Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Saint Jack is NOW on Blu-ray!

Saint Jack's past existence on 'home video' formats has been somewhat patchy in the DVD era. There was the New Concorde "Roger Corman Presents/Directors Series" edition from 2000, which presented a decent if scratchy scan of the print alongside a few basic extras from Peter Bogdanovich; a commentary-track and a to-camera interview. After that went out of print, Australian DVD outfit Umbrella licensed that very same version around 2006, however the compression of the file left something to be desired and it was a moderately inferior looking-thing, paler in colour and lower in resolution. That was the edition that hit the streets in Singapore when the film was 'un-banned', and became a fast bestseller for a while. While flat-hunting in 2010 I'd occasionally see a copy on peoples' shelves, so I know it got around. When Umbrella stopped shipping or printing them (presumably the license had ended, or there was no more demand) the film was suddenly unavailable again for the first time since the 1990s, although there was a Spanish-subtitled version showing up on Amazon, which was another license of the New Concorde edition. Then in early 2014, I saw a mention in a forum that Scorpion Releasing, a small DVD/Blu-ray imprint specialising in bringing out relatively obscure B-Movie, action and exploitation flicks, had announced that a Saint Jack disc was in the pipeline, even going so far to include the trailer on some of its releases. Hoping to get involved, I speculatively dropped an email to the anonymous "Info@" address with some blurb about my book, and to my great surprise got an email back from Walter Olsen, who, I think it's fair to say, is Scorpion Releasing. Thus, a correspondence that would last several years (on and off) was initiated, and to Walter's great credit, while the Blu-ray project was delayed or held off for years (a much improved in terms of pic-quality DVD from Walter popped up in the interim), he was true to his word and happily enabled me to impose myself onto the project, recording an exhaustive audio commentary and producing two short documentaries, 'Memories of Saint Jack' (which edits together interviews with a good number of Saint Jack cast and crew, including Pierre Cottrell and Lisa Lu) and 'The Singapore Locations of Saint Jack' AKA 'Dormant Glories At Dawn', a video essay by the brilliant artist Toh Hun Ping. These feature alongside all the old extras. There's also an excellent reversible cover with the stunning Polish poster image instead of the not-wonderful Corman-edition poster with all the critics' quotes. When you get your copy, change the cover immediately! The best aspect of the edition is of course the film itself, which is stunningly cleaned-up, and as I've said elsewhere, it's doubtful that we'll ever see a better copy. A few years ago Peter Bogdanovich told an interviewer (during the She's Funny That Way press) that he hoped to see Saint Jack be brought out by Criterion. Well, Walter's done an equally great job on far less resources, and if you love the film, you absolutely must get this. It's available here and here and if you are in Singapore and want to acquire one, drop me a line.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"The Women Round Here..."

This went online a few days ago. It's actually the video from a site-specific installation at a karaoke lounge in the Bugis area which is part of the art/film tour State of Motion, mentioned in my last post. The video is by Amanda Lee Koe, a writer and poet, whose collection of short stories Ministry of Moral Panic was widely acclaimed in 2013. It's directed by Kristin Tan, whose debut film Pop Aye just opened the international section of Sundance, and picked up best international screenplay too. As far as I know, outside  the work done by Toh Hun Ping focussed on locations, this is the first time (as far as I know) that a Singaporean artist has directly 'responded' to Saint Jack. Amanda addresses the complexity of her relationship to Saint Jack as a text, while presenting a real, precious history of Bugis Street alongside Saint Jack's documentation of that storied place. It's cool, funny, provocative and I wish it were longer...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Singaporeana in 2017

Two related events coming up incredibly soon.

Firstly a talk entitled 'The World of Saint Jack' will be at the National Library on the 7th January. This is an attempt to get away from the very general introductions to Saint Jack that I normally do and present matters relating to the film in a more informal and digressive way, without apology! So, it's a structured ramble through some alleyways and side-streets connected to the movie. There will be a revelation or two around the identity of at least one person who Jack Flowers was based on - which involves poetry (!), plus something I just noticed about the 'Jack of Hearts' Treatment, and a tribute of sorts to Pierre Cottrell and Tony Yeow.

It's actually part of an event State of Motion, which is an annual exhibition around art/film curated by Kent Chan with help from my good friend Toh Hun Ping, who you will all know from his amazing locations archive. I'd like to think that this year's theme 'Through Stranger Eyes' is inspired by the work I've done as the films they are focussing on have featured on this blog over the years, and they are showing Ring of Fury by Tony Yeow.... Talking of which:

A week later, on the 14th, Sherman Ong and myself will present Tony's Long March at the National Museum of Singapore, in a double-bill with Lost in La Mancha. It's the first time the film's been seen since the Singapore International Film Festival in late 2015, and about time too! We'll be introducing it and doing a Q&A afterwards.