Operation Malaya (film)

Operation Malaya is a 1953 British documentary about the actions of British troops during the Malayan Emergency.

Operation Malaya
Directed byDavid MacDonald
Produced byJohn Croydon
Peter Crane
Herman Cohen (US version)
Written byJohn Croydon
David MacDonald
Narrated byChips Rafferty
John Humphrey
John Slater
Wynford Vaughan-Thomas
CinematographyGeoffrey Faithful
Edited byInman Hunter
David MacDonald Productions Ltd
Abtcon Pictures
Distributed byAmerican Releasing Corporation (US)
Release date
August 1953 (UK) (Edinburgh Festival)
1955 (USA)
Running time
77 minutes (UK)
67 minutes (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom

It was also known as Terror in the Jungle.[1]


The film portrays the actions of British and Commonwealth troops against Communist insurgents in Malaya, focusing around the tracking down of a group of communists who killed a rubber planter. Scenes included:

  • Sir Gerald Templer thanking troops
  • a patrol of armoured cars ambushed by terrorists
  • Singapore
  • history of the communist insurrection
  • a journalist traveling through Kuala Lumpur
  • a military patrol finding a communist camp
  • a look at a squatting community which is removed to a resettlement area (known as "new villages")
  • the role of the Malayan Navy and Air Force.[2][3]


David MacDonald had previously made a documentary movie about World War II, Desert Victory. He approached the Colonial Office for money to help make a similar movie about the Malayan Emergency but was refused by Sir Gerald Templer on the grounds it was a commercial venture.[4][5] Instead MacDonald obtained commercial funding from Sir Alex Korda.[6]

The film mixed genuine documentary footage with dramatic re-enactments of real life incidents. The voices of professional actors were used, including Chips Rafferty.[7][8] The film was shot partly in Merton Park Studios.[1]


The film debuted at the Edinburgh Festival but struggled to find commercial distribution in England. The Manchester Guardian called it "an honest-to-goodness attempt to describe the course of politico-military events in post-war Malaya" but "it often looks and sounds quite unnecessarily bogus."[7] C. A. Lejeune of the Observer thought the film was less effective than David MacDonald's earlier Desert Victory because of all the "reconstructed school of documentary" scenes but did succeed as "a picture of hard work and good soldiering gradually overcoming the fears of the native population, the incredibly difficult terrain, and a relentless enemy shielded by the jungle."[9]

US release

American rights to the film were bought by the American Releasing Corporation, the forerunner of American International Pictures in 1955. It was one of the first movies released by that company. Herman Cohen was credited as producer for this version.


  1. The Cine Technician, August 1953 p 100 accessed 18 December 2014
  2. Full synopsis at Operation Malaya at Colonial Film
  3. "Rafferty's Role In Malaya Film". Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate. National Library of Australia. 28 August 1953. p. 5. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  4. British Cinema and the Cold War: The State, Propaganda and Consensus by Tony Shaw, I. B. Tauris, 3 Sep 2006 p 214, accessed 18 December 2014
  5. Susan Carruthers, "The Film Presentation of Mau", Terrorism, Media, Liberation Ed John David Slocum, Rutgers University Press, 2005 p 79 accessed 18 December 2014
  6. "LONDON FILM REPORT: Latest Screen-Television Dilemma -- Summary of Current Productions" by STEPHEN WATTS New York Times 20 Sep 1953: X5.
  7. "AMERICAN NATIONAL BALLET THEATRE: New Work Based on Schumann Concerto" Hope-Wallace, Philip. The Manchester Guardian [Manchester (UK)] 29 Aug 1953: 3.
  8. ""CHIPS" HAS NEW ROLE IN MALAYA WAR FILM". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 28 August 1953. p. 4. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  9. "FACT & FICTION" Lejeune, C. A., The Observer (1901-2003), London (UK), 30 Aug 1953: 6.
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