Having come across the picture of the Hawaii Cinema in Phnom Penh (see the post below), I decided to try to see if I could find any advertisements for it.


I looked at some issues of a newspaper called La depeche du Cambodge from 1963. What I quickly discovered was that the movie scene in Phnom Penh at that time was extremely vibrant.


As we should probably expect, there were French movies, like La valse du gorille (“The Waltz of the Gorilla”).


And then there were American movies, like Sergeants 3, starring Frank Sinatra.


And Disney films like Toby Tyler.

Khmer film 1

Meanwhile, there were a few Cambodian movies as well. The three titles here – “Crazy Because of Women,” “Unfaithful,” and “Because of Money” – are in French, but apparently they were Cambodian-made films in Khmer.

Khmer film 2

Then there was “War of Love.”

khmer film 3

And “Flower on the Frontier” (Bopphaa nau tueldaen) or “Flower of the Frontier” in French.


L’Oiseau de Paradis (“The Bird of Paradise”) was a film made in Cambodia by French director Marcel Camus and starring the lovely Princess Norodom Buppha Devi.


There were also a lot of Japanese films, like A Killer Without A Grave.


And this one. I’m not sure what this is. Is it Storm Over the Pacific?


And Blood on the Sea (a.k.a. The Crimson Sea).


And even a (North?) Korean film.


What is really interesting to see is that some of these films were shown in multiple languages. Jack the Giant Killer, for instance, was shown in two halls. In one the sound was in French and there were Chinese subtitles, while in the other hall the film was in Khmer.

How was this done? Jack the Giant Killer was in English. I can’t believe that the film would have been dubbed in both French and Khmer. That would have been too expensive.

For the Khmer version, I’m guessing that it was probably the case that someone stood in the theater and “spoke over” the film (using a microphone), speaking all of the parts.

Chinese and Khmer

Uproar in Heaven was a Chinese animated film. One could watch it at 4PM and 9PM in Khmer and 2PM and 7PM in Chinese. Here again, I’m guessing that this was just one film, and that for the Khmer showing, someone stood there and spoke all of the parts.


L’inspecteur connait la musique (Literally, “The Inspector Knows the Music,” but it looks like Blues was the official English title), a “police musical,” was in French with Chinese subtitles.

French Khmer

And then there was Douce violence (Sweet Ecstasy is the official English title). This was a French film, but one could see it in both Khmer and French.

However, judging from this trailer, I doubt that people paid much attention to the dialog. . . Ooh la la!!

Viet theater

And finally, we can also see the presence of Vietnamese in Phnom Penh in these advertisements too. I would guess that the Kim Son theater was owned by a Vietnamese.


Then there is was a Japanese movie made by Shochiku Films called “Red Pants” in English and “The Young Woman with Red Pants” in Vietnamese (Nương Tử Quần Hồng). This does not appear to be the actual name of this film. I can’t figure out what film it is.

In any case, it’s interesting that Vietnamese is in the advertisement and that it also says that all of the showings were in Khmer.

All of this makes me wonder about what the experience of going to the movies in Phnom Penh in 1963. This was a place where many people were at least bilingual. So if a Cambodian knew French, which version of a movie would s/he go to? The Khmer version or the French version?


Oh, and yes, in the end I did find an advertisement for the showing of a movie at the Hawaii Cinema. . . King Kong vs. Godzilla.