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LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES (1967). Directed by Law Chi. Starring Connie Chan Po-chu, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Suzy Mang Li, and Shek Kin. Action choreography by Lau Kar-leung and Tong Kai.

I’m on a mission to track down as many as possible of the early films of Lau Kar-leung and Tong Kai, the ones they made together in the mid-1960s when they were the hottest action team in Hong Kong cinema. Both Lau and Tong were recruited by the Shaw Brothers studio around 1967, where they initially worked with Chang Cheh on his groundbreaking kung fu films. Tong Kai then went on to create such unforgettable wuxia masterpieces as THE MAGIC BLADE (1976), THE AVENGING EAGLE (1978), and THE DEADLY BREAKING SWORD (1979), while Lau Kar-leung made his mark as the top kung fu director and choreographer of the 1970s, turning out hits like THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (1978) and LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA (1982). A few weeks ago I took a look at THE PROFESSIONALS, a 1967 contemporary drama made by the Kong Ngee studio and choreographed by Lau and Tong. I’d like to thank David Wells at moviefanprincess.com for a head’s up about another Lau-Tong collaboration from the same year, LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES. (Read Dave’s review here.)

LADY WITH A CAT\'S EYES
Suzy Mang Li (with Kenneth Tsang Kong, left) is the LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES.

LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES was released just a couple of months after THE PROFESSIONALS, at a time when Lau and Tong headed a freelance action crew that included, at various times, Lau’s brother Kar-wing and Yuen Wo-ping and his brother Cheung-yan. The fight scenes in LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES are based the same sort of freeform streetfighting as the earlier film, a style unlike the formal martial arts techniques featured in straight-up kung fu and swordplay films. Both Kar-wing and Cheung-yan can be spotted in the action scenes, and Tong Kai has a largish role as a gangster in the employ of lead bad guy Shek Kin (looking slick in a skinny mustache). Lau has a few brief scenes as a cop. The stars of LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES are Connie Chan, Kenneth Tsang, and B-movie bad girl Suzy Mang Li.

Lau Kar-leung in LADY WITH A CAT\'S EYES
Lau Kar-leung in LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES.

The film has the look of a Kong Ngee production, with ultramodern art direction and fashionable costuming shot in an edgy black-and-white style. The cinematographer, Chan Kon, had a long history with the Kong Ngee studio, and lensed their seminal STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER, which was released shortly after LADY WITH A CAT’S EYES. John Woo has credited STORY OF A DISCHARGED PRISONER as the inspiration for his BETTER TOMORROW films. Chan’s output mostly falls into the category of melodrama, but he was also the cinematographer on the first kung fu movie that Lau Kar-leung and Tong Kai collaborated on as action directors, SOUTH DRAGON, NORTH PHOENIX (1963). And, for all the kung fu movie trivia fans out there (you know who you are), Chan Kon’s very first film credit was as a lighting assistant on kung fu pioneer Ren Pengnian’s BIG FIGHT BETWEEN HERO COPPER HAMMER AND MADAM NINE FLOWERS in 1948!

The focus of these mid-60s action dramas was definitely more on drama than action, but it’s fun to see the cast and stunt crew styling to the jazz/rock score. An early fight scene, which comes up shortly after Connie Chan’s nightclub rendition of “Besame Mucho” in Cantonese, is shot and edited into a proto-MTV music video presentation. I’ve posted the scene (see below), which begins with Tong Kai’s attitude-dripping punk starting a fistfight which turns into an all out brawl. Note the cameos of Shek Kin and Connie Chan as spectators, and enjoy the raucous energy brought to the sequence by the young action choreographers and their crew.

Originally posted September 14, 2007.

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  • http://softfilm.blogspot.com/ Dave Wells

    Thanks for the plug, Jean! The Cantonese action films that Lau and Tong worked on from 1966-67 were definitely the creative playground that nurtured their talents. Another Connie Chan vehicle worth checking out is Lady Black Cat Returns. And not to be missed are the Muk Lan Fa films, starring Tong’s wife Suet Nei.