Original film title in Malay: Che Mamat Parang Tumpol (literally ‘Mr. Mamat Blunt Machete’)
English title: The Black Hand Gang
Directed by L. Krishnan
Written by Pelham Groom (story & screenplay)
Language: Malay and Hokkien
Starring: Wahid Satay, M. Amin, Latifah Omar, Dollah Sarawak
Produced by Cathay-Keris
Year of release: 1960
Kampong Padang Terbakar (now demolished)
Crosby House & Nanyang Siang Pau Building (now-Afro-Asia Building)
Asia Insurance Building (Finlayson Green), Denmark House
Newspaper press factory
Collyer Quay, Robinson Road
Victoria Memorial Hall, Anderson Bridge
Woodlands-Johor Bahru Causeway
Singapore Traffic Police Headquarters (Peck Seah Street, Maxwell Road)
Woodsville Circus (Upper Serangoon Road)
McCallum Street, Shenton Way, Anderson Bridge, Hill Street
South Bridge Road, Bras Basah Road
Merdeka Bridge, Guillemard Circus, Kallang Park entrance and Old Airport Road
Frankel Avenue and Siglap Estate
Army Boys Trade School, Punjab Barracks (Nee Soon Camp)
RAF Changi, Changi Airbase
Joo Chiat Road shophouses and back alleys
Duku Road, Joo Chiat Place, Joo Chiat Lane
171, Joo Chiat Road (now Singapore Statutory Board Co-Op & Recreation Club)
Sims Avenue Community Centre
Vicinity of Cathay-Keris Film Studio (East Coast Road, Jalan Keris)
Joo Chiat Police Station & vicinity
CHE MAMAT, WHO LIVES IN THE KAMPONG WITH HIS NAGGING MOTHER, is deemed a good-for-nothing. However, his girlfriend, Fatimah, has faith that he will make good as a storyteller. She urges him to enter a story-writing competition organized by the newspaper Berita Singapura. By a twist of fate, the story Mamat submitted wins the top prize, which lands him a job as a journalist. His first assignment is to track down the Black Hand Gang, a criminal group that exhorts shop-owners to buy their beer and literally leaves black handprints behind as warning for non-compliance. The police get into the act too and begin to see handprints everywhere. A wild goose chase ensues.
The Black Hand Gang won the Best Comedy Award at the 8th Asian Film Festival in 1961. It features many intriguing film locations around Singapore, from the East Coast kampongs, Siglap Estate, Joo Chiat, to downtown Singapore, Shenton Way, Collyer Quay and the iconic Merdeka Bridge. It offers a glimpse of the rural and urban landscapes of late 1950s Singapore, a colonial outpost on the cusp of becoming an autonomous, self-governing state.
Note: The images above are presentation slides for a talk given by Hun Ping after a public screening of Che Mamat Parang Tumpol/The Black Hand Gang at library@orchard on 30 May 2015.
1. Hafiza Talib, Nostalgia Kampung Padang Terbakar. Singapore: Hafiza Talib, 2013.
2. Lily Kong, T. C. Chang, Joo Chiat: A Living Legacy. Singapore: Joo Chiat Citizen’s Consultative Committee & National Archives of Singapore, 2001.
3. Leon Comber, The triad: Chinese secret societies in 1950s Malaya & Singapore. Singapore: Talisman, Singapore Heritage Society, 2009.
4. Zheng Wenhui 郑文辉, The Singapore secret societies: their existence in the “e” era 新加坡私会党：e时代走向何方？. Singapore: Lan dian tu shu 蓝点图书, 2001.
© 1960 Cathay-Keris
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, 2015 Toh Hun Ping