Medium Rare

Medium Rare, Singapore’s first full-length English-language film to be released locally, was released in local cinemas in November 1991.1 Loosely based on the Adrian Lim ritual murders in the early 1980s,the film was shot and produced in Singapore.3 Medium Rare was the debut filmmaking effort for its executive producer, Errol Pang,4 and it has been credited with reawakening Singapore’s local film scene.5 Medium Rare received mixed reviews from movie critics.6

The local filmmaking industry had largely been in a lull since the film company Cathay-Keris stopped making films in 1973.7 Although there were a few films co-produced by Singapore in the 1970s, these were not released locally then.8 Ventures into local films at the time were deemed risky, as Taiwan- and Hong Kong-made Chinese movies were popular and thus posed as strong competition to local films.9

In November 1990, Errol Pang, executive producer of Derrol Stepenny Productions, announced that he would be financing and producing Singapore’s first full-length English movie.10 Entitled Medium Rare, the film was loosely based on the true story of Adrian Lim, his wife and mistress, who were all executed in 1988 for their ritualistic murder of two children.11 It was planned for the movie to be shot in time for entry to the coming Cannes Film Festival in France.12

The movie got off to a shaky start as the production was beset with personnel, financial and sponsorship problems,13 delaying the shooting for about a month.14 The original director and scriptwriter backed out because the fees they demanded could not be met. Two sponsorship deals worth S$50,000 were also retracted, compounding the difficulties.15 Finally, shooting began in April 1991.16

Shot in Singapore, the film was set in various places such as a Peranakan house on Tong Watt Road, a house on Mount Pleasant Drive, Giok Hong Tian Temple on Havelock Road, East Coast Park and Pan Pacific Hotel. Shooting lasted five weeks and was completed on 14 May 1991. A press conference on 16 May 1991 introduced the film, actors and other details to the public.17

As Singapore did not have the necessary filmmaking facilities, the post-production processes were outsourced to Australia.18 After getting a Parental Guidance (PG) rating and signing television and video rights in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei with Cathay Organisation,19 the movie opened to mixed reviews by patrons who watched its preview screening in late November 1991. Some liked it for its original plot, local scenery and authentic-sounding local accents by the actors.20 Others found the movie too slow-paced, going beyond 100 minutes of screen time, lacked suspense and gore, and suffered from a weak script and poor editing.21 The $1.7-million film grossed about S$130,000 at the box office.22

Film credits
Executive producer: Errol Pang 
Director: Arthur Smith 
Producer: Graham Moore 
Scriptwriters: Margaret Chan and Rani Moorthy23
Cast: Dore Kraus, Margaret Chan, Jamie Marshall and Rani Moorthy24
Cost of production: S$1.7 million25
Released in cinemas: 28 November 199126

Nureza Ahmad & Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman

1. Julia Goh, “Medium Rare – High on Local Colour, Low on Suspense,” Straits Times, 25 November 1991, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “EDB Is Not Directly Involved in Making of Medium Rare,” Straits Times, 30 April 1991, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Julia Goh, “Filming of S’pore’s First Full-Length Movie Completed,” Straits Times, 17 May 1991, 28. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “But It’s One Small Step Forward,” Straits Times, 30 November 1991, 6; Goh, Medium Rare.”
5. Santha Oorjitham, “The Envelopes, Please: Singapore’s Film Festival Will Test the Island’s Fledgling Movie Industry,” Asiaweek, 11 April 1997; “Reel Life in Singapore: It’s Renaissance Time for the Island’s Film Industry,” Asiaweek, 16 June 1995.
6. Goh, Medium Rare.”
7. “Reel Life in Singapore.”
8. Timothy White, “When Singapore was Southeast Asia’s Hollywood,” (The Arts 5, December 1997)
9. “Reel Life in Singapore.”
10. “Adrian Lim Story to Be Basis of $1.7 M Film,” Straits Times, 14 November 1990, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “EDB Is Not Directly Involved”; “Adrian Lim Hanged,” New Paper, 27 December 1988, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
12. “Adrian Lim Story to Be Basis of $1.7 M Film.”
13. “EDB Is Not Directly Involved.”
14. Goh, “Filming of S’pore’s First Full-Length Movie Completed.” 
15. Julia Goh, “Singapore's First English Feature Film Hits Snags,” Straits Times, 13 April 1991, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Goh, “Singapore's First English Feature Film Hits Snags”; “EDB Is Not Directly Involved.”
17. Goh, “Filming of S’pore’s First Full-Length Movie Completed.” 
18. Goh, “Filming of S’pore’s First Full-Length Movie Completed.” 
19. Julia Goh, “Coming Soon: Medium Rare,” Straits Times, 5 October 1991, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Goh, Medium Rare.”
21. Goh, Medium Rare.”
22. “Adrian Lim Story to Be Basis of $1.7 M Film”; “Film Industry Here: Ups and Downs and Ups,” Straits Times, 22 May 1998, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Goh, “Filming of S’pore’s First Full-Length Movie Completed”; Goh, “Singapore's First English Feature Film Hits Snags.”
24. Goh, “Filming of S’pore’s First Full-Length Movie Completed.”
25. “But It’s One Small Step Forward”; “Adrian Lim Story to Be Basis of $1.7 M Film.”
26. “But It’s One Small Step Forward.”

The information in this article is valid as at March 2020 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.

Motion picture industry--Singapore
Motion picture film
Performing Arts