Wednesday, September 23, 2009

'Tiger Love' is a genre mish-mash

Tiger Love (aka "Legend of the Tiger" and "A Tiger's Love") (1977)
Starring: Stephen Tung and Hu Chin
Director: Lin Hsiu
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

After nearly being killed because of a feud between her family and that of the young man she loves, a young woman (Chin) is rescued by a tiger who falls in love with her. She soon gives birth to the son of her lover, and she raises him with tiger in isolation. When he is old enough, he decides to seek out his father, but he ends up falling in love with a girl from his mother's clan. This revives the feud and starts a violent and tragic chain of events that leads to the destruction of both families, and the transformation of a kind guardian into a revenge-seeking demon.

Part third-rate Kung Fu movie, part Chinese low-class "Romeo & Juliet", part "Tarzan Meets Mowgli", and part horror movie, "Tiger Love" is a mishmash of elements that somehow manage to work. Sort of.

The first 2/3rds of the movie are slightly lackluster and predictable, with so-so performances made to appear even weaker by seriously dodgy dubbing. It also doesn't help that the only truly likable characters to appear in the film are the tiger, the human he loves, and her dippy son (played by Stephen Tung). Even his love interest--whose name I don't know, because this film is so obscure that it's not even listed at so I can't research its cast list--is something of an obnoxious bitch. Gorgeous yes, but bitchy.

The martial arts fights that break out every now and then during the movie do little to add excitement to the film, as they are universally simplistic and run-of-the-mill. The film presents the idea that Stephen Tung's character was taught a unique form of martial arts by his mother's tiger guardian, but the idea is never used to any great advantage.

However, things get better in the last half hour or so. As the film moves toward its conclusion, it totally changes gears and mood, leaving behind the standard 1970s Kung Fu period piece romance/revenge flick tone and instead turns into a horror movie. Events cause the supernatural nature of the titular tiger to become fully manifest, and the films only truly exciting scenes follow. The final act of the film manages to elevate it from a low 5 to a love 6 rating, even if I would still have liked to see a slightly stronger ending.

Overall, a decent flick. It's not exactly great, but the sudden left turn into horror movie territory in the final act makes for interesting viewing.

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