Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sitora Harimau Jadian

Source: Fixi
 He directed 17 more movies after this, actually. But cheers!
Man, this is super-embarrassing. I was trying to get this entry out quickly without doing proper fact-checking. I admit to all factual error herein. This is a lesson for me. Thank you, Buku Fixi, for pointing out this mistake in your comment. Much appreciated. 

Sitora Harimau Jadian was reportedly the last movie P. Ramlee ever made. It was also said to be one of his worst.

After moving to Malaysia from Singapore, P. Ramlee began working at Pancha Delima Studio in Ulu Kelang. The studio was years behind the one used to work in back in Singapore's Jalan Ampas. The equipments there were dated, the staff very much inexperience. With whatever he could manage, P. Ramlee made a number a of movies that many thought were not among his best.

One such movie is Sitora. A horror feature, Sitora undoubtably suffered from technical setbacks. The special effect makeup for instance left viewers cringing, but not out of fear.

However, beneath the bad makeup is story that is genuinely P. Ramlee in its commentary and forwardness. For starters, weretigers? Whoah.

If only this were "Sitora versus some-monster-alien-etc." kind of movie. But no. P. Ramlee, being the auteur that he is, had bigger ideas.

The actual movie is said to be lost, with no working copy of it left in existence. The closest thing to the experience of watching Sitora is through the novelisation of the movie, recently republished by Fixi books, an imprint of Amir Muhamnad's Matahari Books.

The story takes place in Kampung Kiambang, a rural village in a grip of terror. Sitora, the titular weretiger, was attacking and murdering villagers, except those who paid him protection money.

Pendekar Amin, a silat teacher, refused to bow down to Sitora's demands. As a result of his defiance, his daughter became a repeated target of the mysterious being.

Enter Dr Effendi (P. Ramlee), a young aspiring doctor from the city. The idea of a weretiger was total baloney to him. As a man of science, he administered modern medicine treatment on Pendekar Amin's daughter. She was grateful, and subsequently smitten with the charming doctor.

Meanwhile, the body count continue to rise. Dr Effendi finally comes face to face with Sitora, and he finally realises there's more to this than pasty makeup. Making matter worse, Sitora turned him into a weretiger.

Sitora is an interesting take on science versus supernatural. The movie was made during a time when Malaya was on the verge of modernity. People used to go to bomohs whenever they got sick. And then came doctors in clinics prescribing pills. No pulut kuning or pengeras needed.
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