(Hsing Hsing Wang)
Hong Kong. 1977.
Director – Ho Meng-Hua, Screenplay – I Kuang, Producer – Runme Shaw, Photography – Tsau Hui-Chi & Wu Cho-Hua, Music – Chen Yung Yu & De Wolfe, Special Effects – Hsu Ping-Kon & Li Yi-Chih, Art Direction – Chen Ching-Shen & Johnson Tsao. Production Company – Shaw Brothers.
Evelyne Kraft (Samantha), Li Hsiu-Hsien (Johnny Feng), Feng Ku (Lu Chen)
A Hong Kong entrepreneur mounts an expedition, headed by hunter Johnny Feng, into the Himalayan jungles to find a giant ape. After disasters strike, Johnny alone goes on to encounter the giant ape. He discovers that it has been befriended by a blonde girl Samantha who has been abandoned in the jungle after the crash of her parents’ plane as a child. The two become lovers and Johnny persuades her to come back to Hong Kong, along with the ape. However, once there, Johnny’s greedy backer places the ape in chains, intending to exploit it as a show spectacle. Things go disastrously wrong and the ape bursts out of its confines and rampages through the city.
This Hong Kong production was made as a cheap ripoff of the Dino De Laurentiis remake of King Kong (1976). It was one of several cheap films that sought to ride on the coattails of the De Laurentiis King Kong – others included A.P.E./Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla (1976) and Queen Kong (1976). The Mighty Peking Man was universally ridiculed at the time of its release and not widely seen until it was a revived as a trash classic on Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder video release label in 2000.
The Mighty Peking Man is terrible on most counts. It proves to be not so much a ripoff of King Kong as it is an uncredited rehash of Mighty Joe Young (1949), a film about a giant ape befriended by a girl, with both being brought to civilization with expectedly disastrous results. Although this is a Mighty Joe Young by way of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (1956-7), wherein the Terry Moore role is now taken up by a blonde jungle girl in leather miniskirt.
The part of the jungle girl is played by model Evelyne Kraft who is in a word terrible. The performance she delivers gives the impression that there is entirely nothing going on between her ears. There is a scene in the middle of the film with her and hero Li Hsiu-Hsien romping through the jungle, bathing, swinging a tiger around on their shoulders, accompanied by a banal pop song, which is hysterical in its insipidity.
The Peking Man is a cheap-looking ape suit. (It should be noted that this Peking Man comes from the Himalayas, not China where Peking is, and is a giant ape that has nothing at all to do with the original Peking Man from anthropology, an early hominid from 200,000-7000,000 years ago). There is some terrible opticals and laughable scenes with the ape conducting wrestling matches with Tonka Toy trucks, although it has to be said that these effects are marginally better conducted and with more vigour than the South Korean entry A.P.E..
Director Ho Meng-Hua directed 57 films for Hong Kong’s premiere production company Shaw Brothers between the 1950s and the 1990s in genres that range from romance to crime to martial arts and swordsman films. His other ventures into genre material include:- Seven Immortal Woman (1963) about a fairy on Earth; Monkey Goes West (1966), Princess Iron Fan (1966) and The Cave of the Silken Web (1967), a series of films based on the classic Chinese legend Journey to the West; the Wu Xia The Land of Many Perfumes (1968) and Vengeance is a Golden Blade (1969); The Human Goddess (1972) about a goddess come to Earth; the horror films Black Magic (1975), Oily Maniac (1976), Black Magic 2 (1978), The Rape After (1984) and Evil Black Magic (1992).