Kendra Steiner Editions

November 18, 2013

Sean Flynn in “Five Ashore in Singapore” (France-Italy 1967, dir. Bernard Toublanc-Michel)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 7:42 pm

FIVE ASHORE IN SINGAPORE (France-Italy 1967)

starring SEAN FLYNN

directed by Bernard Toublanc-Michel

aka Cinq gars pour Singapour, aka Cinq marines pour Singapour

sean flynn cinq

Based on a 1959 novel by Jean Bruce (author of the many OSS 117 books–in fact, THIS was in the OSS 117 series, as you can see from the scan of the novel below), FIVE ASHORE IN SINGAPORE is the last film of actor/photojournalist SEAN FLYNN. Flynn starred in 8 European genre films between 1962-1967, most of which are quite obscure in North America although Flynn was an American. He was only 26 when he made this, his final film.

JEAN BRUCE

Sean Flynn had a unique boyish charm–if you can imagine a cross between Anthony Perkins and Michael Dudikoff who looks like the captain of the Princeton tennis team (and is 6′ 3″ tall and VERY handsome)–and even though he supposedly became somewhat bored with the film industry during his brief career  (you can tell that he was TRYING in his early film STOP TRAIN 349—however, in his later films, he seems more relaxed, perhaps because he knew he was working in genre films that he could essentially walk through and isn’t worrying about his performance), his casual style in this film works well. After all, leading men in B-movies don’t want to ever OVERPLAY and often seem to be coasting on their charm–in a strange sense, this puts them above whatever menace they are encountering on-screen. I’ve always liked Flynn’s film work, and he should be better known, not just by fans of European genre films and by people who look up the references in songs by The Clash.

sean flynn 1

The plot here is rather simple, but veers off into strange territory in the film’s final third. A number of US Marines on shore leave in Singapore have vanished while hanging out among the bars and seedy nightlife of the city. Marine intelligence officer Flynn and four others are sent to pose as wild and crazy Marines looking for a good time so they will get caught as the others seemingly were, and then they can get inside the criminal organization and see what actually happened and perhaps free their comrades.

The first 25 minutes or so, where the guys are tearing up various bars and clubs pretending to be on a drunken spree, are quite entertaining, and they are quite fascinating to look at as they are shot on the streets of 1967 Singapore, a world long gone. Director Bernard Toublanc-Michel is a new name to me (he worked after this extensively in French TV), but he’s got a good eye for location shooting, and I can see where he would have been quite adept at crime shows on television.

For the first two-thirds of the film, the plot goes where any jaded fan of action films would predict that it would, but in the final third, things go off the track and into what the IMDB calls “medical horror” territory. I was not expecting this, and I’m sure most viewers would be thrown for a loop, but it does up the ante considerably and takes the film into territory that almost resembles one of Harry Alan Towers’s Fu Manchu films. In fact, with the third-world location shooting, this reminded me of various Towers productions shot in South Africa or Lebanon or Hong Kong or wherever.

Thankfully, Sean Flynn seems to be looping his own voice, and whoever cast this managed to choose five young men who have the look of wide-eyed young American servicemen. With the location shooting (most of the film is shot on locations, not sets) and the distinctive looking sets, the film LOOKS very interesting. You also get three 60’s Asian pop songs on the soundtrack, and a good look at the street vendors and bars and clubs and markets of 1960’s Singapore…and you get the last performance from the under-rated Sean Flynn.

The copy that is circulating among collectors here in North America seems to be taken from a European cable TV broadcast and is in English, except for a handful of segments (usually about 30 seconds to 1 minute) that are in Italian with English subtitles. Usually when this happens in other films, it’s because there were certain scenes cut out of the English-language version which were never dubbed, but that’s clearly NOT the case here–a scene will suddenly switch languages in the middle and then switch back, as if someone was playing with the language button on a DVD remote. I’m not sure what the story is behind the language switch here, but part of the charm of films such as this is their disposable nature. NO ONE treats European genre films as if they are Citizen Kane, and those of us who love these films often first discovered them as late-night filler on UHF stations or on cheap slow-speed VHS tapes sold at discount stores. They are bread-and-butter product, and like a good paperback-original crime novel, their lack of pretension and their “hitting all the marks” help to make them so fascinating.  Once one provides the expected elements in genre entertainment, one can provide distinctive elements that pull in an audience and that leave an impression after the disposable entertainment finishes. I won’t soon forget this film–it’s a solid and enjoyable piece of work. 105 minutes well-spent.

sean flynn 2

Just Google the film’s title and the star’s name and you should be able to track down a copy of this on DVD-R…if you are so inclined…

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