Homework 1989 Film With Milo

My second year at primary school provided me with a very different experience from the one I had in my first year. This was possibly because of two things, the first being having to attend school in the afternoon session (I had hitherto only attended school and kindergarten in the mornings); and the other was that I was able to relate much better to my fellow classmates and surroundings, having spent a year with them. While going to school in the morning session had provided me with the rest of the afternoon to finish up my homework and still have the time to have a game of football and watch Vic Morrow in Combat! after dinner, the afternoon session seemed to rob me of the day, having to spend a greater part of the morning finishing up homework and getting ready for school, with barely enough time to have an early lunch. I could on many days also squeeze a visit to my neighbour, Mr. Singh’s flat on the seventeenth storey, where for tea time promptly at four each afternoon, I would be greeted by wonderfully rich smell of strong tea being brewed and of heated ghee on chapati, as Mrs. Singh rolled the balls of dough out into flat circular shapes that was to become chapati as it heated on the flat iron pan manned by one of her daughters.

St. Michael's School has an especially large field for us to play football on.

The afternoon session, despite robbing me of much of my play time, did provide other opportunities for fun. Arriving earlier before school started than would have been possible with the morning session, did allow us to have that game of football that many of us itched to have. Playing under the gaze of the midday sun didn’t seem to cause us any discomfort as it would probably have today, and many of us would arrive for class drenched in perspiration brought about by the midday exertions, and a little too disheveled for the liking of our disapproving form teacher. This was possibly a contributing factor to it being more difficult to keep one’s concentration in the afternoons. The afternoon heat also played its part – I would sometimes feel inclined to indulge in a siesta, even though I did not have the habit of taking an afternoon nap. The afternoons seemed to drag on forever, broken only by too short a recess time during which the field rather than the tuckshop appealed to most of us. In any case, by the logic of a seven year old, the 30 cents that I got for my daily allowance would better spent on the Jolly Lolly from the ice cream vendor at the end of the day.

The end of the school day was always looked to in anticipation for most of us, not just for the release it provided from the shackles of the classroom, but for the chance to grab that tied up plastic bag of sweet coloured and flavoured cold drinks, or what is till this day, the best epok-epok (fried puffs of pastry with potato or sardine curry fillings) that I had ever sunk my teeth into. This could be when requested, filled with a generous amount of chilli sauce that made the epok-epok taste just so good! I always watched with keen interest as the epok-epok man dispensed the chilli sauce from a bottle topped with a spout, which he violently poked into the potato curry filled cavity of the epok-epok. The vendors lined the fence which ran along the edge of the car park where the school buses waited for their passengers, along the big drain, and the place always seemed to be bustling with activity, almost like a market place. There we would have had to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the foul smelling noni fruit that seemed to litter the ground. Besides ice cream, cold drinks and epok-epok, there was this man who sometimes came on a bicycle with a glass fronted tin mounted at the back of his bicycle. The tin had three compartments, each filled with keropok (crackers) of a different flavour: fish, prawn and tapioca. That I would rather spend my allowance on epok-epok rather than the keropok that everyone seemed to associate me with, is probably a testament to how good the epok-epok really was!

I was, somewhere through the year in Primary 2, conferred with the nick name of Keropok by the driver of the mini bus I took to school. He explained later that it was because I was always seen clasping a packet of keropok – my favourite being the rounded fish flavoured keropok that I still enjoy these days. My bus mates caught on to it, and would later take to chanting “Keropok, Keropok, Keropok” as the bus passed on the other side of the road before making a U-turn to pick me up.

The Sack Race was a favourite event during lower primary school sports days.

The year spent in Primary 2 was also memorable for the introduction it provided me to sports. Our Physical Education (P.E.) lessons had, in Primary 1, been something less than enjoyable. In Primary 2,  Mr. George Kheng our P.E. teacher, a keen football fan, organised the four houses into teams named after popular English clubs. There was Everton, Tottenham Hotspurs, another team which I can’t quite remember (could have been Coventry City) and Liverpool (Thomas or Blue house which I belonged to). I suppose that this contributed greatly to me supporting Liverpool Football Club. P. E. lessons besides becoming a lot more football centered, also became a lot more fun.

Relay race with a ball.

Primary 2 was a year for which Sports Day was something to look forward to. Where in Primary 1, I was caught up in the awe and excitement of the occasion, I was probably able to take it all in a little better in Primary 2. We had all kinds of events that allowed mass participation, such as the sack race and another which had us balancing an egg on a teaspoon as we raced across the field. Sports day was for many of us, best remembered for the MILO van, which seemed to be a feature of every sports day then. Somehow, sports days just wouldn’t be sports days without it being around. I can’t quite remember if it actually a van or a small truck which was opened up at the sides, but what was certain was that it always meant the little green paper cups of chilled chocolate flavoured fluid that we would gratefully quench our thirsty throats with. It certainly felt marvellous what MILO could do for us!

Ice Cold Milo served in little green paper cups was a great thirst quencher during our school sports days.

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Tags: Chapati and Ghee, Cold Drinks in Plastic Bags, Epok-Epok, Food Vendors, Food Vendors of Old, Jolly Lolly, Keropok, Milo Van, P.E. Lessons, Primary 2, Sports Day, St. Michael's School
Categories : Football, General, Growing Up, Schooldays, Singapore, St. Michael's School, Toa Payoh

Over the decades, rumours about the existence of snuff movies has run rampant despite the fact that no evidence exists to support these dark claims. After a large amount of my own research into the topic, I’ve come up with nothing but a lot of dead ends and goofy urban legends… with one exception.

In August, 1989, Columbia Pictures unleashed on America the one and only true snuff movie ever released, a children’s movie called The Adventures of Milo and Otis, which was a revamped version of a popular Japanese film Koneko Monogatari: The Adventures of Chatran.

Debuting in Japan three years earlier, Koneko Monogatari (A Kitten’s Story) was an arty film not geared towards children at all, but adults, and as early as October 1986, mere months after Chatran debuted in Japan, reports about the animal cruelty on display surfaced not only in Japan, but elsewhere.

“Chatran’s life is full of trials and tribulations,” the UK’s Economist pointed out. “Many of them to do with being soaked to the skin, like falling over a waterfall in a wooden box or plummeting from a cliff into the sea. It is hard to see how he survived. Indeed, according to Japan’s biggest animal-rights group, he did not. Or, to be accurate, a third of the 30 Chatrans used did not.”

Columbia Pictures ignored the reports of abuse and kitty and puppy killing by the Japanese production unhindered by animal rights laws, and noted instead that the film was making huge profits in Japan. Money talks, and executives at Columbia picked it up with a mind to overhaul and Americanise the feature — as is common for most foreign films being marketed in the USA. “It needed to be tailored to American kids who watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, ” said Brandt Reiter, an account executive at Fujisankei, the Japanese owners of the film.

Fuji supplied Columbia with almost 70 hours of extra footage from which to make their own edit of the movie. The succession of abuses would now be labelled as Milo and Otis’s “adventures”, and designed to baby-sit American kids.

“Some might say we vulgarised it,” said Jim Clark (the man in charge of overhauling the movie), “but we felt it was on the arty side.”

Jim quickened the pace, added a long, exhausting sequence where the dog and cat adopt a new-born chick, brought in nutty British star Dudley Moore to narrate and do stupid animal voices, and finally removed many graphic scenes of animals fighting and other atrocities.

Astonishingly though, much of the violence and obviously snuffy footage is still clearly visible despite the fact that Columbia supposedly recut the movie for a grade school audience. The cat, renamed Milo, still takes a long plunge off a cliff into the ocean into rough ocean surf (harrowing scenes of him trying in vain to climb back up were cut), is attacked viciously by angry birds, encounters a pissed off snake, is bitten on the nose and lip by a crab, is sent white water rafting down a river in a flimsy little box, and all while Dudley Moore baby talks stupid shit like “Oh dear me! Oh my! Goodness!”

Despite its happy-go-lucky kids movie marketing, the actual content of Milo and Otis is a deeply troubling film that shows animals in obvious pain and distress, and (in some cases) the midst of horrific death. According to the American Human Society, it is rumoured that as many as 27 cats were killed in the production of the picture.

There are other animal movies from the era, such as Homeward Bound with predatory animals and river scenes, but I’ve seen both movies and compared them. From every artistic standpoint, Homeward Bound is a far inferior film, but it’s obvious (or at least it should be) when something is edited in a kids movie in a way that you know that the animals are safe. But here we see Milo floating quickly downstream in the rapids, the box ALMOST tipping over constantly, and the poor cat looking scared outta his fucking mind. There are no cuts or closeups, indicative of a faked scene.

Despite Columbia’s obvious position that there was no basis to these allegations of abuse, rumours did swirl but were seemingly quelled immediately after reviews by the Toronto Star and a New Jersey newspaper that noted:

“All [the scenes in which Milo and Otis appear to be in danger]may be momentarily unsettling for young viewers, but it’s comforting to see in the closing credits that ‘the animals used were filmed under strict supervision with the utmost care for their safety and well-being’.”

But what these reviewers fail to notice is that despite this flowery language, Columbia took great pains not to say “no animals were harmed,” which has been boilerplate language on movie animal disclaimers for as long as anyone can remember. Oddly, the American Human Society has done its bit to keep Columbia’s dirty little secret by suspiciously not including The Adventures of Milo and Otis in its “Current index of film ratings index”. Do I smell a cover-up?

Milo isn’t the only character who is fucked with, although he does bear the brunt. Otis, the dog, is sent naked-pawed through drifts of deep snow, forced to swim to the point where the dog is obviously drowning, and in one memorable scene, is pitted against a very angry bear.

Most of the people commenting on the movie’s listing on the internet movie database are blissfully unaware of the behind the scenes story on the film they’re reviewing, calling it “wholesome” and “perfect for the whole family”, to the point where one horrified mother’s take on the film sticks out like a sore thumb:

“I’m so upset. I purchased this movie for my son for Valentines Day. I read the back of the movie before purchase, Rated G, cute little story, made by Columbia Pictures, endorsed by The Washington Post, purchased at Walmart for $5 bucks. How can this be wrong? WRONG is when my little son came running “They’re torturing the animals! I could not believe my eyes! Kittens screeching for their lives, animals yelping through out, a dog getting whacked by a bear with a sudden cut away as if the dog was killed. Animals don’t jump off 100 foot cliffs on their own. Don’t show this movie to any child!”

Another reviewer clues in as well later on down the list of comments:

“Chatran has the only merit to show how far you can go to earn a fistful of miserable bucks. Sacrificing a dozen cats who never asked for anything does not represent my conception of bringing fantasy and entertainment to an audience. There’s a difference between a horse with a broken leg and five cats thrown from a cliff until one survives and the sequence is wrapped up. Watching Chatran is like witnessing scientific experiments on animals, except here, the only goal is to make money.”

But not everyone shared this point of view. One reviewer on amazon.com pointed out that “Animals Were Created For Our Enjoyment: Biblically Speaking” and that “mental torture is not possible on the animals performing in this great kids film”. He finishes his argument by chiding those who disagree with his stance; “The late Dudley Moore would never have lent his narrative voice to a movie he didn’t believe in and you should be ashamed of yourselves for thinking you’re above this highly entertaining, and animal-friendly film.”

Ashamed? Yeah, there is some shame to be handed out in this situation, but it shouldn’t be directed at the audience. The people responsible for the making and distribution of Milo And Otis know who they are. I hope they made enough money off it to help them sleep at night, because I don’t think my conscience would allow me any rest if I were them.

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