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The Mighty Peking Man

a/k/a Xing Xing wang

a/k/a Goliathon

Part Three of Monkey See --

Monkey Doo-Doo!

     "Don't worry about it, Johnny. Once you capture the Peking Man, you'll be famous, and then you can have any girl you want."

-- Jungle Jim's Guide to Romance     

 

     

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Sights &
Sounds:
The Mighty
Peking Man
(1977)
 Director:
  Meng Hua Ho
 Screenplay:
  Kuang Ni
 Producer:
  Runme Shaw
  Vee King Shaw
 Shaw
 Brothers

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The One Armed Swordsman

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Hammer of the Gods

Fists of Vengeance

The Savage Five

Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires

The Five Deadly Venoms

Infra-Man

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

The Flying Guillotine

The Mighty Peking Man

Crippled Avengers

 
Letís see ... We started with Crap-O-Scope ... Then came SpectaMation. And now our Mad Mammoth Monkey Marathon glides gracefully into the world of Oriental goofiness, brought to you in genuine ShawScope by the Shaw Brothers, Run Run and Run Me, the undisputed kings of Oriental goofiness. 

We open in the offices of Lu Tiem (Feng Ku), an evil entrepreneur, who raves to his gathered cronies about a recent documented sighting of the legendary Peking Man. (And how do we know heís evil? Heís an entrepreneur in a giant monkey movie; thatís how we know he's evil.) And not more than two minutes in, we already have a flashback:

...As Lu Tiem recounts the harrowing encounter with the mythical man-beast, we pan over a peaceful mountain village, where the tranquility is suddenly shattered by a freak storm and an accompanying earthquake! Lightning flashes and thunder roars as the mountain near the village breaks apart and crumbles, allowing the Peking Man to unearth himself -- in all his monkey-suited glory! He then proceeds to do the Mash Potato on the village, and as most of the peasants flee, a few remain behind and break out their trusty catapult -- alas, with little effect (-- the rubber rocks just bounce off the equally rubbery suit), and the rampage continues with plenty of building crushing and native stomping until the flashback abruptly ends...

Seems that Lu Tiem is all a-buzz over this account because he wants to form an expedition to this remote area of Indonesia, capture the Peking Man, and make some money off of the beast. (See, heís evil.) Wanting Johnny Fang, rumored to be the greatest hunter of all time, to lead this circus, one of Lu Tiem's Yes Men warns that ever since Fang was jilted by his long time lover, he spends most of his time at the bottom of liquor bottle. But Lu Tiem still wants his man, and they find Fang as they feared, drunk as the proverbial skunk, who happily agrees to to lead them all into the jungle and leave the memories of his lost love far, far behind him. And before you can say Cue me up some stock jungle footage and lets us find ourselves a giant monkey, Fang, Lu Tiem, and the rest of the expedition is knee deep in the jungle, searching for said giant monkey. Upon reaching the deserted village, an elephant stampede happens to thunder through, and once again, everyone wearing a Jungle Jim suit is spared a grisly death while everyone else bites it under the elephantís trampling feet -- we also realize that Johnny really is the greatest hunter of all time when the man brings down a full size Indian elephant with just a revolver!

After they make camp, two other guys lucky enough to be in the Jungle Jim outfits (-- sorry, I donít recall their names --) decide to cheer the morose Johnny up by trudging over his painful memories by asking what happened between him and his old girlfriend. (Thanks, guys!) Johnny bitterly answers, saying everything was just wonderful and dandy until brother Charlie, a famous TV producer, showed up, triggering another flashback:

...Weíre back in Hong Kong with an extended montage of Johnny and his ex, Lin Chang (Pin Cheng), in a love-addled stupor, frolicking around (-- buying snow cones, splashing around in the surf, etc). From what we see, this love seems destined to last forever, but Lin is an ambitious gal, who wants to be famous, and is more than willing to sleep her way to the top. Meaning, inevitably, Johnny catches he in bed with brother Charlie (-- ugh ... I hope itís HIS brother Charlie, as the film never specifies --). Busted in the act, as Charlie begs for forgiveness, Johnny ignores him and focuses all of his rage and hatred toward his now ex-girlfriend instead.

Thus endeth the flashback...

Seemingly doomed from the start, Lu Tiem's safari continues itís streak of bad luck when the local flora and fauna starts picking them off with startling frequency:

And I find it extremely amusing that every time something bad happens, the members of the expedition react the exact same way: They all throw their hands up in the air and run away, screaming, in every direction. And yes, they do run into each other while trying to get away. Back to the film.

A tiger springs from nowhere, scattering the group, and before Johnny can wrestle it off, the big cat severs the leg of one of the native bearers. After Lu Tiem fires his pistol in the air, frightening the animal off, Johnny goes to get the first aid kit -- but Lu Tiem, pressed for time, just shoots the wounded man dead (-- told you heís evil --), earning him a punch in the mouth from Johnny, who says they could have saved him.

Next, we reach the extended rock-climbing portion of our program (-- Aauugh! Rock-climbing!). As they all take a separate route to reach the top of a massive cliff, one string of climbers doesnít make it, resulting in four dummies plummeting to their deaths. Upon reaching the top, not realizing it was going to be this hard, Lu Tiem starts whining that he wants to quit and go back. As the boss spouts sour grapes, proclaiming the Peking Man doesnít even exist, Johnny rallies the troops to begrudgingly continue. But wait! Whatís that over there swinging in the trees? Could that be a jungle girl? (Oh, lord, please, not another jungle girl...) Morale perks up when the safari finds footprints of the giant man-ape, and Johnny tracks them until it gets too dark to follow the trail.  

During the night, while Johnny sleeps, Lu Tiem and all the others abandon him and head back to civilization. Waking up alone, Johnny wanders around on some terrain that looks suspiciously hairy -- and then the ground comes alive as the slumbering Peking Man rights himself and takes swipe at our hero, snagging him in his massive paw. But Johnny manages to slip free, and flees into the jungle until he's cornered and knocked unconscious. And as the giant man-ape closes in for the kill, suddenly (...dramatic pauseÖ), from out of nowhere, comes a bizarre, reverberating Tarzan-esque yodel, bellowed by our jungle girl (Evelyne Kraft), swinging in on a handy vine. Very agile and very beautiful (-- and very Caucasian when you consider where we are), she orders the big galoot to back off and not squish Johnny. (No. Bad monkey.). She then instructs the beast to pick Johnny up (-- gently, and donít EAT him!), which he does, along with her, and then deposits them in her cave that resembles Marshall, Will and Hollyís cave from The Land of the Lost. (I kept expecting old Grumpy to stick his head in.) When Johnny wakes up, Jungle Girl tries to be hospitable while he makes a pig of himself. Within five minutes, the language barrier is conquered (-- Jungle Movie Rule #6), and then she takes him to the site of a plane wreck. Turns out this is how she came to be in the jungle as we have another, brief flashback and get to see the plane crash. Seems Dad managed to get a younger Jungle Girl clear before the plane blew up, then the Peking Man found her, raised her, and the rest is history.

And as a viewer, weíre not really all that concerned with how she got in the jungle, we just want to know how in the hell her gravity defying animal skin tank-top refuses to fall off her left breast.

After Johnny finds a journal that reveals the girl's real name is Samantha, they head back to cave and stumble upon that tiger again. But this time it doesnít attack because the cat Samanthaís friend. (It also appears to have smoked some bananas -- if you know what I mean.) They also find a leopard (-- whoís been hitting the bananas, too, apparently), but the cobra must have kicked the habit and it bites her! As Johnny frantically sucks the venom out of the wound, the leopard disposes of the cobra. (In another disturbing scene of real animal combat in film, and I donít think The Mighty Peking Man got PETAís stamp of approval.) Moving Samantha back to the cave, who is delirious from the poison, Johnny's attention is drawn outside by a shower of leaves, provided by the Peking Man. Luckily, Johnny's on the ball and figures it out, first grinding the leaves into a pulp, and then applying it as a poultice to Samantha's wound. Now all he can do now is wait and hope they were in time.

We then abruptly cut to Lu Tiemís cement pond, where several reporters gather and ask about his failed safari. Of course, Lu Tiem lies, saying the Peking Man is just a legend. But that darned Johnny Fang just refused to give up and come back. He also firmly believes that all alone in the jungle, alas, Mr. Fang is as good as dead.

Back in the cave, as Samantha slowly recovers, we get an extended romantic interlude as the young couple falls in love. (Complete with a disco musical serenade!) This whirlwind romance culminates when a peeping Peking Man catches them doing the horizontal bop, causing him to pitch fit until Samantha manages to calm him down ... More time passes, and eventually, Johnny talks Samantha into returning home with him -- with the Peking Man in tow, of course. She agrees, and after a tearful goodbye to all the stoned animals, Peking Man scoops them up and heads off toward the coast ... Upon arrival, the Peking Manís first public appearance causes a panic -- but the crowd calms down once they realize that Samantha can control him. Tracking Lu Tiem down, a forgiving Johnny makes arrangements to take the monster on to Hong Kong, where he'll be put on public display.

Oh yeah Ö I see this all ending in fire!

Chaining the man-ape to the deck of a freighter for transport, Samantha begs to have them taken off, but Lu Tiem assures they're for his own protection. After they set sail the Peking Man is most definitely not having a good time. Things get even worse when the Captain receive word that a typhoon is bearing down on them. He then wants to alter course to Singapore to ride it out until the conniving Lu Tiem points out that if he doesnít get them to Hong Kong on time, to a sold out stadium thatís waiting for them, the Captain will be financially responsible for all monetary losses. So, storm or no storm, Hong Kong it is ... Before the storm hits, Johnny gets Samantha to try on some modern clothes; but she doesnít like them and quickly chucks them all out the porthole -- explaining why she's in the buff when Lu Tiem barges in, who gives her the old, lecherous stink-eye. Meanwhile, Johnny is having second thoughts about exploiting the big guy, but theyíve no time to argue as the typhoon hits with all its fury! On the deck, the Peking Man is now mad and wet. (Man, Iíll bet that stinks. And yes, there are as yet undiscovered tribes in Africa that knew I was going to use that joke.) With the seas churned up by the weather, several large waves push the boat onto some rocks, where it promptly gets hung up. Before they're completely scuttled, Samantha and Johnny loosen the chains enough to allow the man-ape to push them free. Once clear of the storm, the rest of the trip is relative uneventful.

Arriving in Hong Kong with much fanfare, Johnny also gets a call from Brother Charlie, who wants to interview him. He happily agrees.

Now, Iím really scratching my head at this point in the film. I mean, Johnny has basically been screwed over royally by two men in this film: Charlie and Lu Tiem. Yet he holds no ill will toward either of them but still has major issues with his ex. There's a psychological term for this, and I think they call it projecting.

Dragging Samantha to the TV station, they meet with Charlie, who invites them to watch the musical number heís filming. (We also notice that no one is giving Samanthaís jungle gear a second glance.) As Charlie wraps things up, Johnny receives a note from Lin, who wants to meet. Leaving Samantha to watch the show, Johnny finds his old girlfriend in her dressing room. Begging for forgiveness, she butters him up with a bunch of rigmarole about how the affair didnít mean anything, and it was really him that she was thinking about the whole time. Not surprisingly, our dimwitted sap falls for this pitch. Meanwhile, when the musical session ends, everyone leaves, leaving Samantha alone in the darkened studio. And when she goes to find Johnny, guess which room she checks first? Right. And the timing couldnít have been worse, either, as Lin throws herself on top of Johnny just as she opens the door. Seeing this, Samantha runs off in a most righteous jealous snit. When Johnny comes after her, she gives him the slip and heads off into Hong Kong alone.

At around the same time, over at the sold-out stadium, Lu Tiem has a monster-truck rally going, having chained the giant man-ape to some Tonka trucks for a bizarre game of tug-of-war. And since Peking Man doesnít seem to wanna play, the surly audience pelts him with trash. (Is that really wise?) Samantha sees this bizarre, televised display through a storefront and asks a nice couple to take her to the stadium. (Itís the films most surreal scene. The couple doesnít even bat an eyelash at this half-naked Caucasian and agrees.) Arriving just as some of Lu Tiemís goons whack at the reluctant apeís feet in an effort to rile him up, Samantha tries to stop this -- but they knock her away, which finally enrages the Peking Man. Lu Tiem arrives and consoles Samantha, saying everything will be all right if she'll just trust him. Eyes full of tears, as Lu Tiem escorts her back to his hotel suite overlooking the stadium, Samantha promises Peking Man that theyíll soon go back to their jungle home. Once inside, he locks the door and tries to give Samantha a drink. When she refuses, he becomes belligerent and tries to molest her. And itís at this point that I'll mention the suite is right at Peking Man's eye level, and the huge picture window is open, allowing him an unobstructed view!

Seeing that his girl is trouble, the man-ape goes bonkers, breaks loose, and punches his way into the room. But using Samantha as a shield, Lu Tiem escapes, tosses her into a car and roars off. Lost in his rage, Peking Man begins to demolish the city while looking for them. As he stomps his way downtown, the ape spots his quarry as he flees into another building, where Tiem tries to molest the girl again until Peking Man comes to the rescue. Smashing his way in, he seizes Lu Tiem, throws him to the ground, and then stomps on him.

...Hey. Whereíd Johnny go?

Peking Manís rampage has also drawn the attention of the local military, led by thee crankiest commander since General Grayson took on Reptilicus, who gives the order to shoot the damned monkey on sight. With Lu Tiem dead, Peking Man's onslaught doesn't stop, and while Samantha tries to catch up with and stop him, Johnny makes his way to a local police precinct. Claiming he can stop Peking Man, all they have to do is help him find Samantha.

This leads to a hilarious APB bit about finding the girl through her description that is truly a priceless piece of B-cinema history. Seriously, I had pop coming out of my nose. Now everything smells like Diet Dew.

As the carnage continues, the military tanks and helicopters engage and attack. Wounded, the ape keeps on swinging until night falls, rather abruptly, and the Peking Man climbs to the top of a tall building. (My, but this looks familiar...) When Samantha, Johnny, and General Cranky all converge on the building at the same time, Cranky comes up with a hair-brained plan to fill the water tanks at the top of the building with gasoline and then blow them up, killing the monkey. (I assume the inspiration for this came from reverse-engineering The Towering Inferno.) But when Johnny and Samantha swear they can stop Peking Man without killing him, General Cranky promises to hold fire while they try ... Making their way to the roof, Samantha bursts into tears at the sight of the bloodied Peking Man, who takes her in his paw, where she again swears theyíre gonna head back to the jungle. And though she does manage to calm him down, down below, General Cranky (-- the schmuck --) breaks his word and orders his helicopters to attack. These choppers then swoop in, machine guns a-blazing, and the monkey screams as the rounds slam into him. When a few of these shots hit Samantha, too, he tries to shield her as best he can. Meanwhile, Johnny takes cover by ducking back inside and spies some men planting explosive charges around the huge storage tanks. He tries to stop them, but is quickly overwhelmed and knocked out. But while swinging at the choppers, Peking Man inadvertently punches a hole in the roof and spots them -- but not before they get the timers set. The man-ape manages to grab a couple of these soldiers before they can get clear and chucks them over the side of the building to their deaths. And after making sure Samantha's safely out of range, Peking Man turns his attention back to the choppers and manages to take one of them out. (Unfortunately, it doesnít land on General Cranky.)

Amid the rubble below, Johnny awakens to an ominous ticking in a room filled with explosives. With little time left before the roof blows off, he calls for Samantha to escape with him. But in the film's one original twist, the girl pushes him back through the roof hatch and locks it shut, and then runs toward the Peking Man. Unable to reach her, Johnny takes cover before the tanks blow. The resulting explosion doesn't collapse the roof, but it is soon engulfed in flames. The detonation also knocked Samantha out cold, and even though heís now on fire, the ape scoops her up and deposits her through the hole he punched in the roof to safety. Now totally engulfed in flames, the Peking Man tumbles off the building and lands on another, destroying it. (And I thought for sure that heíd land on General Cranky.) When Johnny finds Samantha, frankly typing, Iím not sure if sheís still alive. We then cut to the demolished building, and to me, it looks like the Peking Man is still kicking. Above, Johnny cradles the dead/dying girl in his arms and walks to the edge of the roof and looks at the carnage below as the music swells to...

...Waitasecond! That monkey is still moving! Now get up and go squish General Cranky! C'mon!

No!

Wait!

The End

Dammit.

If it wasn't obvious enough, you'd be right in believing that The Mighty Peking Man was an obvious attempt by the Shaw brothers to cash in on the global King Kong craze, generated by big Dino Dís less than stellar remake. These brothers are probably most famous Stateside for The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires and Infra-Man; the former being a collaboration with Hammer Studios, where the world of gothic vampires met Southeast Asian chop-socky, and the latter being only one of the greatest films ever made! The first time I saw Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, I saw it under the video title of The Seven Brothers meet Dracula. When I found The Mighty Peking Man a while back at the video store, it looked familiar. And when I flipped it over and read the back I realized it was Goliathon, an alternate title it was re-released under. The film is currently in release through Quentin Tarantinoís Rolling Thunder label. And though Iíve never been the biggest fan of the big Q's films, I really do appreciate some of the cult flicks that heís gotten released.

As for The Mighty Peking Man itself, well, it's kind of in a gray area for me. Thereís something about it that I donít quite like, and frankly, I canít seem to put my finger on exactly why. The film is not lacking in the mindless mayhem and destruction; the problem is there's no real reason to care about the mayhem and destruction because most of the characters aren't worth a damn, making it very hard to care about the final outcome. Yeah, the human characters are completely forgettable. With all his emotional hang-ups, Johnny Fang is pretty much worthless as the hero, and the only thing I remember about Samantha is, well, her gravity defying tank top. I was happy to see Lu Tiem get squished, but was more than a little disappointed that General Cranky survived.

Now, I know what youíre thinking: Iíve just described the plot of every Toho Kaiju-eiga movie ever made, but thatís not true. Far from it! Toho manages to inject heart into their monsters. You root for Godzilla and Anguirus, and boo Ghidrah and Gigan. (The same can be said of Daieiís Gamera films.) But I just didnít feel anything for the old Peking Man. Any sympathy you might have had for the big critter is lost during the climax when he is obliterated (-- and I mean OBLITERATED! --) off the top of that building. A scene thatís supposed to generate the "Aw, poor monkey" response from the audience is completely lost in his bloody demise that is so over the top that it becomes absurd and comical. Okay, okay, so we donít watch these films for the plot or characterization, right? Right. We watch them for monster rampages, and here, The Mighty Peking Man excels.

Thereís nothing wrong with the ape suit once you get past his shag-carpet origins. In fact, I donít think that, technically, he is a monkey at all but the alleged missing link. (Which opens up a whole other can of plot worms.) The giant hand and foot props have no glaring mishaps, and the film does a decent job of matching action. When the monster throws something, they cut to a live shot where someone is crushed by what he threw. (A trick they use again, and again, and againÖ) But it's when the monster is destroying the miniatures that film works the best. These scaled props and buildings ranks about a seven out of ten on the Tsuburaya Scale, which shouldn't be all that surprising since Toho alum Teisho Arikawa, a veteran of several Godzilla movies and War of the Gargantuas, was in charge of the rubber-induced mayhem. It does stumble a little when they try to matte shots of the monster and the fleeing humans together. Here, it ranks about a five out of ten on the Bert I. Gordon Scale. (But old Bert I. himself never scored better than a three.)

In the end, I donít necessarily dislike The Mighty Peking Man. Itís got plenty of camp value, an absurdist's dream of a plot, and decent enough F/X to probably keep you happy. During the mayhem Iíd warm up to it, but the film spends way too much time idling along with its unlikable characters that kept it from truly winning me over as a fan. Just because a film has a giant monster in it does not always make it great in my estimation. And itís bloody conclusion, while hilarious, and intentional or not, just didnít work for me.

More Monkey See --
Monkey Doo-Doo!
Originally Posted: 04/05/01 :: Rehashed: 04/24/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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