Lady Black Cat

This 1966 film starring Connie Chan as a kung fu do-gooder behind her very cute little cat mask is more in keeping with what I expected from the Cantonese film industry around this period. The term often used for these films was “weekly” due to how long it usually took to shoot these films and how long they generally lasted in a theater. Shot in black and white with no real sets to speak of, they were low budget affairs that were intended to put a big star like Connie on the screen as often as possible and generate a quick financial return. Stars like Connie and Josephine Siao were churning out over 20 films a year that were primarily intended for the Hong Kong audience during this period.
This was one of the major issues with Cantonese film at the time – while the Mandarin film industry had a tremendous distribution network all over Asia to show their films, the Cantonese films did not – and thus the budgets of the Mandarin films grew larger while the Cantonese film budgets became smaller and smaller – a similar trend to what happened to Hong Kong films beginning in the mid-90’s when Hollywood took away their audience throughout Asia and their budgets had to be reined in dramatically as producers shied away from investing in Hong Kong films.
The production values of this film as well as the simplistic plot doesn’t rise much above an action serial episode from Hollywood in the 1930’s – the film is shoddily shot and most of the action is poorly choreographed and the only real reason for modern audiences to give it a look is another lovely glimpse of Connie Chan and a frenzied face-altering performance from that perennial bad guy Sek Kin. Connie is more than a little cute in her cat get up, but she also disguises herself as a guy on a few occasions, a meek mole-faced secretary and a rock and role singer with attitude. Sek leers and smirks like it’s a lost art with his thin moustache almost winking lasciviously at you and he makes being the bad guy seem like so much fun. Even without subtitles on this DVD it was enjoyable watching these two work their thing to the bone.
Without those subtitles I was admittedly a bit lost at some of the plot twists but in general the story seemed fairly basic. The film begins with Connie getting ready in the morning for her day job – a little makeup, comb the hair, paste a mole to her right cheek and then the coup de grace – dark rimmed glasses. Now no one will possibly recognize her as the crime fighter Lady Black Cat! Of course, since Lady Black Cat hides her identity behind a mask, the need for an everyday disguise was lost on me. Nevertheless, she is a secretary to Woo Fung who is either a private detective or perhaps an insurance investigator (or neither!) and he thinks his secretary is a scaredy cat instead of a Black Cat – as she cowers nervously every time a fight begins.
Sek Kin has a gang and a hot busty girlfriend and spends his days by his pool throwing darts at a huge cardboard picture of a black cat – clearly these two have met before. He has gotten a hold of a huge diamond – smuggled in a dead fish – and he invites Woo over to his house where he first shows him his well-endowed girlfriend with the helium voice and a safe where he places the jewel. A note arrives – on the end of a thrown knife – that says that the Black Cat will steal the diamond tonight!
This fits perfectly into Sek’s plans because he proceeds to knock everyone out with some gas (and later pulls out two nose plugs from deep up his nostrils) and allows LBC to steal the jewel – but in fact he did a switch and she steals a fake – and he then frames his old servant for the crime while having the real one safely tucked away. Much of the rest of the film deals with Connie trying to get the real jewel, prove the servant is innocent, Sek chasing after a young babe who wants nothing to do with him, a number of sock em ups, Connie bringing a band to his house and singing a rock and roll song and a fairly enjoyable finale in which two gangs, Woo Fung, the young babe and her boyfriend and Connie are all in a giant tussle to get the diamond. Guess who wins? A sequel “Lady Black Cat Strikes Again” came out the following year. One thing of no consequence struck me – a few times money is exchanged and Hong Kong had these gigantic bills back then – how cool would it be to whip out a $10 bill the size of your head!

My rating for this film: 5.5