LOCATION SCOUTING IN “KORBAN FITNAH” (PART 3)
(continued from the previous post “Victims of Slander, Police Courts and Speakers’ Corner“)
The previous two parts on the film locations featured in Usmar Ismail’s “Korban Fitnah” have focused on the opening sequence of the film and covered places such as the Outram Prison, Pearl’s Hill, the Police Courts and Hong Lim Park. The final two parts of the “Korban Fitnah” series will present the remaining locations in Singapore featured in the film (some of which are no longer around), such as the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, seaside restaurants along Upper East Coast Road, C.K. Tang, former East Coast beach and promenade, a Malay fishing village, Joo Chiat Police Station, Singapore Hotel, and the General Hospital.
All the scenes and locations hereafter are recalled by Hussein in the film narrative as a long flashback sequence. (You may read the film synopsis in Part 1 of the “Korban Fitnah” series.) The locations listed here below and in the next post are also presented in order of appearance in the film/flashback.
The Film Locations (continued):
4. A Typical Bus Stop in the Suburbs, 1950s.
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”.
Hussein’s brother, Hassan, returns home from work by bus. He alights at a bus-stop which has a design typical of bus-stops in the Singapore suburbs during the 1950s — a simple zinc/tin roof shelter with safety barriers.
5. Tanjong Pagar Railway Station
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”.
Hussein was studying in Kuala Lumpur. After his final exams, he returns via train to Singapore where his family lives. He is also eager to meet his newly-wed brother and sister-in-law.
This sequence from the film shows a Malayan Railway (MR) 20-class diesel-electric train from Kuala Lumpur pulling into the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in Singapore.
6. Wyman’s Haven Restaurant (惠文港酒家) along Upper East Coast Road.
Film-still from “Korban Fitnah”.
Hussein receives news that he has passed his final exams and that his sister-in-law Rahimah is pregnant with his elder brother Hassan’s child. This double fortune calls for a celebration and a night out at the “Wyman’s Haven” with friends. There, they indulge in Chinese cuisine and soft drinks, and revel in Indonesian ballads performed by female songstresses with a backup band wearing Hawaiian shirts:
The “Wyman’s Haven” Restaurant (惠文港酒家) was a Chinese restaurant housed in a large seafront bungalow on the east coast of Singapore popular in the 1950s. According to Peter Chan, a guest blogger at Lam Chun See’s “Good Morning Yesterday” blog, “Wyman’s Haven” was owned by his maternal grandmother and it was built in the 1930s with extensions made in the 1950s. He also provided images of the exterior of the restaurant and the menu, and recalled that he would sit on the seawall outside the bungalow whilst waiting for his favourite roasted pigeon (烧乳鸽) to be ready.
From old newspaper records, I gathered that “Wyman’s Haven” was a popular dining place for sports clubs, associations and companies to host dinners and picnics for their members and staff. The restaurant ran many advertisements in the Straits Times during the late 1950s. One of them went like this: “WYMAN’s HAVEN welcome you to dine in the spacious lawn by the sea, the traditional Chinese New Year dishes, drink the best wine and dance to the lilting Hawaiin music of the ‘Pahidians’ on Chinese New Year’s Eve and night – 17th and 18th February. Address 357A, Upper East Coast Road 8 1/4 m.s. Tel: 44310.” (The Straits Times, 12 February 1958, Page 15.) Another in the classifieds would claim that “WE SERVE SPECIAL Chinese delicacies. Wyman’s Haven, Bedok, Tel: 44310.” (The Straits Times, 10 February 1959, Page 14). For all you know, the sequence featuring Wyman’s Haven in the film could have been a paid product placement.
The scenes of “Wyman’s Haven” in the film consists of one exterior shot of the neon-lit signboard at the entrance and numerous shots of the restaurant’s interior and furnishings:
The seafront restaurant’s business dwindled in the early 1960s due to land reclamation projects along the east coast of Singapore. The idyllic setting of the restaurant was drastically done away with and Wyman’s Haven probably closed down in the 1970s as result of that. On the former restaurant’s site now are a few semi-detached houses (Nos.580-590, Upper East Coast Road) and the entrance to Temasek Secondary School.
You can also catch a glimpse of the exterior of the seafront bungalow housing Wyman’s Haven in another Malay film — Mat Sentul’s “Mat Tiga Suku (or Mat 3/4)”, released in 1964. Here you can see the land reclamation in progress, and the seafront bungalow sitting next to a “desert” by the sea:
Film-stills from “Mat Tiga Suku”.
The bungalow with the cylindrical design housed the “Wyman’s Haven” Restaurant. It became a “desert-front” restaurant in the 1960s due to surrounding land reclamation works.
Make a guess as to what dear Mr. Mat Sentul is up to running around with the bus-stop pole. I will write about the film and the locations featured in it in a later post soon.
Back to “Korban Fitnah”, I also wish to point out here that both of the songs performed by the artistes and the band in the restaurant are Indonesian by origin, and it’s probably not by coincidence that the film director Usmar Ismail and the three main actors of the film are all Indonesians — Hussein [acted by Sukarno M. Noor]; Rahimah [acted by Maria Menado, who also produced the film]; and Hassan [acted by A.N. Alcaff]. And the sequence ends off with diners in kebayas and lounge suits dancing and yelping to a (Irish?) fiddle number…. All of these shot on location in a Singapore Chinese restaurant, with extras acting as diners and revelers from a multi-racial, multi-national cast. This may truly be an early “international-regional” film from Singapore par-excellence!
I was curious about the houses and bungalows that once lined the edge of the sea along Upper East Coast Road. Today, most of the land plots on the former sea front were occupied by new condominiums and private landed properties. In February 2013, I set out to look for traces of the former sea’s edge along Upper East Coast Road (the stretch between Bayshore Road and Bedok South Road) and the remnants of the past after redevelopments in the vicinity of the land reclamation works:
7. C.K. Tang Department Store, Orchard Road.
Is this perhaps another brand placement in the film?
In 1958 (a year before “Korban Fitnah”), the C.K. Tang Department Store was built along Orchard Road by Tang Choon Keng, a Singaporean visionary entrepreneur. It was then the first major retail venue in the vicinity. The now-well-known Orchard Shopping Belt has its earliest beginnings in this Chinese-roofed four-storey building modeled after the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Shopping was already one of the favourite pastimes of the well-heeled Singaporeans…
9. Bedok Restaurant & Hoi Meng Yuen Restaurant (海明苑酒家?) along Upper East Coast Road.
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”.
Wahab, Hussein’s room-mate in Kuala Lumpur, is in Singapore to visit him. However, he is punched in the face by Hussein for taking an unacceptable interest in Rahimah and furthermore, stalking her. A deceitful Wahab, wanting to seek revenge, sits down with Hassan at Bedok Restaurant and conjures up lies to convince Hassan that his brother and his wife are having an affair behind his back. Hassan believes in Wahab’s white lies and is devastated.
Bedok Restaurant happened to be another popular seaside restaurant (other than Wyman’s Haven) situated along the East Coast in the 1950s. No other images of the restaurant can be found online or in books. However, a search in the newspaper archives uncovered bits of information related to the Bedok Restaurant. It seems that a Mr. Teo Koon Lim owned the restaurant, of which the official address was 521C, Upper East Coast Road (The Straits Times 25 November 1955, Page 12). Ads in the Straits Times Classified were regular, and one of them went: “DRINK, DINE on verandah opposite sea, Bedok Restaurant, Telephone 447547.” (Straits Times 30 June 1957, Page 21). Indeed, the film sequence showing Hassan and Wahab at the restaurant were indeed shot on a verandah.
Apparently, the Bedok Restaurant at 520/521 (Upper) East Coast Road had been in existence since the 1920s and had served “European food and Sukiyaki” in the 1930s under a Japanese proprietress. It later reopened after World War II in November 1948 as a restaurant & bar with a Chinese eatery:
The “Wing Choon Yuen Restaurant (詠春園酒家)” next to Bedok Restaurant might have been a branch of the famous restaurant in Great World City. The name of the Chinese restaurant was later changed from “Wing Choon Yuen Restaurant (詠春園酒家)” to “Hoi Meng Yuen Restaurant (海明苑酒家?)” in the later half of 1950s:
The owner of the Bedok restaurant also ran a guesthouse in the same premises — The Bedok Corner Guest House:
So, where was 8 3/4 Mile, 521C or 522., Upper East Coast Road? If I am guessing correctly, it should be situated somewhere just before the Bedok Corner, near the junction of Upper East Coast Road and Jalan Haji Salam, about 500 metres to the east of Wyman’s Haven, and opposite where the Singapore Armed Forces Army Bedok Camp is now. Indeed, its address was changed to “797 Upper East Coast Road” in the 1960s following adjustments in the postal address system:
Bedok Restaurant probably suffered the same fate as Wyman’s Haven and closed down after land reclamation works moved the seafront outwards — that which led to the demise of many seaside restaurants in the vicinity. “Korban Fitnah” and its film crew probably saw their last days of popular existence.
Despite the closure of the Bedok restaurant, part of the bungalow housing the restaurant and guest house still remains to this day. I paid a visit to the plot of land at No.797 Upper East Coast Road and discovered that the base of the house and the staircase to the verandah has been conserved. The owner is redeveloping the site and building a new structure over the original base of Bedok Restaurant.
(Updated on 26 February 2013: Updated Hassan’s path in the map.)
1963 map of the Bedok Corner. The red circle marks out the location of the former Bedok Restaurant.
The blue line and arrows indicate the path and direction which Hassan in “Korban Fitnah” may have taken after he leaves the restaurant to go to the beachside promenade — refer to the next set of film-stills…
10. Promenade by the sea, along (Upper) East Coast Road.
(Updated on 26 February 2013: Added two collages and photo of concrete staircase along Upp East Coast Road)
Film-stills from “Korban Fitnah”. After hearing of Wahab’s slanderous revelation of his brother and his wife’s affair, Hassan leaves the Bedok Restaurant and walks towards the promenade by the sea. Here, the shot lingers on as Hassan walks down the staircase in despair and strolls towards the bench in the distance as “tragic” music plays in the background. The camera then pans from a mid-shot of a contemplative Hassan on the bench, over the empty East Coast promenade, and on to the expanse of the sea…
A place one would go to think things through.
A place where Hassan would contemplate revenge on his closed ones…
(to be continued…)
(Next in the “Korban Fitnah” series – “Destinations for Banished Beings and Potential Sites for Attempting Suicide.”)