Screaming Ninja,
directed by Lung Chien
(Echo Bridge, 1973)

Featuring far too many men wearing baskets and such over their entire heads, Tang ren piao ke (Screaming Ninja, a.k.a. Screaming Tiger) manages to entertain despite a pretty weak storyline with a couple of subplots I never really made sense of. I suspect there is a longer, unedited version of this film somewhere out there, as at least one scene refers to something I never saw happen. As for the fighting, I must say there was certainly no shortage of martial arts scenes. I wasn't always sure who was fighting whom until the end, but it was all fun to watch. Unfortunately, the print of this film leaves much to be desired, but you have to remember it was made back in 1973. The English dubbing is typical of 1970s kung fu films -- not very good and open to easy ridicule.

Screaming Ninja is actually set in feudal Japan rather than China. Jimmy Wang Yu's character has come to the island nation to avenge the deaths of his entire family back home. He isn't sure of the culprits' identities at first, but he gets in lots of practice beating up Japanese guys of all sizes (including Sumo wrestlers) as he goes along. Early on, he gets mixed up with a female pickpocket, and they eventually develop some sort of kinship (I have to admit I never really figured this woman out); then, seemingly through her, he gets himself in the middle of a small war between two competing martial arts schools. It's really all just a means to an end, setting up the big fight scene between hero and villain.

The big fight at the end isn't all that spectacular, but the combatants go at it for quite a while across multiple locations -- on top of a train, on a high bridge, in the middle of a roaring river, etc. Jimmy Wang Yu is a good fighter known for his quickness, and his fight scenes are really the only strength of this film. This isn't his best work, but Screaming Ninja features enough kung fu action to appeal to any fan of the genre.

review by
Daniel Jolley

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