The Screaming Tiger (1973)
Director: Kim Lung
Writers: Unknown
Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Cheung Ching Ching and Lung Fei

The Plot: Jimmy Wang Yu plays a wandering martial artist who found his beach-side village completely decimated by the Japanese, and demands vengeance on every single Japanese man who crosses his path. After leaving China for the Japanese shore, he wanders into a local village where a group of bandits cross his path attempting to pickpocket him. Wang Yu manages to catch them in the act, and quickly gives them a beating. When he notices a man following him, who wears the dress of a Komuso monk, he wanders outside of town to see just what this person has in mind. As it turns out, the man is really Chinese and he tries to persuade Wang Yu from holding bitterness in his heart. Wang Yu doesn’t take the advice all too serious, and instead heads back into town where he is then pickpocketed by a young woman. He attempts to follow her, but this only leads him to trouble. He and this young woman become romantically involved, and as Wang Yu discovers more about her, he finds that searching out her boss may very well lead him to the man who destroyed his home.

The Review
You’ve seen the giant sets in stores before. Twenty martial art films in one box set for a ridiculously cheap price. If you’re a kung fu film nerd, chances are you own one or three of these sets already, and if this is the case I am sure you have run into The Screaming Tiger once or twice. Sometimes it goes by the name The Screaming Ninja, or even Wang Yu, King of the Boxers, but the movie is almost always the same print. Low on quality, but high on Jimmy Wang Yu action, Screaming Tiger is a wee bit underrated amongst martial art film loyalists in my opinion. While it is not his very best work by any stretch of the imagination, there is still some magic to be found in this film. Wang Yu still looks great and tries to invigorate the audience with the insanity that he is well known for. A bizarre figure within the world of Hong Kong action, Jimmy Wang Yu himself is one of The Screaming Tiger‘s greatest attributes, and the delivery on the action is everything that kung fu film fans could ultimately hope for from the master.

Screaming Tiger was a movie that I came across years ago during my initial raids of Wal-Mart looking for cheap kung fu titles. Since then, I have collected a few copies of it in various other collections, and I have actually watched it on more than a couple of occasions. It was a title that made a fairly big impression on me the first time I sat through it, due mainly to how new and unique Jimmy Wang Yu’s style of choreography seemed to be. My first film from the man was the remarkably underrated Return of the Chinese Boxer, and Screaming Tiger seemed to underscore just how consistent his work seemed to be. Critics can say what they like about Wang Yu as a person, as his offscreen temper tantrums have made him notorious, but he was a performer who knew how to deliver. His films were often packed full of no-nonsense action that demanded the attention of its audience. Screaming Tiger is a film that feels bigger than it probably is, but Wang Yu doesn’t relent in shooting for the moon with his picture.

The Screaming Ninja, The Screaming Tiger and Wang Yu, King of Boxers, all of these are alternate titles, but not one of them accurately describes the film. If I were to name it, I think I would go with the much more descriptive Jimmy Wang Yu Beats Up Japan. This title seems to be far more fitting, because Wang Yu’s xenophobic view of the Japnese is seemingly more brazen than your average kung fu title looking to go over similar territory. Whoever wrote this picture painted it with their very bitter disgust for the Japanese, and this anger can be felt throughout the picture. The film sometimes takes a fairly dark turn, and these racial tensions stop feeling light and humorous and start seeming dark and slanderous. At the point where we see Jimmy Wang Yu take on and beat four sumo wrestlers, the movie almost seems as if it is preoccupied with defaming all facets of Japanese culture. The film tries to save itself from being pure propaganda by including scenes where Wang Yu is punished by being sternly spoken to for being so racist. However, it is too little after too much. The “fish out of water” scenes that explain the cultural differences between China and Japan are entertaining, and they do manage to lighten the mood a bit. However, they still seem to have the impact of poking fun at the Japanese rather than explaining the differences between cultures. Only one side is shown as being “correct,” and that is the side of the Chinese.

One thing that always made Wang Yu special was how much his films loved to focus on varying martial art styles. The Chinese Boxer films and the One-Armed Boxer series were perfect examples of this. Featuring martial art skills from all over the map, these movies actually shed some light on the Chinese view of arts such as Judo and Muay Thai. Screaming Tiger, due to its focus on Japan, certainly mixes things up, and it shows multiple battles between Japanese karate/judo with Chinese kung fu. The film actually demonstrates a decent amount of knowledge about these arts, as the fight scenes are very well choreographed. Arm locks and traditional judo throws are shown during some fight scenes, and it adds to the overall sense of a martial-arts-variety that Wang Yu seemed to have a fascination with. So many of his films capitalized on this. One gets the sense that it was either a stigma that audiences had when picturing his work or it was something he generally cared a lot about. Surely he didn’t have creative input on every last one of these films, so you have to imagine that this was just a gimmick that audiences expected from Jimmy. However, knowing his temper and control-freak attitude, I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Seeing the intensity of his choreography, one has to imagine that there was a personal interest involved in these projects.

What has, and always will be, the main selling point for this movie is the culminating battle between Jimmy Wang Yu and the evil Japanese karate villain. Climactic fight scenes are supposed to be fairly epic in their scale, but The Screaming Tiger takes things to rather ridiculous heights. Starting off on a dirt road, then traveling onto a moving train, and then jumping off of a bridge into a waterfall, this sequence is one that needs to be seen to be believed. Everything up until this point has seemingly been very by-the-books, with the exception of some varying martial art styles, but when this final battle begins, the movie changes into something else entirely. There are stunts, the fighting becomes much more furious and the entire movie seems to enter into true “WTF?” territory. Although I think the first half of the movie is definitely quite solid, it is only a seventy minute martial arts picture about a man getting revenge against the killer who took his family: We’ve traveled this road before. The finale, however, provides a level of entertainment that is seldom seen in movies.

The Conclusion
Like I said, the movie definitely has its issues. It is xenophobic and nationalistic. It is incredibly short as well, and every print I have ever seen has looked absolutely awful. However, there is a really intriguing piece of kung fu cinema lying just beneath the surface. Not everyone will agree with my assessment, and this could just be nostalgia putting blinders over my eyes, but I give the movie a four out of five. It is more than likely better seen as a three, but if this is one of the titles that pops up on a martial arts cheapie pack that you buy – it immediately makes it worth whatever you’ve spent on it.