Cheng Kang was born in 1924 in Anhui Province. He quit school after Primary 3, was separated from his family at the age of 13, and spent part of his childhood in an orphanage. In 1938, he joined the Hsin An Travelling Troupe, which travelled all over the country performing patriotic plays that incited resistance to Japanese occupation. He joined the Chung Yi Theatre Group in Chongqing in 1942. After the war, he studied art and design at the Shanghai Art School. He completed his first play, Rain on the Deserted Courtyard, in 1948, and subsequently devoted himself to playwriting. Upon arrival in Hong Kong in 1949, he made a living as a screen writer, and started writing for Cantonese films. He wrote a number of screenplays for Union Film Company including A Home of a Million Gold (1953), Father and Son (1954), Big Thunderstorm (1954), An Orphan’s Tragedy (1955), The Wall (1955), Bloody Sucker (1962) and Sea (1963), among others. He also wrote more than 30 screenplays for the director Ng Wui. From 1952 onwards he also wrote many screenplays for Mandarin films, including Little Angel on the Streets (1957), directed by Li Han-hsiang, A Mellow Spring (1957) and Back Door (1960), etc. In addition, he also wrote scripts for films in the Amoy-dialect. Some say that over the years, he had written over 300 scripts for Cantonese, Mandarin and Amoy-dialect films. He directed the Cantonese feature Mother and Son in Grief in 1951, and thereafter made several Cantonese and Amoy-dialect films.
Cheng joined Shaw Brothers in 1963 as a scriptwriter, penning such features as The Coin (1964), directed by Li Han-hsiang, Sons of Good Earth (1965), directed by King Hu, and The Monkey Goes West series (1966-1968) , directed by Ho Meng-hua. He became a second-unit director in 1967, and later directed The Sword of Swords (1968) on his own. His 1970 film, The Twelve Gold Medallions, received the Excellent Film Award at the 9th Golden Horse Awards. He became one of the hottest directors at Shaw Brothers, and the studio allowed him to use some of its top female stars on The 14 Amazons (1972), which took two years to film and cost $4 million to make. The film received the Excellent Film Award and the Best Director Award at the 11th Golden Horse Awards, and represented a high point of his career. However, his true masterpiece was Kidnap (1974), based on a true story of a kidnapping case. Not only was the plot full of suspense and tension, but the depiction of characters and the actual crime was extremely realistic. Subsequently, he directed two other social realist films, The Call Girls (1977) and Invincible Enforcer (1979). The former portrays the prostitution of actresses in the 1970s, while the latter reveals the ugly conditions of prisons and the discrimination that former prison inmates face. Both films are powerful in their own way.
Cheng’s 1976 work King Gambler was the first gambler film in Hong Kong history, and was banned in Taiwan. The ban was only lifted in August, 1980, upon which the film performed well at the box office. He followed up with The King Of Gambler (1981), which became the box office number one in Taiwan, and initiated the trend in gambling films in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
He left Shaw Brothers in 1980 for Taiwan, where he directed films for a variety of companies. He also formed his own company, which produced 15 Female Warriors Of The Sha Family. He was known for being meticulous and uncompromising, and often took his time with his productions. This resulted in frequent overspending and delays, and as time went on, fewer and fewer studios and investors were willing to hire him. In the 1980s, he made a few more films in Taiwan before leaving film. He briefly returned to film in the early 1990s before retiring for good.
|Year||Chinese name||English name||Directors|
||The Wizard of Tricks|
||Escape to Freedom|
||The King Of Gambler|
||15 Female Warriors of the Sha Family|
||Immortal Warriors||CHANG Tseng Chai LO Wei WONG Sing Loy KUO Joseph|
||The Call Girls|
||Flying Guillotine Part II||HUA Shan|
(Segment: Hidden Torsos )
|The Criminals||HUA Shan HO Meng Hwa|
||Temperament of Life|
||Two Faces Of Love|
||The Scholar and the Soldier|
(Segment: The Tigress )
|Trilogy of Swordsmanship||CHANG Cheh|
||The 14 Amazons|
||The Twelve Gold Medallions|
||The Magnificent Swordsman|
||The Sword of Swords|
||The Black Falcon|
||Kiss and Kill|
||The Trapeze Girl|
||Rape Of The Sword|
||Feud and Love|
||Heart to Heart|
||Bright Night||NG Wui|
||Sweet Love Lingers One||NG Wui|
||Mother and Son in Grief|
||Advent of Spring|