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Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore Paperback – March 1, 2006

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Hailing originally from England where he was born in 1974, Ben Slater is a writer, lecturer and curator who has been based in Singapore since 2002 where he lives in the east of the island. A former magazine editor and art-house cinema programmer in the UK, he has written about film for a number of publications in the UK, US and Asia. Kinda Hot is his first book.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Benchmark Books (March 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9812610693
  • ISBN-13: 978-9812610690
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,658,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By J. Kenney on October 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An eccentric project, but then, so was SAINT JACK. Anyone interested in Peter Bogdanovich, Singapore, films shot under unusual circumstances in unique locales, nostalgic reveries for a time long past, or the movie SAINT JACK itself, for that matter, should find this book a compelling read.

I came at it from the Bogdanovich angle; this and THEY ALL LAUGHED, the other film he shot with Robby Muller in much the same style (but in NYC) are my two favorite films by him and two of my favorite films of all time, so while I never saw this coming, I ordered it immediately upon stumbling upon it. Well worth a look if you think you might be interested in it...
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Format: Paperback
It was the first (and last?) Hollywood production happening entirely in Asia: In 1978, director Peter Bogdanovich, main actor Ben Gazzara and a large US-European-Asian team filmed Paul Theroux's novel Saint Jack (1973) completely on location in Singapore. Even all the interiors were done in the Asian city state, not in a Hollywood studio. In 2006, Ben Slater tells the story of this shoot in book's length - and he tells it colourfully, lively, and, yes, kinda hot. I often laughed out loud about all the anecdotes, the chaos and the challenge to do a rather liberal Hollywood movie in a restrictive Asian community.

Bogdanovich appears pompous, complete with cigars and Bentley; his underlings had to watch him enjoy breakfast. The script was written a-new every day. Local bar ladies, taxi drivers, transvestites, waiters and English teachers were all hired for smaller roles - and if there was no role for an interesting character they met, they'd write a new role for him or her into the script. Partly they had to work under pretexts or secretely, because they believed that Pau Theroux's original Saint Jack novel was banned in Singapore.

Slater writes a few pages about Singapore's specific history with special regard to its movie business. He describes the movie's lengthy development in California including Orson Welle's role. We also learn about Bogdanovich's changing relationships around the Saint Jack time. After all these details, you might find that the post production phase was covered rather short. The movie is regarded as a monument to "Old Singapore" and so, Slater reports what happened to all the sites that appear in the movie - most aren't recognizable at all today.
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Format: Paperback
I've lived in Singapore for 12 years, I've read the book Saint Jack, I've seen the movie, visited the locations, and now have discovered that someone's written a book about the film project itself. How cool is that?

Ben Slater's short book is a delicious little thing, to the point and full of lovely stories, setting the scene at the start by describing the career of Peter Bogdanovich, introducing the idea that this nearly became a project of the very washed-up Orson Welles (rather than a newly washed-up Peter Bogdanovich), the relationship with Roger Corman, and the incredible casting exercises the production crew conducted throughout the world, but mainly in Singapore (at the same time that an episode of Hawaii Five-O was being filmed here). Combat between the production crew resulted, and parts of the film were hijacked at one point! Hugh Hefner was one of the bankrollers of the film (a natural, given the bordello nature of the film), but strangely enough Slater doesn't talk much about George Lazenby's involvement, nor does he seem to have bothered to get in touch with old George to discuss this very rare appearance by the elusive star (who was hiding out in Hong Kong with Bruce Lee around the time).

The book gets into interesting background items, such as Ben Gazarra's notes on the film from his autobiography, Hollywood-in-Asia history discussion on films about Singapore such as Pretty Polly, and exploitation films like GI Executioners and Shocking Asia (I'll have to look into these). Interesting Bruce Lee anecdote from Tony Yeow (producer of the legendary Ring Of Fury film), who mentioned that Lee wanted to do a musical, and who signed an autograph to his boss Robert Chua that said "Patience my ass - I'm gonna kill somebody!
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Published in Singapore, it's a revealing and amusing story of how Peter Bogdanovich pulled the wool over the eyes of the Nanny State back in the late 1970s and created an unauthorized film set in Singapore. The movie, "Saint Jack," is far, far better than the Paul Theroux novel it's based on; this book about the making of the movie is well-written and engaging.
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Format: Paperback
It is a delicious thrill to find an artistic masterwork that does not enjoy mass public acclaim-- you own the experience privately even as you champion the discovery to anyone who will listen. Such is my claim on Saint Jack, Peter Bogdanovich's 1979 cinematic gem drawn from Paul Theroux's novel of the same name. This is a film with such a real and profound sense of time and place I can only think of a few others that rival it --Mean Streets and Blow-Up come to mind-- and such a singular lead performance (Ben Gazzara) that it is flat-out unbelievable it does not have a larger audience and reputation.

Ben Slater pursued the story of the making of this unusual film with energy and resourcefulness. We learn the complex genesis of the production and hear from all the major figures, and most of the minor ones too, in a flowing and addictive narrative that reads like a thriller. Bogdanovich leads an international crew of irregulars and fired-up Singaporean locals through a massively improvised and necessarily secretive three-month shoot that yields such an authentic portrait of the island that it ends up banned by the Singapore authorities. We feel real connection to the largely amateur local cast and crew, and it is a treat to view the film again after you know their personal stories.

To the small but growing list of fans of Saint Jack: get this book! It will elevate your enjoyment of the film. Slater gives us something really valuable-- a look into a lost world, of Singapore, of maverick cinema, of outsiders and irregulars, of local colour and culture, of transgressive and subversive actions in pursuit of art. He does not skimp on detail, and leaves us enriched with understanding about where we came from, and perhaps where we are going.
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