Friday, 9 September 2011

Retro review: The Mighty Peking Man (1977)

A group of business men read a report about a giant gorilla in the Himalayas and set out to bring the beast back and make a lot of money. Within moments of arriving in a seemingly deserted village, they a faced with a herd of stampeding speeded up back projected elephants. Despite losing several of their crew, they carry on. Cheng Zheng-feng -Johnnie to his friends (Danny Lee) is a little "blue" after breaking up with his girlfriend, and finds the time to have a flashback to the time he walked in on her with his brother. His friends tell him not to worry, "When we capture this gorilla, you'll be famous - women will be all over you" This picks him up a little.
More perils face the group the next day, some falling into quicksand and then a quite convincing tiger attack which results in one of the Indian helpers losing half a leg - "Quick - get the first aid kit!" Too late, the man is shot dead, and they are made to carry on.
I'm sure it'll be ok with a plaster..

Finding a large footprint shows they are on the right track, but soon Cheng is being mauled by the giant ape. He is rescued by a beautiful blonde Tarzan style girl, Ah Wei (Evelyne Kraft). She seems to have a connection with the beast, and it turns out she crashed there when she was a child and she shows our hero the wreckage and remains of her parents. In her flashback we learn she was looked after by the giant ape, Ah Wang and her bond with the other animals stretches to tigers and leopards, to Cheng's astonishment. More amazing is how she manages to keep her skimpy jungle outfit on while she's dashing about and rolling around with the big cats.

Sadly, her animal magic doesn't stretch to snakes and she is bitten on the inner thigh. Being the good boy scout, Cheng gladly jumps in to suck out the poison, while the tiger wrestles with the bad snake. With the help of Ah Wang and some herbal therapy, she is soon up and about.
The rest of the team meanwhile are making plans to head back to Hong Kong, from the side of the their luxury swimming pool, Cheng is obviously surviving ok in the jungle. The jungle buddies, in the meantime are becoming more involved with each other and are soon getting it on, much to the sadness of the jealous ape, who is watching through the cave opening (should it really be the Peeking Man?)
Cheng decides that he must take the gorilla and the girl to Hong Kong. So, saying her farewells to the animals, they set off for the nearest Indian city, The business men however, when seeing Ah Wang have money in their eyes, and he is soon chained and bound (literally)on its way to China.
When they reach Hong Kong, he is immediately put on public display for the paying (any baying) crowds. Cheng's ex-girlfriend, however has seen the error of her ways and wants to get back with him. Walking in on an embrace, Ah Wei runs off in tears, and heads straight for Ah Wang. Seeing her upset, and even worse, being abused and by one of the lecherous businessmen the great ape decides enough is enough and all hell breaks loose.

The Mighty Peking Man (aka Xing Xing Wang or Goliathon) was the famous Shaw Brothers Studio's answer to Dino De Laurentiis' remake of King Kong (1976). Made in the similar style to Toho's Godzilla movies, with the mixture of man in a suit, miniatures and back projection, it packs better special effects and story than the big budget US production, in a fraction of the running time. I first came across the title in the pages of House of Hammer, the Dez Skinn produced magazine from the 70s that shaped my viewing habits for life. Finally getting to see it, it's a lovely looking film, even with the obvious flaws in the special effects, it, like the Japanese Godzilla movies, has a charm of it's own. It's a little odd in the mixing of Chinese and western actors, and there is English on the posters advertising the "Mighty Peking Man" on display, but it's not anything off putting. I would like to also point out that Ms Kraft does eventually slip a nip or two, but you have to be very good with the pause. Not that I do that sort of thing, of course, oh no. Quentin Tarantino, being a  fan of Shaw Bros films has released the film on DVD under his Rolling Thunder Pictures label. (which reminds me I must get around to watching Rolling Thunder one day...)  As far as I know it's never been released in the UK which is a shame, but who knows maybe one day? (*NB: since writing, Rolling Thunder has indeed been released on Blu-ray)
7 out of 10 for nostalgia.

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