Hollywood Gothique
The Archive

Scaredy Cats: The Cat ("Lao Mao," 1992)

One of the joys of Hong Kong Cinema is the sheer uninhibited exuberance of their fantasy films. The results can be wildly outrageous and entertaining – or, in this case, they can be a complete mess. This haphazard combo of horror, sci-fi, mystery, and action is a botch; fortunately, there is at least one outrageous scene that makes the uneasy jumble worth a viewing: a knock-down, drag-out kung fu battle between a cat and a dog!

Despite the title, the cat plays a supporting role. The film is mostly about Wisely (a popular recurring character, here embodied by Waise Lee) searching for a mysterious man and woman, who turn out to be good aliens battling an evil monster from outer space; their feline fellow warrior wanders in and out, only occasionally taking over the action.

The cat-and-dog fight, set mostly in a junk yard, does achieve a giddy sense of absurdity that becomes fun. It may not be “good” in any conventional sense, but it is so outrageous that it must be seen to be believed.

Unfortunately, at least some of the shots were achieved – tastelessly and cruelly – with actual animals being tossed around. Thankfully, the majority of the action (flips, kicks, flops, and leaps) features rather obvious puppets, sometimes animated with stop-motion. The special effects are unconvincing but fun.

The most absurd effect depicts the cat’s first tentative attempt at flying: panning the camera over the feline while is stands against a black background, it is supposed to look as though the cat, not the camera, is moving. At least the cat – unlike its human female comrade – remembers how to fly at the climax, when it can use the skill to defeat the alien menace: in a brief sequence that almost tops the dog-fight, the flying feline literally dive-bombs down into the beast’s gullet – and somehow survives the explosion for a happy ending!

Read an in-depth review of the film at Cinefantastique Online.