit about what the film was about because “Singapore” was no longer the shorthand for chaos?


Join us on 6 Feb, Wednesday, at NUS Museum, for a “story cramped with action, suspense and comedy”, set way out of Singapore.


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