Articles, Blog

Blood, Guts, and Bad Acting: Inside the Indonesian B Movies of the 1980s

Blood, Guts, and Bad Acting: Inside the Indonesian B Movies of the 1980s

I asked him, “Have you ever wanted
to take a shit, but it wouldn’t come out?” “Of course I have,” he said. So I said, “Look like
you’re trying to take that shit.” Strain your face that way. When I give the signal, turn around and act scared. Welcome to Foreign Film Club. VICE’s guide to creative, outrageous,
and unexpected cinema around the world. In this series
we’ll introduce you to filmmakers working far
from the major industries making films for their own audiences,
on their own terms and developing a unique
cinematic language in the process. In this episode, we look back at
Indonesian exploitation cinema of the 1980s.
In which genre films mixed outrageous gore,
imaginative low-budget visuals, charismatic B movie acting
to delirious effect. The New Order era in Indonesia
is defined as the phase between 1966 and 1998. In which military strongman,
General Suharto ruled the country. While any direct criticism
of the corrupt regime was strictly prohibited,
the government relaxed censorship laws
for exploitation films. In response, genre filmmakers
relished the freedom to violate the boundaries
of taste and common sense in ways that helped them cope with
the repression of daily life. The golden age of
Indonesian pulp cinema lasted for almost 20 years
and then ended abruptly in 1997. Our guide to the world of
Indonesian exploitation cinema is Joko Anwar, a director
who’s part of a current new wave in Indonesian film. And who grew up loving
the exploitation film’s of the 80s. He met us at the Grand Theater, formally one of Jakarta’s
premiere movie palaces. Now a ruined shell
of its former glory. Well, I was born in 1976. The society at the time
was very into films. I remember going together
with my neighbors, my friends, and my families
watching Indonesian films. It was the best time of my life. You can see from the screen
it was massive love for the craft
or whatever it was. And massive effort
to please the audience. At that time, it was not easy
to produce film that has serious tone. Especially when it involves politics. Most of these film makers thought
that they just could produce genre films. In which the censorship
was not that tight. They can put violence. High quotient of blood and gore. Sexual innuendos. And sometimes,
they can put nipples also. But, back then, there were no
Islamic groups pressing any movies to be taken down
from theaters. Most of these films are produced by
Rapi Films and Soraya Intercine Films. Rapi Studios was the biggest
and most prolific of the Indonesian genre studios. Which created between 50 to 60 films
during its apex in the 1980s. Usually budgeted around
$150,000 to $200,000 dollars some of which were released
on the international market. The company was founded by
Gope Samtani and his brother, sons of an Indian family
that had been successful in the textile industry. I was interested in films
since my school days. I used to go to the studio
to see the shooting and so on that made me decide,
that’s my business. In 1968, we started Rapi Films. In ’71 we did our first production. Indonesians, you know,
they believe in black magic, they believe in mystics. So, even though they feel scared
after they see the movie they still want to watch it. We always show that
good always conquers evil. The Indonesian priest type of man
will read the verses of Quran and try to drive away the ghost. His throne includes
the heavens and the earth. He is never weary of
preserving them. He is the sublime,
the tremendous. Imam Tantowi is the
foremost screenwriter of the New Order exploitation era. Over the course of his career,
he wrote more than 30 scripts and directed 18 films. Winning the Indonesian
version of the Oscar for both screenwriting
and directing. I have been writing
screenplays since the 70s. I wrote mystical films
like Ratu Ilmu Hitam, and action films like
Jaka Sembung, which is famous for
a flying severed head that reconnects to the body. The producers at Rapi
were open to any idea. As long as it made sense
and appealed to the wider audience, they would most likely approve it. Our audience were always
lower-middle class people. They were the ones who
would watch these kinds of films. They were the ones who
would watch these kinds of films. They use materials that are not usually used for
special effects in films. Like, chicken feathers or stuff
that they can find very easily in Indonesia. And this created a spectacle,
entertainment that was very outrageous for the audience
at the time and people loved it. As art director, El Badrun was responsible for the outrageously
gruesome special effects were a calling card of the genre. Today, his visual effects workshop
is still operational, creating props for TV soap operas. Lets go check out the props. We’re making weapons today. Both real and fake ones. Look! Smoke! This is what happens when
you heat it up too much. You can place the blunt
end of a spear here. It can also be applied here. It would look like
the spear went through. In one of the scenes
in Ratu Ilmu Hitam, one of the main actors, Alan, had to pull his head
all the way back, to make it invisible when
the camera angle is low. Then I mounted a fake
head with rubber latex on him. And I told him to wiggle
around like this And then he pulls
his fake head off. You can see the
rubber glue stretching out. The fake head falls off as we pump fake
blood out of his neck. Those were our
techniques back then. Lower-middle class people
loved movies with violent, bloody, disgusting,
and horrific elements. It was their form
of entertainment. We made all kinds
of crazy gimmicks such as blood splattering
or veins bursting. Sometimes we’d make fetuses
with terrifying monstrous faces exploding out of stomaches. They had sharp fangs. That was exactly
what attracted the audience. They loved it. They were scared
but they loved it. I saw many kung fu films but they did not have outrageous
violence like in Jaka Sembung. And they put everything they could. They gouge eyes, they cut limbs and everything. Burn it to the ground. The new order era created
its own cinematic icons, of which taekwondo
martial artist Barry Prima, was one of the most unexpectedly
charismatic and beloved. Among with other Rapi productions,
he starred in the seminal New Order exploitation classic,
Jaka Sembung, or The Warrior. I met the era’s biggest male star, Barry Prima,
when I was still an assistant director. I was the one who discovered him and turned him from a small city thug
into the capital’s biggest action star. He knew nothing
about acting. I didn’t train him through the complex
Stanislavski acting method or whatever. In a later interview, Barry claimed
that he never made a good film because the scripts
had always been bad, and the budgets too low. Though he also recalled
enjoying his time as an actor. Barry’s co-star in his second film
was Suzzanna, the Horror Queen
of Indonesian Cinema. An acclaimed actress who often
inhabited the role of witches, spirits, and demons
with otherworldly detachment. Even now there were no
comparison to her. She was really able to put
her own style, she did not imitate
any characters from the west. So, even though we saw her as a
ghost character, but she always shows fragility
so we can relate to her. Forgive me. I’ve killed all the people
who crushed our happiness. Her off-screen affinity
for the occult only deepened her mystical aura. She had love for mystics. When she shot the film,
she used to go to this room. That was dedicated to the lady
of the seas to get the blessings. I remember she used to eat jasmine
flowers and other unusual stuff. It was her way of warding
off potential rival stars. Working with her felt like
working with a true prima donna. Suzzanna appeared in over 40 films before passing away
in 2008 at age 66. Rapi studios released
at least 20 films on the international market
that were dubbed into English, and incorporated the efforts of
variably talented American actors. Their biggest hit,
Final Score, in 1986. Could be considered the peak
of Indonesian exploitation cinema. People were amazed,
we could sell this Jaka Sembung. We changed the title to The Warrior, and we could make good sales
to foreign countries. We could sell for America,
North America, then we could sell for Germany,
Italy, all over Europe, Asia. Everywhere was sold. No, please! Bobby says hello, too. Some of them were bought
by American distributors, screened in underground cinemas. But, not because of the high quality, but because of the
unique quality of it. But then after that again,
we were hit with the crisis, the dollar from 2,000
shot to 16,000 rupiah. The Asian financial crisis of 1997 destroyed several industries and wiped out much
of the disposable income of the Indonesian lower-middle class. Coupled with the rise
of free to air television, which featured a glut
of imported programming, it lead to the rapid decline
of popular Indonesian cinema. At that time,
Indonesian audiences could see that there were many good films that
they could watch on TV for free and they began to question, why did they have to
watch Indonesian films? It all fell apart.
Our film industry collapsed. They think filmmaking
can be done lazily, so little effort,
the least effort they put in. They no longer cared
about the audience. We all know how it turned out. We had to start all over again
and regain the trust of our audience. Instead, I switched to
the TV industry which is full of absurdities. I’ve now done thousands
of TV episodes. Today, I’m just living out
the final years of my life After two decades of
sporadic output, 2017 seems to have marked
an unexpected resurgence of Indonesian film.
With ticket sales up by 23 percent. And a new wave of young
filmmakers creating personal, artistic films, some of which
even directly reference the joyful creative madness
of their forefathers in the New Order
exploitation cinema. Movies like The Warrior
and Jaka Sembung series, Suzzanna’s films, all of these films,
they are very endearing. My second film, Kala was actually
my love letter to exploitation cinema from the ’70s
and ’80s in Indonesia. The ending was pretty much
borrowed from martial art films in the ’80s. Where you could see a heroine
holding a big sword and smashing everybody. So, this is like a reminder of the golden age
of Indonesian cinema.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

65 thoughts on “Blood, Guts, and Bad Acting: Inside the Indonesian B Movies of the 1980s

  1. The golden age of Indonesian pulp cinema lasted for almost 20 years, before ending abruptly in the late 1990's.

    WATCH NEXT: The New Wave of Ultra-Violent Ugandan DIY Action Cinema —

  2. in indonesia these are considered major and mainstream blockbuster tentpoles. to people from progressive countries they look like b movies.

  3. It’s quite sad how islamistic Indonesia is now compared to back then, now not even kissing scenes are allowed to be shown.
    Unlike the west in which older generations are more conservative in Indonesia the younger generation is far more conservative.
    I wouldn’t call them conservative too since it’s such a new phenomenon.

  4. The good old days 😢 Now we're stuck with religious polygamy propaganda and absurd teen flicks undermining our intelligence (and we don't have that much to begin with)

  5. she died when i was quite young but if i remember correctly her death created quite some controversy? like idk ppl created lots of fuss about it

  6. Oh man, yes, I miss those films. They weren't great, but boy were they entertaining. Now, we have a Puritan-like movie culture – the smallest thing "out of Islamic values" and people would be against it. Ahh, I miss those old days, when you don't even censor cleavages.

  7. Rambu, Lady Terminator, Final Score, The Stabilizer – these are all classics that can hold their own next to the what the schlockmeisters of Italy put out at that time.

  8. I want a list of these movies so I can watch them all. I like to watch movies like these on hot boring summer days.

    Very nostalgic. 🤗😌

  9. Thought I would see or hear a mention of Mystics in Bali (originally released as Leák), famously featuring the Penanggalan, spirits that appear in the form of a flying head with organs and entrails still attached. Check it out!

  10. All hail Queen Suzana.

    Also, the original Pengabdi Setan is the best Indonesian horror. The new Pengabdi Setan is a big fucking shit.

  11. My mom told me, when she want to watch movie, she need to have some permition to watch. Like an age of 15-18 or older.

    Today, some indonesian movie just awful. Like horror movie full with sexual stuff.

  12. Believe it or not it still happening till this day. The horror movie i mean, many fell for the hype and the industry provides not only in a movie forms but also in reality show and that sort of stuff. Even some indonesian youtubers actually did the same thing. They use horror as their content as most indonesia people highly interested in sort of things

  13. Thank you Guyz for this series….for celebrating the lives of these creative individuals. It will be a magnum opus

  14. seeing this video reminds me of filipino films in the 70's-80's. most are over the top acting. crude special effects but it was fun watching them when I was young. you can watch those films on philippine cable TV channels

  15. I remember these kind of vids haunting me for quite some time when i was small,and quite disturbing as i grew up😂

  16. Have you watched Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Marlina si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak)? It's a good movie and I really recommend you all to watch it. It's a 'satay' western genre and it's 'feministic' LOL

  17. hahaha i know that theater , it's nearby my home. that theatre is really old and still using painted canvas for movie poster , the ratchet thing about this cinema theatre is lot of gay and homosexual did their things inside that cinema (that's why the government close it down now for good)

  18. and the best part about this whole era is, since there is no equivalent to the meaning of "cheesy" in Indonesian, to the locals here these movies were something quite literally indescribable.



    TOTALLY UGLY malaysia movie
    They put ugly actors as the hero and beautiful actress as the heroine

    TOTALLY UGLY malaysia movies

  20. Those special effects look way better and more convincing than anything that Hollywood shits out these days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *