If you haven't read William Simmons' review of the awesome SINGAPORE SLING on this site already, then please do. Purely because he perfectly conveys why this demented, beautiful film is so essential.

For what it's worth, I'll say that Nikos Nikolaidis' 1990 thriller opens with a bizarre pair of women digging a grave at night, outside their plush chateau in the heart of deepest Greece.

A detective (Panos Thanassoulis) turns up, wounded and comatose in the rain nearby. The women - a mother (Michele Valley) and her adult daughter (Meredyth Herold) - drag his flailing body into their house and promptly tie him to their bedposts.

There, the detective - dubbed Singapore Sling by the daughter - is subjected to various forms of torture as we gradually learn that he's arrived on their doorstep after following clues in his hunt for a woman called Laura.

Is Laura alive or dead? Either way, the detective is in love with her despite having never met her in the flesh. Could it be that the deranged daughter is Laura? Or are she and her mother merely trying to drive the detective insane in a bid to cover all traces of a murder they've committed? Indeed, are these crazed banshees actually related - or are they lovers? What's going on?!

Nikolaidis toys with these notions and gives very little in the way of straight answers right up until the final explanatory moments. Until that point, he instead plies on the surreal nightmare set-pieces, baroque 'film noir'-worshipping aesthetics and perverse sexual shenanigans.

Highlights include the daughter explicitly masturbating with a kiwi fruit; the scene in which she wretches up several servings of vomit onto the unfortunate detective's face; mother pissing in the man's face midway through his trial by electrocution; one character affixing a dagger to their groin and proceeding to stab another character in the anus; the most revolting communal eating scenes this side of SWEET MOVIE.

That it all looks absolutely astonishing in its beauty, and that the three actors (who account for the entire cast) are superb is just the icing on a very weird, very unique cake. Clearly owing its central conceit to Otto Preminger's classic noir LAURA, SINGAPORE SLING can also rank THUNDERCRACK! as a major influence, sharing the latter's mix of 40s cinema stylistics and grindhouse excesses.

Cinematographer Aris Stavrou and art director Marie-Louise Bartholomew deserve a special mention, as together they infuse every single scene with the type of breath-taking splendour you simply don't get to see in films as unruly as this. Shooting in stark monochrome helps tremendously, lending the film a look closer to its noir forefathers. That feel is further achieved via the lead actresses wearing lace gloves, tiaras and the like, and the antique set decor of their foreboding dwellings. Oh, the classical music on the soundtrack is a cute timeless move too, especially when it acts as a canny paradox against the tidal wave of degradation unfurling casually on-screen.

It is, in short, a brilliant film that gets richer with each subsequent viewing. And why Herold (who, along with Valley, speaks in English - only Thanassoulis' narration is in Greek) never became a bigger actress, I'll never know: she's sexy, funny - black humour is rife throughout, even when the film is at its grossest - and convincingly psychotic throughout. She's hot stuff, indeed.

This 2-disc set comes with one blu-ray disc, and one DVD.

The blu-ray is home to the film alone.

Originally released in May 2006, Synapse's region 1 DVD presented the film uncut but in 1.66:1 and with a curious case of improved English subtitles to cater for the moments in the film that are spoken in Greek, which were chunkily posited over previous burned-in subtitles.

Though Synapse�s DVD looked good for its time (and was a revelation for anyone who�d previously put up with the dodgy bootleg version that had been doing the rounds), Bildstoerung/Al!ve's 2013 blu-ray is so much of an upgrade you wouldn�t believe.

Firstly, the film is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. Nikolaidis� son was personally involved in this new HD transfer and confirmed that the intended ratio was 1.33:1, as further homage to the noir films his father was tipping his stylistic hat to. Alexander Beneke from Drop Out confirms such on, going on to suggest "if you compare this image to Synapse�s US widescreen release you�ll notice that the image of the latter has been zoomed up and thus cropped at the top and bottom".

By George, he�s right. A quick comparison reveals that there is substantially more info on offer here, and that the film looks superbly framed in 4:3. For a film as visually sumptuous as SINGAPORE SLING, this correct framing really does make all the difference.

On top of that, the 1080p HD picture quality is jaw-dropping. Clean, sharp, filled with detail and depth: the film comes presented as a healthily sized MPEG4-AVC file and looks remarkable. It was a pleasure to stare at from beginning to end. Very occasional instances of minor softness are no doubt inherent with how the film was shot and don�t spoil the overall stunning impact of this beautiful presentation.

Oh, and going back to the original camera negative for this new restoration means those nasty burned-in subtitles are now a thing of the past.

The original audio track is, as mentioned above, a mix of Greek and English (mainly the latter). It�s presented here in 2.0 Master HD, and sounds exceptionally clear and clean.

Optional subtitles are available in English for the Greek segments; these are well-written and easily readable at all times. There are also German subtitles available, should you require them.

The disc opens to a static main menu. From there, a pop-up scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 10 chapters.

Over on the DVD, we get some most welcome extra features.

The first and most significant is a superbly produced 77-minute documentary on Nikolaidis entitled "Directing Hell". In it, the late director speaks of his often controversial films while many collaborators (actors, actresses, his son etc) are also on hand to chip in with their own recollections on how they assumed the filmmaker was demented, a sexual pervert etc. It makes for a fascinating watch, and is further bolstered by lots of high quality clips from a plethora of Nikolaidis films such as SINGAPORE SLING, THE WRETCHES, THE ZERO YEARS and so on. Tracing his own career from his first two short films onwards, the director looks at recurring themes in his films (sex, death, lesbianism, burials, vomiting ...), while we're also afforded plenty of glimpses of him at work on-set.

This documentary is a great advert for the director's work: much of it looks reminiscent of Andrej Zulawski's oeuvre, being a mix of the sexually provocative, the excessively violent and meticulously shot arthouse.

A 22-minute with the director follows. Filmed in 1993, this finds Nikolaidis talking us briskly through his films in chronological order and discussing the impact each one had on his career. He's honest enough to point out the films that were mistakes, and clearly fond of SINGAPORE SLING's status as a cult item overseas.

Both of the above are equipped with the benefit of optional English or German subtitles.

We also get 4 minutes worth of TV commercials directed by Nikolaidis. These being designed for Greek television, they add spice to even the most mundane products: who'd have thought ice cream could have such smutty connotations?

Next up are trailers for a few other titles in the Bildstoerung/Al!ve roster: THE FILMS OF ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY (coming soon in HD), POSSESSION, LA BETE, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG, SOUND AND FURY, GANDU, THE TENTH VICTIM and DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS. These all come with German subtitles.

It's worth mentioning that this set comes with beautiful packaging too. The 2-disc clear keepcase is a little taller than a standard DVD, and graced with gorgeous monochrome artwork. A sturdy outer slipcase boasts the cover as seen above. Inside the set, you'll find a nicely designed and glossy 12-page booklet. Although the text of Gerd Reda's essay is in German, I was able to savour the photos littered throughout this addition.

SINGAPORE SLING gets a wonderful, totally unexpected leap to HD here, thanks to my heroes at Bildstoerung/Al!ve.

An incredible film just got a whole lot better. I can hardly believe it. Christmas has come early, all over your fucking face.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Alive - Vertrieb und Marketing/DVD
Region B
Rated 18
Extras : see main review