Saturday, September 17, 2005

To The Movies

Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, when television was not yet widely available in Singapore, our favorite entertainment was the movies.

And our favorite movies … yes, you’ve guessed it – the Wong Fei Hong series starring the Kwan Tak Hing as Wong Fei Hong, Shek Kin as the villain, Cho Tat Wah as one of Wong’s disciples, Leong Foon and the beloved Sai Kwa Pau, the guy with the buck teeth and stammering speech as Ngar Chat So..


The story invariably ends with the villain’s defeat and repentance; but not before having to endure a long sermon from the Master. The early episodes were in black and white of course; but I recall that some of the later episodes had the last segments in colour. I suppose it was due to budget constraint. But nevertheless, my brothers and I had a great time watching these movies.


Our favorite theatre was the South Country Theatre, or Lam Kok (南国), located in Kampong San Teng (Bishan) along Braddell Road near to the new Raffles Junior College. It was an open-air theatre, meaning that if it rains, you need to carry an umbrella. If the rain has stopped, you need to bring your own newspapers to place on the wet wooden benches . I remember the multi-coloured fluorescent tubes bordering the screen, and the occasional lizard crawling across our hero’s face.


I don’t know why, but the songs they played left a deep impression on me. Often the songs were English pop songs sung in dialect. There was one particular song which was simply hilarious. Try to picture it sung in Hokkien to the tune of a popular Harry Belafonte tune.

“Teh-O, Teh-O. Sing Kar Por lang lang ai lim teh-O”
(Translated: All Singaporeans love to drink teh-O)

Another one goes:

“Hey mambo, mambo rock, Chief minister, Lim Yew Hock”

Another theatre that our father liked to bring us to was the Bright Cinema (光明) at Paya Lebar Road. After the show, we would adjourn to Lorong Tai Seng for the delicious herbal mutton soup. To this day, my brother David cannot resist this delightful dish in spite of the high cholesterol content. Sometimes, we would tar-pow the fried hor fun from a stall along Paya Lebar Rd. I remember this fat chef who liked to clean his wok with some kind of bamboo brush. To this day, whenever I smell the aroma of fried hor fun, I think of him and his big round ladle. Ah; the glorious food – this topic deserves a separate blog.

Other theatres we frequented, though less often were the Imperial Cinema at Thomson Road, near to the present community club near to the SPC petrol station; and one at Macpherson Road. I cannot remember the name but we saw the Walt Disney cartoon, The Sleeping Beauty there.

Later, during our secondary school days, my brother David and I liked to go from our school at ACS Barker Road to Hoover Cinema at Balestier Road. We saw countless Shaw Brothers kung fu movies there. Then there was the Paramount Theatre in Seranggoon Gardens, where we watched many Hercules movies starring Steve Reeves. Once we brought our cousin from Johor Bahru, Meng to watch this incredibly boring movie (supposed to be Japanese samurai movie with lots of action; you know, the type where the hero defeats 5 or 6 baddies by wildly swing his samurai sword, and at the end of the fight scene, everyone remains frozen for a few seconds before the bad guys drop dead one by one.). The title was, The Purple Hood. Years later when I visited our cousin in Kuala Lumpur, he could still recall with fondness this horrible movie.

The advent of television brought a whole new world of entertainment for us kampong kids. I remember this rich and generous family in our kampong who bought the first tv set. They actually placed the tv outside their house for the neighbours to enjoy. Every night, we brought along stools to watch from their front yard right until the Majullah Singapura. My favorite programme was Everglades. Other shows we loved were Rin Tin Tin and Lassie.


11 comments:

frannxis said...

quiz 1: Cho Tat Wah, Ko Loh Chuen

quiz 2: I only recognize 2 of them:- (3)-Sai Kwa Pau, (2)-Lum Kau.

Lam Chun See said...

I just recalled another hilarious song; assure you its true, I'm not kidding, unless my memory playing tricks:

"Heh mambo, mambo rock;
Chief minister, Lim Yew Hock".

Anonymous said...

Are you putting a prize for those who can guess the actors' names right? I know them all except for the 4th character...the tallest guy among all was
obviously 'Goh Loh Cun'.

Chu Chun Sing

Anonymous said...

The girl in Quiz no. 2 is Yam Yin. She uses a pair of short swords.

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry I also don't know who is the man #4. in Quiz 2. I was hopy some of you old-timers out there can help out.

Anonymous said...

I remembered Hagemeyer Special by Larry Lai (who incidentally used to live in SG too). Little House on the Prairie with Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert...who can forget the music played at the end of the show. I was at a corporate dinner just a few days ago ,it was a charity event with Mr S R Nathan as the guest of honour - SusanNg was the host (she looked exactly the same), she used to read the news as well as host the Post Bank show i think. -- Roger

Tom said...

Tom said...
I have been looking at film called ,The Boy In The Sriped Pyjamas( A timeless story of innocence and humamity found ) I recommend it to any one who likes this type of Film, it contians scenes of Holocaust threat and horror, the This film has been given five stars, mind you its a wee bit sad at the end.

Tom said...

Tom said ...
Sorry the word should be Striped, not sriped. da.

Lam Chun See said...

Tom, I like movies like this genre but I haven't been able to catch it yet. Wonder if the dvd is out yet?

Tom said...

Tom said ...
Chun See, the film is on DVD, I beleave the film has been out for about One and a half `years, if you cant get it in Singapore I can send it out.

Edward said...

Chun See, yes I remember all the television oldies – from WB cartoons (bugs bunny, road runner etc) to F-Troop, Big Valley (my mother’s favourite), Bonanza, Hawaiian Eye (Steve McGarret), The Man from UNCLE, Mission Impossible, Dr Who, Green Acres (Eva Gabor), Ben Casey, Dr Kildare, The Green Hornet (Bruce Lee as Kato), Kung Fu (David Carradine) and many more. The kids loved the cowboy movies like Lone Ranger, Bat Masterson and Have Gun Will Travel (Paladin). The evening news was covered by the serious bespectacled Steven Tan and after the news “Woman’s World” was hosted by Tan See Lai. I could sit back and think of all the programmes we used to watch – even our local comedians Wong Sar and Yar Fong. Yeah … those were the days.