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Hong Kong 1977
Directed by
Meng-Hwa Ho
86 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3 stars

The Mighty Peking Man

Synopsis: A group of explorers discover an odd couple living in the jungle. Ah Wei (Evelyn Kraft) lives with a huge 10 storey tall monkey called Utam. As the dollar signs take over their imaginations they ship over the giant primate to Hong Kong to display him and his curvaceous mate to the curious masses. Not used to the chains and the confines of a cage, Utam breaks loose and goes on a killing rampage.

When you watch a Shaw Brothers film you always expect a few things; breath-takingly choreographed fight scenes, vicious swordplay, a splattering of gore, a hint of naked flesh and everything being shot on beautifully crafted sets. What you probably wouldn't expect to see is a scantily clad statuesque blonde living in the jungle with a giant monkey.

With the exception of Queen Kong, from the 70s which starred Robin Askwith, The Mighty Peking Man is possibly the most delightfully blatant King Kong rip-off you are ever likely to see, cheekily cashing in, as it does, on the Dino De Laurentis 1976 fiasco starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange in 1976.

The story is almost exactly the same as the Willis O' Brien 1933 classic but given a typically askew Asian bent. As the explorers cut their way through the jungle one has his leg bitten off in deliciously gory fashion. The simian star, Utam, manages to look ridiculous with its oriental features and dodgy ape make-up - it really has to be seen to be believed although bizarrely enough the gorilla is no less convincing than the expensive effects dismally executed by Rick Baker and Carlo Rambaldi in the aforementioned Hollywood remake from the previous year. The model shots and effects work resemble Thunderbirds and vintage Godzilla, the acting is pretty terrible, in fact the whole film is a bit shabby by The Shaw Brothers standards. It seems whenever they make modern films they always date horribly whereas their period pieces remain timeless.

The fact that Evelyn Kraft, the leggy blonde heroine looks as different to the rest of the actors as the monkey is an interesting touch but nothing here matches Ho's work in Black Magic or The Flying Guillotine, two of his finest Shaw Brothers pictures. This film is great fun and anyone who enjoys watching Japanese monster movies will have plenty to enjoy here. Made by anyone else this would be a cult classic of the highest order, but as the Shaw Brothers moniker is attached there is a hint of disappointment that we don't get to see any giant monkey kung fu!




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