Photographs from Shingaporu Sokogeki (1943), a lost film by Koji Shima

Photographs from Shingaporu Sokogeki (1943), a lost film by Koji Shima

Shima, Koji (1901 — 1986). Shingaporu Sokogeki [All-out attack on Singapore]. [Dai Nippon Film Co., 1943]. 44 black and white silver print photographs, each about 8" x 5 ¾”, mounted in a commercial album, about 14" x 10 3/4." The album comprises 23 card leaves. The first leaf bears a presentation inscription, which translated reads: "In appreciation of your invaluable collaboration. / Memorial Photo Book of SHINGAPORU SOKOGEKI / April 29, 1943 / Tokyo Studio of Dai Nippon Eiga Seisaku Kabushiki Gaisha." The remaining 22 leaves have a single photograph mounted onto each recto and verso. One additional photograph of a dinner party is laid in (bringing the total number of images to 45). The photographs are generally in very good condition or better, save one, which has a substantial, mostly closed tear across upper end. The album, bound in patterned cloth over boards, is lightly worn.

     This presentation album of reference photographs for Shingaporu Sokogeki is the only surviving visual record of the feature film on the fall of Singapore,  an event which Winston Churchill called “the worst disaster” in British military history. All copies of the movie were destroyed after the war.

     In 1938 the imperial government launched an effort to propagate nationalist ideals through kokusaku eiga or “national policy films,” features intended both to entertain and to engender support for the government’s expansionist policies. Many of these were subtle in their nationalist – samurai films, or sentimental movies glorifying the quiet heroism of ordinary people going about their daily lives. Others were much more pointed – combat films celebrating Japanese victories. Shingaporu Sokogeki was one of these, a fictionalized recreation of the defeat and capture of British imperial forces, comprised of English, Australian, Malay, and Indian troops, at Singapore on 15 February 1942.

     Unlike most kokusaku eiga, which used Japanese actors to play western roles, Shingaporu Sokogeki was notorious for using real POWs. Keeping with the spirit of cinema verité, the movie was filmed on location and used real Japanese soldiers. A 1943 article in the Syonan Times, an English-language newspaper produced in Singapore by Japanese occupation forces, promoted the film’s theatrical release by detailing its production:

     Produced by Dai Nippon Eiga Seisaku Kabashiki Kaisha, the film took one year to be completed after the company had been on location for ten months in Malai [Malaya].

     True-to-life scenes of the invincible Nippon troops fighting through dense Malaian jungle, experiencing difficulties and sufferings but nevertheless bravely outfighting the British and Australian troops who took pride in their scientific arms, are vividly shown.

     The picture further reveals how the indomitable fighting spirit of Nippon defeated the material strength of the enemy. It further enables the people of Malai to re-live the joy they gained at the fall of Singapore.

     One of the highlights of the film is the hand-to-hand fighting of the Nippon forces at Bukit Timah. In order to shoot such sequences, it was necessary for cameras to be placed on enemy lines so as to give an authentic picture of the storming advance of the Imperial Forces.

     The story is based on actual records submitted by staff officers who guided the Malai campaign. In producing the picture, not a single scene was taken from newsreels. … In the cast were ex-servicemen who had experienced army life and had taken part in the production of the film “General, His Staff and Soldiers.” …

     Scenes of Malaya under British oppression and the present Malai emancipated by Nippon forces are presented in contrast. Today, Nippon, Malai, Indian, Chinese and Eurasian children joyfully smile and play under the New Order.

     The fall of Singapore signifies not only the beginning of the decisive fall of the former world control of Anglo-Saxons but also a declaration to the world of the construction of a New Order in the world. With this development as the central factor, the world has begun to change.


     Shingaporu sokogeki was one of the earliest productions of the Dai Nippon Film Co., Ltd., formed in 1942 by the merger of three independent studios. Better known as Daiei, the studio would become one of the major studios of the postwar era, responsible for films as diverse as Rashomon, Gamera, and the Zatoichi series. The movie also represents an early effort for Koji Shima, who played romantic leads in over 80 films before turning to directing in 1939. As prolific as a director as he was an actor, with 95 films to his credit, he was honored at the 1954 Southeast Asian Film Festival for The Gold Demon (Konjiki yasha), and the 1959 Moscow Film Festival for Unforgettable Trail (Itsuka kita michi).


Koji Shima in 1947 (Wikimedia Commons)

     The film was released on April 29, 1943, Emperor Hirohito's birthday. Widely shown throughout the Japanese wartime empire, Shingaporu sokogeki was one of the top five grossing Japanese films of 1943 (Baskett, p. 188 n.86). But after the war, the film disappeared. The Civil Information and Education Division (CIE) of the American occupation forces censored films judged to have propagated the war. As film historian Kyoko Hirano records, “all negatives and prints of the films on the [CIE's] list were confiscated on a prefecture-by-prefecture basis" (p. 42). A postwar directive identified as a “C” class war criminal “everyone who worked or cooperated in the planning, writing, production, and marketing” of Shingaporu sokogeki and other kokusaku eiga judged to be particularly egregious (Baskett, p. 196 n.10). As a result, no copy of Singapore sokogeki appears to have survived.


From the Japanese Official Gazette, English edition, no. 149 (27 September 1946), p. 10.

     This album was likely brought to the United States by a returning G.I. as a spoil of war. As the inscription on the first page suggests, it likely belonged to one of the military advisors to the film.  We think it likely that the recipient was one of the figures seated at the table in the photograph of the dinner party laid in the album.

     The forty exquisitely composed shots that compose this album offer a unique visual record of a lost, historically important film.

Selected References

  • ‘On To Singapore' War Film: a Major Epic Production,’”Syonan Shimbun, 11 September 1943, p. 1.
  • “Feature Film of Battle for Singapore,”Syonan Shimbun, 17 October 1942, p. 4
  • Anderson, Joseph L. and Donald Richie, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, expanded edition. Princeton University Press, 1982.
  • Baskett, Michael. The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. University of Hawaii Press, 2008.
  • Desser, David. “From the Opium War to the Pacific War: Japanese Propaganda Films of World War II.” Film History, 7 (1995) 32–48.
  • Hirano, Kyoko. Mr Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Film Under the American Occupation, 1945-1952. Smithsonian Institute Press 1992
  • Sharp, Jasper. Historical dictionary of Japanese cinema. Scarecrow Press, 2011.

Product tabs

    Earn 0Reward points

    On hold

    Receive an email if this item becomes available.

    Recommend this product

    Photographs from Shingaporu Sokogeki (1943), a lost film by Koji Shima