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   Sumpah Pontianak  


Sumpah Pontianak

Reviewed by Timothy White

English Title: Blood of Pontianak
Director: B.Narayan Rao
Writing Credits: Hamzah, Abdul Razak
Cast: Maria Menado, Salmah Ahmad, Mustaffa Maarof
Genre: Horror
Country: Singapore
Language: Malay
Year Released: 1958
Runtime: 86 min
Rating: *** (out of four stars)

Alamak!!! The monsters are loose in Singapura in this vintage made-in-Singapore, Malay-language movie about a vicious pontianak. In case you don't know, the pontianak is a (really ugly) female vampire of Malay myth (we hope!), who lives in banana trees and turns into a beautiful woman you can marry if you put a nail into the back of her neck (really!).

One of five pontianak movies made by Cathay-Keris in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Sumpah Pontianak has all the beloved conventions of the genre. One of these conventions, of course, is a number of different monsters, including the orang hutan, a wild and crazy guy who lives in a cave and carries off women; a sort of bird guy with a sort of tiger body who lays eggs, lives in a cave, and grabs women out of windows; and a bat guy who lives in an old house (maybe the caves were all taken?) and carries off women. The bat guy actually starts off as dead guy with a sort of smashed smiley face, who comes to life when a stake is pulled out of his heart; he then somehow changes into a much more pleasant-looking bat guy (he looks like a big soft toy), and instead of raping and killing women, he's looking for one to marry. But he doesn't ask first, and this gets him into trouble.

Another convention of the genre is the singing satay man, and here we are treated to not just one, but two satay songs, both about the pleasures of eating and selling those little roasted bits of chicken, beef, and liver. As is typical of these films, there are a number of songs from a variety of characters, some romantic and heartfelt, others strictly for comedy relief, but all entirely useless in terms of the narrative. Of course, this is what makes them so much fun!

The real star of the film, however, is the pontianak herself. She is simply misunderstood, and wants only to live a peaceful life and to save her daughter, Maria, who, because she is prone to wandering off in the jungle by herself, is in need of frequent saving. Although beleaguered by the ignorant villagers, the pontianak comes through for Maria every time, and in the end, Maria gets over her perpetual helplessness long enough to return the favor. Her mother, unfortunately, must decline Maria's invitation to live with her and her husband (who wasn't in on the decision), as she has important pontianak business to attend to.

If you are a fan of old Malay movies, cheesy monster movies, or B movies in general, you must see this! Sure, the story doesn't make much sense, but what does these days? Truly, you won't believe what your eyes are seeing and your ears are hearing. And, after seeing this one, you may never walk near a banana tree again!