wild wild east

The allure of the lush yet dangerous jungle has been a recurring theme in the popular imaginings of Malaya on film. From wild animals to seductive jungle princesses, Malaya’s forests seem to have them all. Jointly presented with A/P Timothy P. Barnard, Department of History, NUS, this section looks at the exploration of the Wild Wild East in both documentaries and commercial films.
This page is managed by Fiona Tan.

Catching the Dragon on Film


In the 1920s and 1930s Komodo dragons were a ‘celebrity species’ that zoos sought for their collections. The capture and transportation of these animals, only found in Indonesia, was difficult. To document this process, early adventurers and makers of nature films went to Komodo, in remote eastern Indonesia, to capture the process, as well as the animal. This screening will feature short film clips from three different expeditions (1926, 1927 and 1936) from three different nations (the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) to capture the dragon.

Bring ‘Em Back Alive (1932)


Based on Frank Buck and Edward Anthony’s bestseller of the same title, Bring ‘Em Back Alive features the exotic wild animals captured by Buck, the animal dealer who supplied them to zoos, circuses and menageries all over the world.

Wild Cargo (1934)


Following the success of Bring ‘Em Back Alive, RKO films continues the successful formula of splicing scenes of exotic wild animals in foreign settings and even more unnatural conflicts.

Tiger Fangs (1943)

Departing from the familiar formula, this Buck film had a narrative plot structure. 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.


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