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Singapore’s first full-length English film is screened 28th Nov 1991

Singapore’s first full-length English language film, Medium Rare, premiered in local theatres on 28 November 1991. The 100-minute movie was filmed locally and produced by veteran beauty pageant organiser, Errol Pang, executive producer of Derrol Stepenny Productions. The film was sent to Adelaide in Australia for post-production. It cost $1.7 million to produce, of which $1.2 million was personally funded by Pang. [1]

Up until the early 1970s, mostly Malay movies were produced in Singapore, until the closure of the film studio Cathay-Keris in 1973. Thereafter, local film productions ground to a halt, as local filmmakers did not want to compete with the Hong Kong and Taiwanese movies that dominated the screens then.[2]

The title of the movie, Medium Rare, serves as a plot teaser and evokes an image of a still-bloody steak. The director said that it was a play on the phrase, “a rare medium”.[3]

Filled with blood, gore, occult rituals, sex and murder, the movie was targeted at American audiences. The plot is loosely based on the 1980s ritual murder of two children in Singapore by Adrian Lim, a self-professed Chinese medium, as well as his wife and mistress. The trio were sentenced to death for the crime. [4]

Singapore actor Lim Kay Siu was initially slated to play the film’s lead character, Daniel Wong, but had to turn down the role due to prior work commitments. American actor Dore Kraus – known for his role as Jack Shindo in a Australian–Japanese television series based on the Japanese superhero Ultraman – eventually replaced Lim Kay Siu for the role. It was hoped that the half-American and half Asian Kraus would attract both American and Asian viewership. [5]

Margaret Chan, a Singaporean stage actress and food columnist, played the role of  Wong’s wife, Yoke Lin,[6] while American model Jamie Marshall took on the role of Wong’s second wife, Beverly Watson. The latter took on the role after the originally-cast actress, Darcy LaPier, pulled out. [7]

Margaret Chan’s real-life daughter, Cara Chan, then aged 14, acted as Yoke Lin’s 18-year-old sister, Mei Lin, who ends up dead while investigating her brother-in-law. [8]

The film was shot at various locations in Singapore, including a Peranakan house along Tong Watt Road, a house along Mount Pleasant Drive, East Coast Park, Pan Pacific Hotel, and Giok Hong Tian Temple on Havelock Road.[9]

As a major sponsor, Pan Pacific Hotel contributed services totalling to almost half a million dollars, in the form of free lodging and food for the cast and crew. The hotel itself was also featured in 15 scenes.[10] Kodak, Polaroid and Cosmoprof were also among the film’s sponsors, while two sponsors, who had committed S$50,000 in total, pulled out before filming commenced.[11]

The shooting of the movie, delayed due to the sudden replacement of key personnel, started on 10 April 1991.[12] The director of cinematography, Arthur Smith, had to take over the director’s reins after the original American director, Stan Barrett, pulled out. Similarly, actresses Rani Moorthy and Margaret Chan doubled-up as scriptwriters when writer James Best withdrew from the film. Moorthy and Chan churned out the script in just one week, completing it two days before filming commenced.[13]

A press conference was held on 16 May 1991 to announce the completion of the movie’s five-week filming.[14] The film opened in Singapore on 28 November 1991. There were also plans to screen the movie in Australia, Canada, Japan, South America, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.[15] On 23 September 1991, Pang signed an agreement to award Cathay the rights to distribute the movie via television and video in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.[16]

Despite the gory contents of the movie, both Pang and Cathay pushed for a Parental Guidance classification from the Board of Film Censors so that a wider audience would have the opportunity to watch it.[17]

Medium Rare was reviewed by a Straits Times nine-person panel between the ages of 14 to 59, comprising students, a businessman, a photographer and a homemaker. It received an overall rating of 5.5 out of 10 points and scored the maximum for its local appeal. The panel liked the original storyline but disliked its slow pace, weak script, missing scare factor and unprofessional editing.[18] The New Paper reviewed the film as “too thin, too superficial”, “unconvincing” and “clichéd” in its portrayal of Singaporean themes and subjects.[19]

The movie raked in a modest S$130,000 at the Singapore box office by the end of its run.[20]


1.But it’s one small step forward. (1991, November 30). The Straits Times, p. 6; Adrian Lim story to be basis of $1.7 m film. (1990, November 14). The Straits Times, p. 30; Goh, J. (1991, April 13). Singapore’s first English feature film hits snags. The Straits Times, p. 22; Goh, J. (1991, October 5). Coming soon: Medium Rare. The Straits Times, p. 21; Goh, J. (1991, May 17). Filming of S’pore’s first full-length movie completed. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Reel life in Singapore: It’s renaissance time for the island’s film industry. (1995, June 16). Asiaweek. Retrieved May 14, 2015, from Asiaweek website: http://edition.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/95/0616/cinema.html
2. Asiaweek, 16 Jun 1995.
3. The Straits Times, 14 Nov 1990, p. 30.
4. The Straits Times, 14 Nov 1990, p. 30.
5. Yohanna Abdullah. (1991, January 12). ‘Ultraman’ to star in local movie. The Straits Times, p. 25; American medium. (1991, January 12). The New Paper, p. 4; Wong, K. H. (1991, January 20). The rare find. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lo, T. Y. (1991, January 10). I’ll not be coy. The New Paper, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. The Straits Times, 13 Apr 1991, p. 22; The Straits Times, 17 May 1991, p. 28; Goh, J. (1991, November 25). Medium Rare – high on local colour, low on suspense. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Mother–daughter team again. (1991, January 10). The New Paper, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Straits Times, 12 Jan 1991, p. 25.
9. The Straits Times, 13 Apr 1991, p. 22; The Straits Times, 17 May 1991, p. 28.
10. The Straits Times, 12 Jan 1991, p. 25.
11. The Straits Times, 13 Apr 1991, p. 22.
12. The Straits Times, 13 Apr 1991, p. 22.
13. The Straits Times, 13 Apr 1991, p. 22.
14. The Straits Times, 17 May 1991, p. 28.
15. The Straits Times, 13 Apr 1991, p. 22; The Straits Times, 17 May 1991, p. 28; Goh, J. (1991, October 5). Coming soon: Medium Rare. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. The Straits Times, 5 Oct 1991, p. 21.
17. The Straits Times, 5 Oct 1991, p. 21.
18. The Straits Times, 25 Nov 1991, p. 24.
19. Ang, D. (1991, November 22). Nothing rare. The New Paper, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. List of Singapore movies. (2015, March). Media Development Authority. Retrieved May 14, 2015, from Media Development Authority website: http://www.mda.gov.sg/IndustryDevelopment/IndustrySectors/Film/Documents/1%20-%20Box%20Office%20Information%20for%20Singapore%20Films%20from%201991.pdf


The information in this article is valid as at July 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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