Tong Kai was born in Macau in 1937 and moved to Hong Kong in 1952 to earn a living. He found employment in Cantonese opera troupes and studied under famed actor Chan Kam-tong. He was particularly enamored with the Northern martial arts acrobatics on stage and started to learn the craft under Yuen Siutin and later became a martial arts coordinator for Cantonese opera troupes. He played an extra on Romance of Fuji Mountain, starring Chan Kam-tong, and subsequently started working in the film industry with the help of Yuen Siu-tin, serving in various posts including body double, actor and martial arts stuntman. He worked on numerous Wong Fei Hung films starring Kwan Takhing, as well as in other Cantonese films.
In 1963, Tong partnered with Lau Kar-leung to design the action choreography for South Dragon, North Phoenix, directed by Woo Pang. He worked again with Lau in 1966 on The Jade Bow, directed by Fu Chi and Cheung Sing-yim, which became known for pioneering a new style of action choreography. Tong and Lau were introduced to Chang Cheh by fellow director and cinematographer Hsu Cheng-hung, and Chang hired them to work at Shaw Brothers. Tong and Lau became long-term collaborators, working for Chang on a number of the director’s classics including The One-Armed Swordsman (1967), Golden Swallow (1968), Vengeance! (1970), The Boxer From Shantung (1972), Blood Brothers (1973), Shaolin Martial Arts (1974) and Heroes Two (1974).
When Lau Kar-leung turned to directing in the mid-1970s, Tong became the chief martial arts coordinator at Shaw Brothers, working mostly with Chor Yuen and Sun Chung. In many of Chor Yuen’s martial arts films adapted from Ku Lung novels such as Killer Clans (1976), The Magic Blade (1976), Swordsman and Enchantress (1978), Full Moon Scimitar (1979) and The Proud Twins (1979), Tong introduced an ethereal serenity to the fighting scenes that was in keeping with the spirit of the novels. Yet in Sun Chung’s The Proud Youth (1978), The Avenging Eagle (1978), The Deadly Breaking Sword (1979) as well as on the Kuei Chih-hung-directed Killer Constable, Tong was successful in staging explosive action sequences.
The 360 degree-revolving blade used by the main character in Full Moon Scimitar was designed by Tong, which greatly impressed author Ku Lung himself. In addition to local productions, Tong also worked on The Sand Pebbles (1966), directed by Robert Wise. Over his long career, Tong had worked on over 200 films as action choreographer, and had acted in front of the camera on over 100 productions. In the early 1980s, Tong directed three films for Shaw Brothers--Shaolin Prince (1983), Shaolin Intruders (1983) and Opium and the Kung-Fu Master (1984), on all of which he also served as martial arts coordinator.
He married swordplay film actress Suet Nei (aka Sydney Hung) in 1969.
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||Opium and the Kung-Fu Master|