Reviewed by: ewaffle
There are a number of themes in Screaming Tiger, some very decent acting and some characters that the audience can care about. All of which are overshadowed by the fight scenes which occupy about half of its running time and consist mainly but not exclusively of Jimmy Wang Yu beating up carloads of pickpockets, torturers, martial arts students and even Sumo wrestlers. The action is exciting and very well staged for the period. A multiplicity of style is on displayJapanese, Chinese, Koreannot all of which, one assumes, would be recognized by practitioners of the classic fighting arts of those countries. Thrown into the mix are some street tacticshead butting, choking, eye gougingso that the final result is an 85 minute fight with occasional breaks for dialog, character development and plot movement.
Reviewer Score: 7
One theme is the outsider. Ma Tai Yung shows up in a Japanese village during some type of festival. His distinctive Chinese clothing are noticed and giggled at by some of the local lovelies, but he has much more important things on his mind. He is so intent on finding the villain that he is easy prey for a delightful pickpocket, Ying Chu. She escapes temporarily and Ma notices that he is being followed by a very singular individuala tall guy with a reed basket over his head, playing a bamboo flute. He had been simply part of the crowd watching the festival parade, so this area of Japan must be very tolerant of odd behavior.
It turns out that baskethead is both the voice of reason and conscience and also a device to let the audience know why Ma is in Japan and so focused on his mission. Ma tells him that he is searching for the Japanese sailors that killed his entire family. Mas world is binary, a Manichean universe of good and bad, white and black, Chinese and Jap(anese). Baskethead tells him that there is good in every race and that he shouldnt condemn an entire people for what a few have done, however dastardly. Not surprisingly, Ma ignores this advicea good thing since otherwise it would have stopped the movie in its tracks.
So, we know that Ma is trying to find and kill the murderers of his family. His clue is a perfumed sachet which one of the Japanese dropped during the strugglehe needs to find a sailor who frequented the China coast and who formerly owned the sachet. Ying Che returns to the story and attaches herself to Ma. Despite her denials he insists she has stolen his purse and demands its return. By this time Ma has fought with and defeated two different gangs of thieves and is led by Ying to the headquarters of the criminals in the village. There her sister is being beaten by an overseer, a Japanese Fagin. The girls are forced to steal for him and are beaten if they dont produce. This brief, action packed scene does a lotit establishes some of the Japanese as completely evil, shows the martial arts skills of Yingshe dispatches the overseer and his cronies, with Ma simply mopping up and chucking out. And to underline how detestable they are, just before Ma and Ying burst in the overseer strangles a child who takes part in the pickpocketing. A little girl is choked and dies onscreen something that would never happen in a mainstream movie in the overly child-centered United States.
Some odd ethnic/racial situations arise, most notably regarding a Korean martial arts master. A scene in which Ying is convincing a very reluctant Ma to disrobe so that they can batheI do it all the time is interrupted by a dispute between the innkeeper and the Korean. The innkeeper is insisting that the Korean pay in advance, since all Koreans are dishonest. The Korean takes offense to thisand Ma sides with the Japanese innkeeper, saying, without a speck of irony that I could detect, that everyone knows that Koreans are untrustworthy. This was after Ma had intervened into a fight between the Korean and about twenty Japanese martial arts guys. Very odd, since it was the only reference Koreans and dishonesty.
The battle between Ma and the traveling Sumo champion is quite a scene. It is as close to defeat that Ma comesbefore the final battle, of course. These Sumo guys are big and sloppy but not close to the immense obesity of those shown now. The champ gives Ma a very tough fight and when it seems that he might lose, he is joined in the ring by the five wrestlers he had just defeated. Although faced with an unprecedented amount of tonnage, Ma knocks each of them out.
Another theme is intertwined with the growing relationship between Ma and Ying. It is the stuff that romantic comedies are made ofa totally mismatched couple thrown together by circumstances. He is honest, she is a crook; He is simple and straightforward, she is sly and sophisticated; He is Chinese, she is Japanese (actually not, but neither Ma nor the audience knows that). It is the attraction of oppositessparks fly and things heat up. The relationship can go nowhere, of coursethere is lots more fighting to do. The Korean is defeated and badly injured when he attacks an entire martial arts school run by the main villain. He is taken in by the honorable proprietor of the local Chinese kung fu academy, who then is the target of the villain, who wants the Korean dead and the Chinese school destroyed.
Two final scenes worth mentioningthe death and burial of Ying Chu is one, the final fight scene is the other. Cheung Ching Ching does a touching and believable death scene and clears up a few loose ends in her last speech. The funeral in which her body is wrapped and put on a tiny raft that is sent to sea is an understated masterpiece. The last fight scene takes about 15 minutes. Its centerpiece is a like a pit fightit takes place in an empty gondola car of a speeding train. Ma finally wins but not before being hit with some huge rocks.
Jimmy Wang Yu is terrific. He is a kung fu artist of the first order. He is joy to watch in the extended fight scenesfit, tireless and able to sell his punches and kicks.
Recommended, despite the inelegant cropping of a panned and scanned copy.
Reviewed by: STSH
Summary: Promising but ......
The opening sequence has Jimmy in a typical role, as a stranger wandering into town, to whom some locals take an instant dislike. Not that he's bothered, of course. They encircle him, but he spins them off with minimal effort.
Reviewer Score: 1
A bit more puzzling (to Jimmy and to us) is a weirdo who follows him wearing a cylindrical wicker wastebasket over his head.
The lack of subtitles was a bit of a drawback here, but it became quickly apparent that the story was set in Japan (the costumes and sets, and to some extent what the characters did), and of course it's not hard to guess that revenge features heavily.
The film was quite enjoyable for awhile, but I found it not quite involving enough and turned off at around 40 minutes. Perhaps if I better understood what Jimmy's character was doing, I might have been a bit more indulgent.