I have been having good luck with my shopping lately. I was poking about in a DVD shop in Melbourne’s Chinatown recently when I found, on sale and literally gathering dust on a bottom shelf, a boxed set of Vampire themed kung fu movies: Mr Vampire 1-4, The Dead and the Deadly, Vampire versus Vampire, Hocus Pocus and Spiritual Trinity!
I had another great find in a second hand bookshop. In the film section I found 2 books published by the Hong Kong Film Archive: Monographs of Hong Kong Film Veterans and The Making of Martial Arts Films – As Told by Filmmakers and Stars. The books refer to an oral history project conducted by the Hong Kong Film Archive, and, in the preface, the latter book explains that it was produced to accompany an exhibition of materials attached to this project (actually, I am guessing that this is the case for the first book too – both books have the same design.)
I haven’t had time to read the books thoroughly yet, but I did manage to read Donna Chu’s report of an interview she conducted with Chin Tsi Ang in Monographs of Hong Kong Film Veterans. Born in Shanghai in 1909, Chin is credited with being one of martial arts cinema’s first female heroines. She was a bona fide martial artist, having studied many styles from when she was 8 up until she started film making when she was 16:
“At 8 years of age, I started learning the martial arts, until I was 16. You can imagine how many styles and schools I had mastered by then. At that time, martial arts clubs did not accept female students. I disguised myself as a boy, and no one saw through my disguise at first. I only gave myself away at the toilet. But the master was a good man and he said I was smart and could continue to learn.” (p. 54)
Ching’s derring do attitude served her well: “The martial arts heroine never used doubles, personally undertaking stunts like standing on the back of a horse, or leaping down from great heights.” On one of my kung fu DVDs (I’m afraid I forget which one) there is a documentary on the history of martial arts movies. It features an interview with an elderly Ching who, despite being turned out in an elegant dress and nice hairdo, comes across as (there is no other word) tough. A point of interest is that Ching’s grandson is none other than Sammo Hung. It looks as if Sammo has inherited a couple of things from his Granny.
I am not blogging much lately – I am mentally whacked and just don’t have the concentration. But I hope to get back into it soon.