Original film title in Malay: Rachun Dunia
Literal English translation of film title: Poison of the World
Chinese title: 野花綺夢
Directed by B. S. Rajhans
Written by A. R. Iyer (story)
Songs by Zubir Said
Produced by Malay Film Productions (Shaw Brothers)
Cast: Osman Gumanti, Kasma Booty, Siput Sarawak, P. Ramlee, Ja’afar Wiryo, A. R. Tompel, Siti Tg. Perak
Released February 1950 (in Singapore)
Film Locations (in Singapore):
Colonial-era bungalow (Malay-Anglo style)
Singapore General Hospital (Bowyer Block)
Jamal (Osman Gumanti), the eldest son of a rich lumber businessman, is married to Aminah (Kasma Booty). Together, they live with their young daughter Mardiana in a colonial-era bungalow, and are served by a pair of domestic helpers. Jamal tires of tending to his father’s business and comes under the influence of Harun (P. Ramlee), an insurance agent, who conspires with a seductive woman, Aishah, to cheat Jamal of his wealth. Jamal falls for Aishah and submits to her wishes, leaving Aminah and Mardiana to fend for themselves.
The Bowyer block of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) in Outram appears for a brief moment in the film when one of the domestic helper in the narrative is hospitalized. The Bowyer block, with its iconic clock tower, was the architectural centerpiece when the general hospital was opened in March 1926. Only the portico, the clock tower and central core of the block remains today. The “wings” of the building had been torn down to make way for new (and modern) buildings in the hospital compounds. What remains of the Bowyer block is now under conservation and serves as the SGH Museum.
From the programme booklet of ‘Majulah! The Film Music of Zubir Said‘, by the National Museum of Singapore Cinematheque (2012):
“Rachun Dunia situates itself within the cultural climate of its time, mirroring the reality of the modernising landscape and the apprehension of changing social norms. Acutely tuned to the traditions of a domestic melodrama, Rachun Dunia tells a tale about the disintegration of a simple family with the influence of decadent lifestyles arising from increasing affluence, greed and desire within society.
“Jamal (Osman Gumanti) and Aminah (Kasma Booty) are happily married and have a new-born daughter Mardiana. Having inherited his father’s rubber trading business, Jamal and his family are financially secure and pass their days with much ease until Harun, an insurance agent played by a sleazy P. Ramlee, comes knocking at the door. An insurance plan leads to a more menacing plot as Harun introduces Jamal to his motley crew of friends and seduces him into the world of vice, figurated most potently by Harun’s bombshell girlfriend Aishah (Siput Sarawak), whom Jamal takes a liking for. Jamal falls more deeply entrenched in Harun and Aishah’s world, unaware of their intentions to embezzle his inheritance, and the bond between him and his family trembles within the onset of tragedy.
“Rachun Dunia is a conservative film at heart that asserts the continued importance of family values despite the loss of tradition within contemporary society. The temptations that the city provides become a catalyst that disrupts familial bonds, only for it to be rediscovered with a greater currency and importance amidst the uncertainty of modernity.”
© 1950 Malay Film Productions
© 2002 Music Valley
© 2012 Toh Hun Ping