Friday, April 2, 2010

More on Tiger Boy

There was some discussion on Facebook about the "lost" Tiger Boy (1966) and I was going to type up some passages from The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study (2003) and post these passages there. Then I thought "Maybe some other people would want to read about this lost film too."

And I think anyone who has read this blog recently knows that I am not a big fan of Chang Cheh. However, I would be interested in seeing Tiger Boy mainly because those traits that I don't like about director Chang Cheh would be less oppressive in his first film. I guess.

First, go read duriandave's excellent post about this film and then read this background information.

Okay, here goes:

Pages 114-115:

Chang remembers fondly the freedom he enjoyed making Tiger Boy/Hu Xia Jian Chou (1966), which he says the company only considered an inexpensive experiment. It was shot in black-and-white and banished to the grounds outside the studio lot. Not given any stars, he cast a couple of newcomers by the names of Jimmy Wang Yu and Lo Lieh/Luo Lie. And he experimented, bucking the trends by going without a martial arts director, resulting in fight scenes that are less fantastical and, in his own words, " more real", with action that was "based on the physical ability of ordinary humans, only a little exaggerated". For example, when Wang's character has to scale a towering fence, instead of taking a flying leap as in other marital arts films, he shoots arrows into a wooden column to form a ladder on which to jump. Tiger Boy turned out to be a hit and Chang was anointed by the company to "usher in the wuxia era"...

Pages 135-136:

Tiger Boy is a low-budget production, shot in black and white with an original script penned by Chang himself. He confessed that he made it under "adverse conditions" and "because it was an experiment, the low budget was a condition given by the studio. I boldly broke down conventions, indeed going over the top, making it as a wholly experimental film. Not only were the actors all newcomers, I also decided not to use the usual crew of martial artists and martial arts director...we constructed sets on outdoor locations to heighten the sense of realism and assist flexible movement of the camera." Change has always admired Japanese cinema's forthright, fearless, and "atmospheric" depictions. These characteristics are aptly reflected in the film: the emphasis on location and atmosphere, the eerie angles of shots and compositions. As Chang himself said, "Tiger Boy, shot in black and white mainly on sets built on locations, used natural lighting. This cut down our limitations. The camera was empowered with a wider field of vision and broader choice of angles." Even though it was still an unripe product, it certainly did not lack new ideas. The film "was first released in Singapore and Malaysia, and scored a quick success...In Hong Kong, the box office overtook many of the colour films then released. This naturally boosted the studio's confidence in me, and I was given the green light to forge the 'wuxia century'".