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血玉 (1977)
Along Comes a Tiger

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 12/24/2007

“Along Comes a Tiger” has very little dialog in its first half hour—none at all in the first 2’ 40” and only a couple of lines until 11’ 30” when Master West tells Sacred Cloud “I know why you have come for me.” By then we do too. The movie begins with a shocking scene of a man being hanged from a tree limb with his weight supported on the shoulders of a young boy—his son. The man understands the futility of the situation and kicks the boy away from him even though the kid doesn’t want to leave. The boy grows up to be Sacred Cloud, a superbly skilled martial artist who is searching for those who killed his father. He is played as an adult by Don Wong Tao and his character’s inability or unwillingness to speak makes the lack of spoken parts more plausible. As Master West, Phillip Ko Fei is the perfect excessive villain. When he walks through a town the citizens cower in fear and when a young boy accidentally bumps him he grabs the child and throws him in the air. When one particularly brave townsperson intervenes to snatch the child from certain death, Master West , with revolting delicacy, washes his hands in a basin of rosewater being carried by one of his entourage, covers one hand with a bright white napkin and kills the interloper with one blow to his throat, a blow that leaves him choking on his own blood. He is clearly a worthy target for our hero.

They face off in an exciting and brutal looking fight between that is well choreographed with fast, deadly looking punches, most of which appear to just miss—or to be barely slipped by their target. This fight is a good example of how a low budget kung fu movie can have stirring moments by using proficient martial arts practitioners combined with tried and true shooting and editing techniques. Even though Sacred Cloud kills Master West—and then dispatches his retinue, it is clear that he hasn’t yet found the real villain he is looking for. It does allow an official who comes upon the carnage to ask (according to the Rarescope subtitles) “Why are they all dead?”. While this is a pertinent question given the bodies lying about the compound it shows disregard for the individuals who have breathed their last and interest only in how and by whom it happened.

The reason for this is made clear in the next scene which introduces an even more evil scoundrel, the head of the Black Dragon Gang, a Taiwanese Richard III complete with hunchback deformity and extremely bad attitude. The four sections of his gang report to him in a stylized ritual, with Madam South, Master North and Master East giving the usual “everything is fine in my department” recital but when it comes time for the West sector the hapless representative has to not only tell Black Dragon that his master has been killed but that no one knows why or by whom. The luckless messenger is dragged off to be killed (indicated by an offstage shriek). The only clue is a short knife or spear point left at the scene of the slaughter, carved with symbols of clouds. Black Dragon is the only one who knows that the day of reckoning is close at hand.

Until this point motivations of and relationship among the characters has been shown almost completely by their action and is as clear as if they were in a Eugene O’Neill play speaking to each other in page long paragraphs. Now things get talkier and many of the faults of the script appear. One of the worst involves Madam South who runs a crooked casino and commands a group of female croupiers/commandos. When a particularly greedy gambler pushes his luck, however, they become white hooded acolytes wielding fans made of red feathers and things take a turn for the strange, or at least campy. Directed by Madam South using her own fan of feathers--hers are white--they mesmerize the hapless confidence men by waving their fans, then surround and kill them. We don't see how the two die but know it must be horrible based on the reactions of those watching. Wu Ma uses this economical and effective way of letting us know we should be astonished at their fate since those watching are shocked at its brutality. The bodies of the two show no marks of violence so one assumes it is the unnerving way the soul leaves the body that shocks them. Madam South and her team of croupiers/bouncers/handmaidens are a formidable force, but no match for Sacred Cloud.

There follows a very well thought out and executed fight between Madam South and Sacred Cloud. He is first attacked by the underling with the red fans--which we now see are equipped with sharp knife blades--and then Madam South's main bodyguards. After he dispatches them the battle is between the two of them with Madam South countering moves that Sacred Cloud made to defeat the others. She has been watching and picked up his style very quickly. He finally bests her by using his hidden hinged club but refuses to kill her, something she full expects. From and earlier long speech we know that Madam South, played with icy perfection by the gorgeous Doris Lung Chun-Erh, has never known anything but trouble and that human kindness is alien to her. When Sacred Cloud refuses to finish her off she is thrilled that he was able to see through her hard shell to the potentially wonderful person beneath. So thrilled that she immediately kills herself. This makes no sense even in the bizarre context to the movie but it means that our hero doesn’t have to kill a beautiful woman onscreen.

Things limp forward, as they must, to the final battle between Black Dragon and Sacred Cloud. Along the way we are treated to some domestic bathos when the head of the East Sector, having learned that Sacred Cloud has wiped out the other sectors the gang tells his wife it is his turn to go after him. She begs him not to since he faces certain death, but to run away with her. Having sworn an oath of loyalty to Black Dragon, he must go despite her tearful pleas. She, like Madam South, pays the ultimate price by killing herself after Sacred Cloud has turned down the penultimate price she offers, her chastity for her husband's life. There is some byplay between Sacred Cloud and an annoying kid who attaches himself to him that includes some very lame training sequence and an attempt to “humanize” Sacred Cloud, an attempt that has to fail since his only reason to live is to find and kill Black Dragon. Stephen Tung Wai is introduced halfway through the film mainly to even up the sides when Sacred Cloud has to fight Black Dragon’s very tough bodyguards.

The final battle is a well staged set piece involving ingenious if simple settings and props with some very savage fighting both hand to hand and using weapons. The main reason to watch “Along Comes a Tiger” are two excellent fights, although I found the first twenty-five minutes or so to be a fascinating look at how to tell a story almost without words.

Not really recommended

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/06/2007

The revenge-driven plot is simplicity itself, though some of the characters are quite interesting. Plenty of well-choreographed kung fu makes the film easy to watch.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 03/28/2002

Yuen (Wang Tao), as a boy, watches his father hang to death at the hands of an evil man (Tommy Lee). Yuen takes an oath of silence (sorta like Jackie in Shaolin Wooden Men ), grows up and avenges his father's death by killing the hunch backed gung fu master (Tommy Lee) who had his father hanged to die. Decent movie with plenty of fights to keep you entertained. Tommy Lee, who seems to enjoy playing cripples and weird characters with extraordinary gung fu flair, is Wang Tao's final opponent.