B&W, 1990, 112m. / Directed by Nikos Nikolaidis / Starring Panos Thanassoulis, Meredyth Herold, Michele Valley / Synapse (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

During a jet-black night in the countryside during a torrential rainstorm, a ragged, bleeding man (Thanassoulis) is found near death in the mud by two goggle-wearing women, a mother (Herold) and daughter (Valley), who are disposing of the remains of their latest victims. They take the man back home and call him Singapore Sling, initiating him into their twisted world in which they reenact the gruesome deaths of their domestic help-- as well as a young woman named Laura, whom Singapore Sling has been seeking. Completely insane, the women subject him to a variety of ridiculous sexual ordeals involving shock therapy, bodily fluids, various foodstuffs, and handcuffs, not necessarily in that order. Not surprisingly, all three are sucked into a vortex of perversion that will prove difficult to escape.

While the basic premise of this berserk Greek cult item might sound like a rehash of captivity drive-in films like Death Game (not to mention shades of Onibaba), watching it unfold is something else entirely; shot in luminous black and white with gorgeous visuals right out of the '40s film noir textbook (including some explicit references to Laura via the dead character's name as well as the daughter's similar portrait), this is perhaps the ultimate collision of high art and gutter-level sleaze. A cult director in Greece but little-known elsewhere, Nikos Nikolaidis came closest to breaking through to the international market with this film, which appalled most mainstream distributors but became a sensation of the video-trading circuit, largely thanks to excellent timing as it hit right at the beginning of the first Euro-cult video boom and immediately followed such other horror/art hybrids as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Opera.

However, what really sets this film apart is its refusal to separate graphic sexuality from violence; the extreme nature of the various scenarios involving the three characters quickly reaches a Sadean level of intensity by the halfway point, though considering its reputation for "hardcore" material, it's surprising how much is implied rather than shown. For example, the notorious vomit and urination sequences (repellent as they undoubtedly are) don't really show as much as the viewer might think, and the horrific finale (which foreshadows the prostitute's knife-murder in Seven by several years and was largely responsible for getting this film banned in England) thankfully leaves the most gruesome details to the imagination. Only a graphic fruit-masturbation sequence really treads the line into non-simulated territory (and looks like a cheeky nod to Walerian Borowczyk's infamous "pearl" scene in Immoral Tales).

Certainly not a film anyone would have ever pegged for a mainstream home video release, Singapore Sling is thankfully rescued from years of substandard video releases with Synapse's lovingly prepared DVD edition. The beautiful photography finally looks crystal clear, with rich chiaroscuro lighting that now makes its artistic merits impossible to ignore. The element is in excellent condition for the most part, with a vertical scratch hovering for a while after the one-hour mark causing only a minor disruption in what is otherwise an immaculate presentation. The film was shot entirely in English, but Thanassoulis' melancholy voiceovers were recorded in Greek; as a result, film elements feature an awkward (and crooked) English-subtitled whose burned-in origins necessitated Synapse to also offer a new "masked" subtitle option, which presents more professional and well-written text that might be more accessible to newcomers. This technique is nothing new (see The Incubus and Eva for other examples) and works fine here. The mono audio sounds clear throughout. Extras include the wild two-minute theatrical trailer and a stills gallery.

Mondo Digital Reviews Mondo Digital Links Frequently Asked Questions