Heroes of the East

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    The Rat Catcher (1974: Kuei Chih-hung: Hong Kong)

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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    The Rat Catcher (1974: Kuei Chih-hung: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:24 am

    “This is narcotics, not sugar.”

    When I think of the director Kuei Chih-hung I think of exploitation films such as The Killer Snakes, Corpse Mania and the underrated and disturbing The Boxer’s Omen. Even though he is a studio director early in his career who probably did not have much choice in what he was going to direct, I still found it a bit discombobulating on how pleasant this light comedy is. It includes one of the most forgiving pickpockets and one of the nicest cops I have ever seen on film.

    Like the previous modern day film The Big Holdup I did a review on, this film has lots of exterior shots showing Hong Kong. It starts off with a nice chase when pickpocket Anna Wong (Tanny Tien Ni) is running down a busy street by the mark (unknown gweillo actor) while passersby gawk at the scene and/or handheld camera giving this a French New Wave feel. It made me feel a little nervous when she falls down in front of a vehicle. Then the sanguine traffic cop Niou Chen gets involved (Pang Pang who biggest role was of Piggy in the Journey to the West series) who looks a little like Harland Williams if he was a few decades older, fatter and Chinese. In the chase she bumps into former pickpocket Lin Ziqing (Lau Luk-wa: is this his biggest role?) and uses him as a patsy by passing off the wallet in a very obvious position which leads Lin to being locked up for a crime he did not commit. By coincidence he ends up in jail with Anna’s dad. He is not there long (just three months), but he has bigger problems. He is an absentee father whose two kids are in school and both the nursery and he have financial problems.

    Like with most romantic comedies you probably know what will happen between the two leads no matter what Anna puts him through. His behavior reminds me of the Futurama quote: “Fool me seven times shame on you. Fool me eight times shame on me.” The ending is reminiscent of Pocketful of Miracles (or Lady for a Day) as the pickpocketing network rally against the true bad guys – the drug dealers.

    This is a surprisingly sweet romantic comedy film that could be watched with any family members unlike many of Kuei’s other directed movies. It is certainly naïve and predictable with one of the more annoying scores that reminded me of the 1980s Golden Harvest films (the muzak versions of Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush and Old MacDonald Had a Farm are particularly harrowing), but the movie has its own particular charms. There are much better pickpocket films like To’s Sparrow and for cinephiles Bresson’s Pickpocket (both among my favorite films), but for breezy entertainment and Tanny Tien’s charmingly deceitful performance I thought it was a decent effort. I think it helps the viewing if you go into the movie with the right expectations of an innocuous, pleasant and somewhat forgettable comedy. Though for a bonus there is one comedic “basher” fight scene taking place on a Central District ferry toward the end.

    I suspect this Mandarin comedy was made more for transnational release more than the market at home which was becoming more Cantonese oriented at the time. In Hong Kong it made a light HK$ 143,871.

    While the back description states this film was hailed for its “British humor and Italian style”* a lot of the comedy is derived from American silent film (if not older). Check out Keystone’s Peanuts and Bullets (1915) where Charley Chase does a stealing food gag from a window high above similar to the one in this film. The nerve-wracking scaffolding scene is Harold Lloyd-esque. But also check out several scenes that purposefully work on pantomime while the soundtrack drowns out all dialogue.

    This was seen in the R3 IVL with mono Mandarin language track and English, Traditional Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesian subtitles. The English subtitles are good though some of the English dialog is off. There is a new trailer for this film along with others for Young Lovers, The Millionaire Chase, Family Light Affair, The Venus’ Tear Diamond. In the Movie Information section there is: Movie Stills, Original Poster (that is a misleading poster, I am sure she does not wear that), Production Notes and Biography and Selected Filmography.

    * I wonder if anyone else gets tired of querying for a lesser known Shaw Brothers movie and getting the same IVL description over and over again. I also think it is funny that the description uses Shaw’s own Hong Kong Movie News for the favorable blurb.

    Tags:
    Animated Opening, Handheld, Modern, Pickpocket.

    Questions:
    The IVL description got me thinking about any possible movies, especially Italian, that is like this one. Anyone have an idea what could have been an influence to this one?
    Not counting the horrible original music where is the non-original music lifted from?
    I could not find any mention of this film in any books. Has anyone seen this mentioned at length in any books or magazines?

    Sources:
    HKFA for box office total.
    A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed Review There are few reviews on this film that I could find. The two on HKMDB are too short unfortunately. There is one on IMDB.

      Current date/time is Sat Apr 29, 2017 12:21 am