Pulp Corner: Singapore
Film Noir tends to be the genre of movies I lean toward, especially if I don’t have a particular movie in mind. The problem lies in the fact that I’ve seen a majority of the A+ must see essentials, so I have to dig through some of the lesser known gems. I keep a stack of dvds at the ready, sometimes I thumb through and will pick one based solely on their name, often times one word and menacing, “Conflict”, “Detour”, “Born To Kill” etc. Other times based on their glorious movie poster.
This time around I decided to watch “Singapore” a 1947 noir starring Fred MacMurray who was in the classic of the genre, Double Indemnity (and all you comic nerds out there he was who DC’s Captain Marvel was designed to look like) and the beautiful Ava Gardner. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s far from a classic, but if you’re in the mood for a lesser noir that still has something to offer it’s worth checking out.
I’m a sucker for movies in “exotic” locations and this one fits the bill, taking place of course in Singapore. MacMurray plays Matthew Gordon returning to Singapore after World War II. Five years prior, Gordon has begun a whirlwind relationship with Linda Grahame (Ava Gardner). They fall head over heels for each other, but what Linda doesn’t know is that Gordon is a pearl smuggler who’s drawn the attention of both local gangsters as well as the customs office. On the night Gordon and Linda are to be married the Military occupies Singapore and takes over the hotel they are staying in to be used as an outpost. When the news reaches them, Gordon leaves Linda at the church to grab his amassed fortune in pearls.
When he gets to the hotel he finds the troops have already set up shop in many rooms including his own. He can’t even get inside. By the time he gets back to the church it’s been bombed with no sign of Linda. Devastated, he has to ship off to war days later.
In the present he returns to the same hotel but somebody is occupying his room. Things get stranger when sees Linda out dancing. When he approaches her she does not recognize him, goes by a different name and is married. Meanwhile, the local gangsters as well as the customs office are aware of Gordon’s return and are keeping their eye on him closely hoping he’ll lead them to his secret stash of pearls. There the mystery begins and the movie take an unexpected twist during its second half as noirs often do. It’s not an impossible mystery to crack, but all the elements tie together nicely in a satisfying way in the end.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you, Singapore is not winning any awards not even in the noir world. But if you’re looking for a solid “B” level noir or a noir set in the Far East, this is for you. It’s just clever enough to not be stale and Fred MacMurray gives it the little bit more credibility that it needs.
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