8 Strikes of the Wildcat (1976)
Director: Yi-hsiu Lin
Cast: Chi Dan Dan, Tao Hung Li, Shao Chun Chang
Synopsis: Gofer, Mo and Pengolin, collectively known as the Three Rats, are looking for a two part treasure map and will kill anyone who gets in their way.
8 Strikes of the Wildcat is yet another of the interminable sequence of cheap Hong Kong kung-fu flicks that flooded the market from the mid-seventies to capitalise on the video boom, and as with most films made to capitalise on anything, it’s pretty rank. These films seem to have been made by the bucket-load, and the makers all seem to have been working from the same script because, with a few unimaginative variations, the stories they tell are all identical. The characters are all identical. Even the locations are identical: you can just imagine another film crew impatiently waiting just off camera for the actors in the movie you’re watching to wrap and move on so that they can film their own identical flick in time to have it packaged and distributed before nightfall. While behind them waits another film crew…
As usual, 8 Strikes of the Wildcat wastes no time with scene setting, choosing instead to throw us immediately into the thick of the action by showing us some good guy being beaten up by three cartoon bad guys (one of whom, in accordance with 1970s kung-fu film-making lore, must sport a red nose and comedy ‘tache). Of course, this is as close to characterisation as these movies get. Everybody expresses themselves through their fighting style, and the populace is equally divided between sniggering bad guys, handsome young buffoons, wise old men, and recently-orphaned heroes seeking revenge on the sniggering bad guys for killing one or both of their wise old parents.
One deviation from the usual plot is that our hero is actually a comely wench (Chi Dan Dan — who gives quite an appealing performance). That’s about as daring as it gets though, as she seeks the guidance of a wise old kung-fu master in the art of chop-socky, and resists the clownish advances of the master’s young something-or-other (their relationship is never really made clear). The villains in this piece have invented a laughable style of fighting called the three rats style (presumably because their leader actually resembles one of the creatures) which includes such breath-taking moves as one man holding the lead man’s waist while the third man holds the second man’s waist and threateningly waves his foot behind him. Well, it would put the fear of God into me — or at least have me crossing the road if I saw them approaching. They also advance on their enemies on tiptoes, making squeaking rat noises, with their hands shaped like claws in front of their mouths. Terrifying.
To counter this threat, our heroine’s wise old guide devises the wildcat routine which involves alternately clawing the air and making cat noises and then coming over all coy and then… well, that’s it, really. Can’t fail when you think about it.
The print I watched was so bad the movie looked as if it was filmed during a snow storm, which at least was a diversion from the same old boring plot, the same old fights, the usual crappy acting (and dubbing) and the dodgy sound effects (every single fight movement sounds like someone being smacked over the head with a metal tray). I spent the entire running time of 8 Strikes of the Wildcat slowly losing the will to live and wishing the final confrontation would hurry up and arrive, and then spent the entire lengthy final confrontation wishing it would hurry up and finish.
You’ll probably be tempted to watch 8 Strikes of the Wildcat now, just to see if it’s as bad as I’ve described, but, please, heed these words, or you too could find your life an hour-and-a-half shorter with nothing but a stupefied expression to show for it.
(Reviewed 25th January 2007)