filem noir (native mayhem)

Presenting a series of feature films made before independence, this series explores the image of Malaya in Hollywood and beyond. Mutinies, murders and relationship mishaps are some of the common tropes which framed colonial Malaya as an exotic and exciting place in the popular imagination of Euro-American audiences.
This page is managed by Fiona Tan.

East of Borneo (1931)

Although Linda Randolph (Hobart) is warned that Marado’s jungles are “entirely too dangerous” for a woman, she perseveres through dangerous raft rides and wild crocodiles in her search for her husband. Meanwhile, her husband is now the personal physician to the island’s enigmatic prince. When they finally meet, the prince lusts after Linda, and a love triangle ensues.

The Jungle Princess (1936)

Dorothy Lamour sings a Malay song and performs the first of a series of characters as the inimitable sarong girl, to be reprised in the popular “Road to…” series, in this romance film. Plus, she sings a Malay song. Featuring Ray Milland and tipping its hat to popular big-game hunter with Milland’s character’s senior named ‘Frank’, this romance features stampeding elephants, charging tigers and heroic simians.

The Letter (1940)

On a moonlit, tropical night, the native workers are asleep in their outdoor barracks in Singapore. A shot is heard; the door of a house opens and a man stumbles out of it, followed by a woman who calmly shoots him several more times, the last few while standing over his body. The woman is Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis), the wife of a British rubber plantation manager in Malaya; the man whom she shot is identified as Geoff Hammond (David Newell), a well-regarded member of the European community.

Tiger Fangs (1943)

A big-game hunter (Frank Buck) travels to Penang where he encounters man-eating tigers which natives believe to be the result of possession by dead Japanese soldiers. Together with a rubber plantation owner (Duncan Renaldo) and a scientist (June Duprez), Buck uncovers a sinister Nazi plot to destroy British Malaya’s rubber industry. Directed by Sam Newfield and produced by Jack Schwarz in USA during World War II, this was spliced together with old stock footage of Malaya.

Malaya (1949)

Smuggler Carnaghan (Spencer Tracy) is let out of prison by government agent Kellar (John Hodiak) on the condition that he help reporter John Royer (James Stewart) sneak the vitally-needed rubber crop out of Japanese-held Malaya during World War II. But a deadly double-cross lurks in the shadows.

East of Sumatra (1953)

Duke Mullane (Jeff Chandler), goes to a little-known island to open a new mine in the Malayan jungle. Initially, the natives are friendly, especially local ruler King Kiang (Anthony Quinn). A series of unfortunate incidents changes Kiang’s attitude to hostility, and Duke is stranded with his crew.

Fair Wind to Java (1953)

The adventurous American Capt. Boll (Fred MacMurray) heads to Dutch East Indies at the end of the nineteenth century in search of sunken Dutch treasures, but finds himself fighting off pirates, falling in love, and the wrath of an impending volcanic eruption on Krakatoa.

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