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Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore Paperback – March 1, 2006
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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...
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.
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.Read more ›
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!Read more ›