“Warning: some of the scenes in this film actually happened.” Well, according to the poster anyway. Kung fu stud Lin Shao Ho (Lo Lieh) and his pregnant girlfriend Sher Shin Lan (sexploitation regular Hu Chin) flee her wicked father who is eager she should marry her cousin. His gang beat Shao Ho half to death, but Shin Lan leaps off a cliff and awakens up a tree where a tiger prowls below. Terrified, she urinates over the jungle cat. Evidently he enjoys water sports and invites her to his cave. Recalling an old proverb (“If a woman kisses a tiger, the tiger is her slave”), Shin Lan disrobes and lets the tiger kiss her buttocks and breasts, until the censor abruptly curtails this jarring hint of interspecies coupling. A few years later, Shin Lan idiotically advises her young son to “try fighting with uncle tiger.” Whereupon we are treated to disturbing mondo footage of a real little boy mauled by a real tiger. “Don’t play so rough!” the kid scolds in the dub, although the freeze-frame on the clearly terrified tyke is too unsettling to dismiss.
Twenty years later, mom hasn’t aged a day but young Lin Shao Chang (Tung Wai, later director of Magic Cop (1990)) has grown into a gangly, leopard-skin clad youth with disco hair and dynamic kung fu skills. Curious about the civilised world, Shao Chang journeys into town and winds up fighting local hotheads, only to be bailed out by none other than his father, Lin Shao Ho. Now remarried and prospering, Shao Ho’s new wife generously welcomes his old girlfriend and son into the family, but Shin Lan sadly elects to stay in the jungle and let her son have a fresh chance at happiness. While out hunting, Shao Chang snags himself a love interest in the form of Sher Shao Lin. But her father turns out to be Shin Lan’s cousin (Wang Hsieh) and the romance reignites old rivalries.
Tiger Love is another of those Hong Kong movies that changes genre every twenty minutes, to the point where one suspects the filmmakers were making things up as they went along. Director Ching Weng was the man behind dingbat gems like Snake Girl Drops In (1974) and The Wolf Girl (1981), though his biggest hit was the family comedy Old Master Q (1975), based on the popular manhua later filmed as Hong Kong’s first CG movie by producer Tsui Hark. To begin with the story bears traces of The Jungle Book, with a feral boy struggling to find acceptance amidst an intolerant “civilised” world, although drawing equally upon Chinese fairytales and old wu xia novels. Then it turns into Romeo and Juliet, with Shao Chang and Shao Lin searching for a way to end the longstanding feud between their families, while the older generation seems intent on prolonging the hate.
Chopped to bits by an international distributor, the film has some fairly serious themes but is closer in tone to a daytime soap opera including lots of romantic music familiar to anyone who has ever been in a Chinese restaurant. The low-budget production lacks the polish of a Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest release and the sloppy fight choreography only sparks to life briefly when Shin Lan breaks out some tiger kung fu. However, nothing prepares you for a bizarre third act twist wherein the tiger delivers a creepy graveside monologue! Turns out, having killed one-hundred people, Uncle Tiger has magical shape-shifting powers (an actual part of Chinese folklore). Suddenly, the film becomes a horror movie, as the tiger transforms into a genuinely freaky green, fanged witch and murders the Sher family one by one. After a fairly tedious hour, the last twenty minutes are surprisingly accomplished and unsettling, almost a period Chinese variation on Halloween (1978) with the Sher sisters trapped alone in the house while the tiger plays Michael Myers.
Incidentally, the male tiger's penis is barbed so interspecies relations of any kind would be most painful and ill-advised. There you go, don't say you never learn anything at this website.