Written by: John White on December 22nd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1977
Director: Ho Meng-Hua
Cast: Danny Lee, Evelyne Kraft, Hsiao Yao, Ku Feng
DVD released: 27th March 2003
Approximate running time: 86 mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Mandarin)
DVD Release: Celestial
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: HK$85
Synopsis: Lovesick explorer Chen (Danny Lee) has found his love in bed with his brother and turned to the bottle. Sleazy promoter Lu (Feng) gets in touch and suggests an expedition to India to track down a giant gorilla to take Chen’s mind off it. Lu and Chen head off to remote India with four exploring chums and a bunch of expendable natives to carry their stuff. En route they are attacked by the elements and Tigers and Lu decides to forsake the trek for the luxury of his hotel leaving Chen to die. Not being too bright Chen decides to look for Lu when he wakes and finds an empty camp, and he stumbles on the Gorilla himself. Initial animosity gives way to sufferance on the Gorilla’s part when Chen is befriended by gorgeous pouting blonde Tarzanette, Ah Wei (Kraft), whom the Gorilla has brought up since she was a little girl. Chen beds Ah Wei and convinces her to bring the Gorilla to Hong Kong where Lu gratefully exploits the animal. But when Chen meets his old flame and Lu gives Ah Wei the eye it all starts to go terribly wrong.
Mighty Peking Man is an exploitation movie par excellence, it not only takes the plot of King Kong to Hong Kong but throws in an Aryan blond Tarzan nymphette. How cool is that! This is prime cheese with the decent budget for locations being rather compromised by the rudimentary models used for the Gorilla shots. There is little attempt at realism in these effects shots but that rather adds to the fun when the Gorilla finally goes on the rampage against the venal and stupid inhabitants of this fictional Hong Kong. Watching the films’ villain get thrown from a skyscraper and then squished like a large monkey cigarette butt is a wonderful thing.
The film provides lots of shots with animals in the Indian sequences and Kraft is incredibly calm in these shots whilst Danny Lee seems to be authentically scared when asked to play in a carefree manner with a leopard. Kraft is actually jolly good in a thankless role which asks her to be fantastically brave one moment and a screaming helpless girlie the next. The film’s script is nothing other than a quick Xerox of John Guillermin’s film the year before and the actors struggle with meaningless roles. Chen is such an idiot that you wonder how he survives going to the shops let alone being a famous explorer. Lu is a pantomime villain who shoots Indian peasants to save on medicine and tries to consummate his passions despite being chased by a multi storey primate. But part of the point of King Kong is sympathy for the beast against human stupidity so it makes sense that all humans here are imbeciles.
Mighty Peking Man is great, great fun. A terrific romp over narrative sense, ropey production values and dodgy characterisation.
The Celestial DVD was one of their first Shaw Brothers releases and even though it is not OOP it is one of the more difficult to locate of Celestial’s Shaw Brothers releases. The print is beautiful and spotless and has been restored. It is an irritation that the aspect ratio is wrong meaning you will have to set widescreen equipment to full frame settings to get things right.
The sound is good but the 5.1 is created through little effort and you might as well listen in stereo really. The English subtitles are very reliable.
3 trailers are on the disc for other Shaw Brother films along with biographies of the major stars where we learn that Kraft now runs a business in Nigeria.
Mandarin sound and a great print render this the best disc out there of this movie. I loved it.