The G I Executioner - lost in Singapore and women

 G I Executioner had the draw of immortalizing rare footages of Singapore at the turn of the decade into the 1970s. And its recent screening was also touted as the Singapore premiere. However, a potentially appropriate title to the movie could be ‘A Love Affair with bedrooms in Singapore’ With so much happening in the bedroom (and it’s not always sex), you hardly see much of Singapore.

G I Executioner or Wit’s End (it’s alternative name) is a vintage B-movie from the 70s about an American journalist, Dave Dearborn, in Singapore who is asked to track down a defecting Chinese scientist and gets into all kinds of trouble, including some that come in pretty nice packaging. 

He operates a discotheque on water, basically on a boat floating just around Clifford Pier. Being physically isolated on water distances us from the real hustle and bustle on the mainland, making Singapore feel like just a token Far Eastern island that adds to the exoticism of the movie. With numerous plot twists, oddballs surprise characters, sweaty chase runs that meander around the labyrinth of shop-houses and not forgetting sudden bursts of skin, the movie is a one confusing roller coaster of skin and gun-shots. 

Because it is so bad, it actually becomes quite entertaining to watch Dave Dearborn sizzle up to the various larger-than-life characters than walk into the trajectory of his quest for the Chinese scientist, whom we almost forget about halfway through all his dalliances. First he meets a curious, innocent blonde girl who, besotted with him, tries very hard to get him to pay attention to her. In reality, given her rather ‘full’ figure, it would not have been difficult to for him but the script says no. Of course, with good reason – he meets a bigger bombshell in the club – the stripper.

Like 007, Dave swings from the sanctuary of one female to another.  The second woman in his screen life, ‘Cindy’ the stripper girl provides another interesting reference point, or rather two (pardon the bawdy pun). Making a glittery appearance in an average Joe’s pub, with her strip-tease act, she signals something either way ahead of the times (the year was 1970) or something reminiscent of older archaic times. One begins to wonder if she is there as a B-movie token nudie or this was Singapore before some LKY-driven street cleansing. While her physicality is quite a show-stopper, the lady actually has undeniable charisma about her and draws undivided attention when she speaks. It is little surprise that when she dies so dramatically pressing her weight on the rope netting, you feel a sense of loss and not just notice how strategically placed her breasts were on the netting.

The most enigmatic ‘Born Girl’ (‘Born’ from Dave Dearborn) of the lot had to be the pivotal Foon Mai Lee (again, please excuse the adjective, pun unintended). Strange Chinese surname it is. Even stranger is the Italian-looking actress who plays this role of a local girl. But her dusky skin and dark features suited the role rather well. An old flame of Dave, she became the sidekick of a local Chinese gangster, flanking him everywhere he went from a mysterious nightclub appearance to praying at a Chinese temple. She speaks little but punctuates every moment with her thoughtful glances, drawing us closer and closer to her branch of the plot, which by now would have been lost upon the audience.

(Pictured left) Foon Mai Lee, played by Vicky Racimo

Still on women, there is a palpable common thread that runs between the G I Executioner and Saint Jack (if anyone has seen it) that could be quite telling about how the Western world saw Singapore – hookers. In G I Executioner, the first line in the movie is from a pimp touting business a Western visitor. The  local women who enjoy a bit more screen-time are largely in this all-too-familiar trade. There is even a laughable scene where Dave gets hounded by naked women for payment when he chased away their original customer in the bedroom. And the moment they opened their mouths was possibly a significant reference point in our linguistic history – the beginnings of the Singaporean accent, captured on film in full colour! Back to the point, likewise, in Saint Jack, the picture of a Singapore rife with prostitution is once again etched into our impressions. What’s more, Jack Flowers, the lead character is a pimp.

It seems old Singapore had a strong exotic and sensual draw for Hollywood and perhaps the West. And pictures don’t lie. Old Singapore had a certain charm that the glittery skyscrapers or immaculately manicured driveways and parks can never replace and it looks good on film. These days, as tall as they stand, the Marina Bay Sands Towers, the esplanade, the Marina Bay Financial Centre and the sum of all that stands before the waterfront, holds no draw in any movie with a intended global reach. 007 has dallied with the Hong Kong business waterfront. Mission Impossible has painted the streets of Shanghai red. Even the recent Cloud Atlas imagined a Seoul of the future where the height of buildings and the ‘airborne’ traffic captured our imaginations. We are just too damn squeaky clean to hold any allure or to capture any imagination on film.

Which leads me to a little exercise here. If Hollywood were to come knocking back on our doors to do another sexy big adventure here, what do we have to offer? Here is my Top 10 list:

10. Infinity Pool

9. Lucky Plaza

8. Changi Coast Drive

7. Getai
6. The Causeway
5. Worker's Party Rally
4. Pulau Tekong

3. The Queenstown Swimming Pool

2. Geylang

1. Bukit Brown

 Location scouts take note: As Singapore approacjes 6.9 million, some of these spots will disappear soon.

Written by Jeremy Sing

Doesn't the man in the poster remind you of a famous Mr Lee in Singapore?
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