Original film title in Malay: Azimat
English title: The Seal of Solomon
Directed by Rolf Bayer
Written by Rolf Bayer
Starring: Pancho Magalona, Saloma, Ahmad Mahmud, Tita Doran
Produced by Malay Film Productions (Shaw Bros.)
Downtown Singapore (aerial view)
Runme Shaw’s villa (34, Queen Astrid Park)
Boat Quay & Elgin Bridge (Singapore River)
Singapore Turf Club (Bukit Timah)
Outram Prison (Pearl’s Hill Prison)?
Sky Palace Restaurant at Asia Insurance Building (Finlayson Green)
Said to be a loose adaptation of French novelist Honoré de Balzac’s ‘La Peau de chagrin’ (‘The Magic Skin’), the Malay-language film Azimat was Filipino (some say Filipino-American) Rolf Bayer’s first directorial effort for the Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Productions.
(Before his stint with the Shaw Brothers, Rolf Bayer had written a number of scripts for his compatriot director Lamberto V. Avellana, most notably Badjau/1957, a Philippines-Singapore co-production with backing from the Cathay-Keris film studio; it was released in Singapore/Malaya as ‘Badjau Anak Laut’.)
For Azimat (a Malay word for ‘talisman’), Rolf Bayer was probably inspired by an old French tale about the excesses of bourgeois materialism (‘La Peau de chagrin’), and adapted the story for then-contemporary Singapore, an island city with a modern, cosmopolitan side that was inhabited by rich urbanites reveling in the trappings of material wealth and luxury. The film’s narrative centers on Rene (Pancho Magalona), a rich man’s son who indulges so heavily in women, music and wine that he has a falling out with his father. Down and distraught, Rene roams into an elderly Chinese man’s basement shop and chances upon a magic skin (a talisman) which is said to be able to fulfill whatever he desires for, shrinking slightly upon the realization of each wish. With the powerful magic skin, Rene moves quickly to quench his desires for the usual obsessions, but soon realizes that misfortunes begin to befall the people around him.
Befitting an urban tale of greed and debauchery, Azimat’s film locations were likely chosen to comprise places that were associated with the affluent in Singapore – where they live (Runme Shaw’s villa in Queen Astrid Park); where they hang out (Bukit Timah Turf Club, Sky Palace Restaurant at Asia Insurance Building, nightclubs and classy restaurants); and where they look for adventures outside of their domain (Singapore River’s Boat Quay; it was formerly a working-class district of go-downs and shophouses before it was gentrified in the 1990s).
After Azimat, Rolf Bayer would direct another film for the Shaw Brothers, but this time it was a Chinese film – 星岛芳踪 (‘Black Gold’; Released in 1959, the film concerns drug trafficking). It was shot on location in Singapore (Stevens Road, Merdeka Bridge, Changi Prison, St. John’s Island) and Malaya (Cameron Highlands) using the crew and equipment of the Jalan Ampas studio, and featured a multi-racial cast of local Malays, Hong Kong Chinese and indigenous Sakai tribesmen.
1. ‘Tiga film Melayu untok pesta Asia di-Manila’. Berita Harian. 14 March 1958, p. 7.
2. ‘‘Azimat’ moves at exciting pace’. The Singapore Free Press. 31 May 1958, p. 4.
3. La Peau de chagrin. Wikipedia.
4. Boat Quay. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2004.
5. Singapore Turf Club. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2004.
6. ‘Asia Building will get its first tenants in November’. The Straits Times. 23 September 1955, p. 1
7. ‘‘Highest and largest’ restaurant to open soon’. The Straits Times. 29 November 1955, p. 12.
8. ‘Restaurant will be in the ‘sky’’. The Straits Times. 16 December 1955, p. 5.
9. ‘Announcing the opening of the Sky Palace Restaurant’. The Straits Times. 5 February 1956, p. 19.
10. ‘Sky Palace: 123 put in claims’. The Straits Times. 7 June 1957, p. 1.
11. Former Asia Insurance Building (Ascott Raffles Place). Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2014.
12. 《星岛芳踪》续拍星外景. Sin Chew Jit Poh 星洲日报. 29 March 1958, p.14.
13. 邵氏新片星岛芳踪继续拍制. Sin Chew Jit Poh 星洲日报. 3 April 1958, p.18.
© 1958 Malay Film Productions
© 2003 Music Valley
Digital Map Source:
Great Britain. Royal Air Force, Singapore photomap, National Library of Australia, MAP G8041.A4 s6 1950. [http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn502375]
© 2013, 2014 Toh Hun Ping