Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kung Fu Zombie Vs. Tigerkralle (Hong Kong)

(Trailer.) Now here’s a Hong Kong obscurity. Entitled Kung Fu Zombie Vs. Tigerkralle for its German DVD re-release by Cult Cinema International, it also seems to be known by a half-dozen other English-language names, including Tiger's Love, The Tiger Love, Love of the Tiger, Legend of the Tiger, Tiger's Kong Fu and Tiger Love—none of which bring up a production on IMDB, that internet bible of films. Neither, for that matter, does a search under the names of the director (Lin I Hsiu), the producer (Hui Keung) or any of the actors. (The German DVD release title, by the way, literally translates into "Kung Fu Zombie vs. Tiger Claws".)
A search of the world wide web is slightly more productive, but among those who have bothered to write of the film there seems to be some disagreement regarding its original release date, which is given variously as 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1981, as well as the plotline. (It is a typical Hong Kong pre-industrial age tale and not a contemporary police drama—but, as such, the plotline of the film doesn't even match the description supplied on the back of the Cult Cinema International DVD cover 100%.)
In the US, it has fallen into the public domain, and while it isn't yet available on the Internet Archive, it can be had cheaply at Public Domain Torrents—which is from where the time-coded screen shots image featured here was taken.
The DVD release from CCI, which features both an English-language and German-language, is pretty scratchy and not the best quality, but it would be hard to argue that the film would be any better than it is were the quality of the transfer any better. The DVD version is, in any event, 8 minutes longer than the original German theatre release… though it is almost hard to believe the film ever made it to any cinemas anywhere.
Kung Fu Zombie vs. Tiger Claws is pretty crappy to say the least, but that doesn’t mean that it isn't entertaining in its own peculiar way. With a few beers and a toke or two, Kung Fu Zombie vs. Tigerkralle functions rather well as a trashy, laugh-inducing cinematic oddity. But rest assured, nowhere in the whole film does a single "kung fu zombie" ever make an appearance—instead, during the last 20-odd minutes when the flick suddenly changes over from a love story cum revenge drama into a revenge horror flick, the viewer is confronted with a shape-shifting tiger demon. A rather schizophrenic development, but it does substantially increase the entertainment level.
Kung Fu Zombie vs. Tigerkralle opens two young lovers—the male played by Lo Lieh, the female by Hu Chin—from feuding families on the run. Caught atop a cliff-side, Chin's family seemingly kills Lieh and Chin jumps off the cliff. Unbeknownst to each other, they both survive. Chin, pregnant with Lieh's child, lands atop of a tree where, once she awakens, she is confronted by a tiger. Terrified, she promptly pees on its head, whereupon we learn that if a woman pees upon the head of a tiger it is henceforth subservient to the woman. The two wander off into the forest where she in due time gives birth to a child which she raises together with "uncle" tiger. Once the son is a young adult (played by an ineffectually dorky-looking Stephen Tung), the truth of his origins comes out and he goes into town to seek others of his kind. He finds even more: His father and his father's wife. While Lo Lieh prefers to stay with her big, wild pussy in the jungle, Tung decides to become a city-slicker. In now time he falls in love with the daughter of the rival clan (namely, Lieh's family), which makes neither family happy.
At this point the film takes its backbeat from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, but the final situation is reverse (i.e., the lovers are the ones that survive). First Tung kills his girlfriend’s brother in self-defense, and then his girlfriend’s family decimates everyone in Tung’s family—including his real mother, who first manages to make him swear not to take revenge (the killers are, after all, her real family). The tiger, freed from her subservient bonds, decides to do what any good slave would do: avenge his master. So he changes into a fanged and clawed, shape-shifting old hag and goes about killing everyone else. The final confrontation features Tung and his girlfriend battling the tiger demon—and the little lady proves to be rather resourceful.
For fans of sock-em chop-em refuse, this cheesy production from the early age of Hong Kong Kung Fu flotsam offers an enjoyable level of trash entertainment, although it is not empty of dull moments and the fights can hardly be described as well-choreographed or exciting. The first ten and the last twenty minutes of the film are far more fun than the low-cal stuffing between, but at no point within the flick does one ever really begin to fall asleep.
Still, given the choice between Kung Fu Zombie vs. Tigerkralle and, say, Mr Vampire (1985/trailer), only a masochistic fool would choose the former.

No comments: