Way, way before the upcoming Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood had already made its foray into Singapore with a little film called Saint Jack.
Executively produced by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, Saint Jack is an adaptation of Paul Theroux’s 1973 novel of the same name which depicts Singapore’s seedy past — one filled with prostitutes, pimps, gangs, and other unwholesome things one no longer associates with our squeaky clean metropolis. It was groundbreaking in some ways — it was the first Hollywood movie entirely shot on location in Singapore; it featured homosexual scenes; it featured trans women.
Unsurprisingly, the film was banned in Singapore in 1980 over explicit content. Nonetheless, Saint Jack remains to be an amazing, extensive look at what the country was like in the late ‘70s, in all its gritty reality.
Today, all remnants of the old world have been given a new coat of paint to the point of sterility.
Thankfully, Toh Hun Ping of Singapore Film Locations Archive went through all the effort to sit down through the movie, spot all the landmarks and compare them with how it looks like today. His work is part of the extras in the Blu-ray version of Saint Jack released last year, which in turn, has been re-uploaded on YouTube. It’s a fascinating watch to see how much has changed since then.
Editor’s Note: Article amended to correctly accredit video creator, apologies for the mix-up.