10/22/10

Retro Film Report #15: The Mighty Peking Man

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

What sort of mad genius created The Mighty Peking Man? It is all over the place – combining Sheena with King Kong in a twisted psychotic fusion that follows no rules of logic, space or time whatsoever.

First, a little background: King Kong was remade in 1976, and Hong Kong’s biggest film studio, The Shaw Brothers Studio, decided to capitalize on the hype. They’d been around since the thirties (with a forced hiatus during WWII) and came back with a vengeance with post-war kung-fu movies. They were no lightweights in the Asian film business to be sure, so they knew there was money to be made by hitching a ride on the Dino DeLaurentis Kong remake.

But rather than make just a boring imitation by relying entirely on its Kong association, The Mighty Peking Man basically says "aww screw it" and goes to the absolute extreme in every manner possible. This film really tries to do it all (except have a cohesive story, good acting, and good special effects… minor details).  There's tons of T&A sleaze, monsters action, elephant stampedes, and leopard-cobra battles to go around. There’s nary a dull moment, the action sequences are batshit crazy, and the director uses Evelyn Kraft’s “assets” to their fullest extent.



The ape is basically a rip off of King Kong, but the director obviously took a page out of the Godzilla playbook when filming the monster’s scenes. Oddly enough, the ape storyline is really secondary to the Sheena story. One gets the distinct impression that once the director got Kraft into her minuscule jungle bikini; he decided this would be the focal point of the entire movie.

But that's enough rambling, let's see for yourself what kind of crazy mess this movie is.  It certainly got both Quentin Tarrantino and Roger Ebert (!) all hot and bothered - so, maybe it's worth taking a look.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

The movie starts off with a bang as a gigantic gorilla goes medieval on a tiny Himalayan village. Much like Godzilla on Tokyo, this Kong wannabe makes these primitive villagers his bitches, toppling statues, stepping on huts, and raping their women..... okay, that last part isn't true, but you get my point. This Himalayan ape is a real problem!

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Back in Hong Kong, some shady venture capitalists see an opportunity to make some bucks off the situation by capturing the beast.... and they know just the guy for the job - Johnny! It seems ol' Johnny boy has had some trouble with a dame, and is down on his luck drowning his sorrows in Saki.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Immediately, brash young Johnny agrees to the plan. He holds a press conference in India announcing to the world he will be capturing The Mighty Peking Man.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

On a wagon train to the deepest depths of the jungle, the hunters traverse a formidable landscape... Good Lord, now it's an elephant stampede!

Yes, that's right. As if a rampaging giant primate wasn't bad enough, these peaceful natives have to contend with herds of wild elephants literally decimating there humble village. Those bad elephants - they must be shot!

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Later that evening by the campfire, Johnny, in a moment of weakness, confides to his fellow explorers what exactly happened with him and his woman.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

It seems Johnny had planned to marry Lin Chang, but came home early one day and.... well, you know how it goes. He caught is woman in bed with his TV producer brother, Charlie. Damn, that sucks. No wonder he wants to go kill things.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Holy crap, a bloodthirsty tiger! It's mutilating the natives one by one in a frenzy of bloody carnage! Look out! There's quicksand! I told you this movie was batshit crazy!

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

In all honesty, this looked like a real tiger attack. Something tells me this movie wasn't PETA approved.... and 10 to 1 some poor local got killed during the filming of this scene.  Oh, well. Great art requires great sacrifice, I guess.

Anyway, Johnny wakes up the next morning to find that everyone got the hell out of there. leaving him stranded high 'n' dry.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Undaunted, he continues on his mad quest to capture the legendary ape. Look out behind you!

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

The Mighty Peking Man picks up Johnny and skips him like a stone across the jungle. Luckily there's a blonde jungle queen to take care of him. Unfortunately, she no speaka de English.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Who is this mysterious woman? Johnny is led to the wreckage of an airplane and conveniently discovers a diary which explains things a bit. Apparently, her plane went down in ball of flames and her parents were burned alive, while Samantha (that's her name) was spared. The Peking Man raised her and kept her safe all these years.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Wow, that Peking Man sure is a complex character. One minute he's murdering hundreds of innocent natives, the next he's adopting them and being all nurturing. The many sides of Peking Man.

Next comes the infamous cobra scene. I say "infamous" because it's been regarded as one of the most insanely gratuitous scenes ever. It begins with Samantha, out of nowhere, getting bit by a cobra and writhing around on the jungle floor in pain. (Amazing she was able to live all these years in the jungle without a problem, and now she gets a snake bite?)

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Guess what Johnny does? You see, Samantha got bit on her inner thigh, and now our boy Johnny sucks out the venom. Holy Christmas.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Are you effing kidding me?

Peking Man supplies some herbs to heal Samantha, and now it's love makin' time. A song which could easily have been written by a Hong Kong Barry Gibb plays in the background, and the two lovebirds frolic in the jungle. Slow motion running, splashing in the waterfalls, playing with big predators,... this sequence has to be seen to be believed.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Then things take a dark turn as the Mighty Peking Man watches Johnny and Samantha screw...

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Let's take a moment and stop right here. I want to discuss Samantha. She's been alone in the jungle since she was a toddler, right? Explain to me how in the hell it is possible that she looks like this? She's got lip gloss, eye shadow, mascara, .... WTF?

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Even more inexplicable is what comes next: Johnny convinces Samantha to leave the jungle with him, and talks her into allowing The Mighty Peking Man to be captured! After one night of sweaty jungle sex, Samantha basically gives the finger to all her animal friends.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

And, Johnny - you fucking idiot! What are you thinking? You've got this hot blonde who's willing to be your love slave. She knows her way around, so can provide all the food and shelter you need. Plus, you've got this giant perverted ape to protect you. Sounds like effing paradise! Now look what you've done, dumbass!

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

So, they load the big ape on a steam ship and shackle him with chains. Samantha doesn't like this and becomes wildly upset.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Fortunately, Johnny knows women, and offers her a present. She instantly forgets about the stupid ape. Screw Peking Man - what's in the box?

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Turns out, Johnny, that sly devil, has bought Samantha a skimpy snakeskin top with leather hot pants! Of course, Samantha can't abide by that, and quickly strips and tosses the clothes out the window. Note: Despite all the sleaziness, there's actually almost no nudity in the film. It gets plenty close, but don't expect to see Samantha naked.... maybe there's a Director's Cut out there somewhere.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Soon, the ship docks in Hong Kong, and Johnny is quick to take Samantha (still in her jungle bikini) to the big city. Here, he introduces her to his brother the TV producer (the one who shagged his fiance), and Samantha gets a taste of the upscale life.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

But Samantha should've never left India. Johnny, the bastard, is already getting back together with his old flame, and Samantha catches him in the act! This is becoming more like a soap opera every minute.... with a giant gorilla somewhere in the love triangle.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Samantha flees this vile pretender, and takes her chances in the big city. She stumbles upon a group of spectators watching the Once Mighty Peking Man being treated like total shit on television. The degradation of this once proud ape and her own sad situation proves too much for her bare.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

But Samantha spots a sign depicting The Peking Man at the Hong Kong Stadium; she instructs a driver to take her there (this gal learns quick!)

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

She arrives at the end of a show. The crowds, satiated with monster action, are leaving the stadium as Samantha finds poor Utam (that's evidently what she calls him) in shackles being mistreated in a cage. For a moment, in spite of all the ludicrousness of the film, I actually felt sorry for these two.... and pissed off at dickhead Johnny.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)
The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Remember all those venture capitalists at the beginning of the film - those guys that abandoned Johnny? The head honcho of the group grabs Samantha, forces alcohol down her throat, then rips her top off! (still no nudity, BTW)

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

This dude starts beating her up and tries to rape her, but Utam catches him in the act and goes apeshit crazy (pardon the pun). He starts making like Godzilla and opens up a can of Peking whoop-ass on the whole damn city.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Utam literally picks up the rapist, throws him to the ground, and stomps on him!

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

But that's not the end of their worries. The military gets involved, and there ensues a pretty damn awesome 15 minute battle scene. Considering this was before CGI and it didn't have the budget like a modern day Hollywood production, I'm pretty impressed with this sequence. Tons of demolished buildings, exploding factories and planes, lots of military firepower.... unexpectedly awesome.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Utam climbs atop the tallest building in Asia, the Jardine House. The military agrees to cease fire for a moment to allow Samantha and Johnny (don't ask how he happened to show up) to talk some sense into the beast.  But it's all for nothing.  The military just can't keep their fingers off the triggers and continue to blast away, ultimately blowing up the a good portion of the building.

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

Poor Utam is set on fire and falls down in a giant fireball, while Samantha gets shot and dies in the massive explosion..... yes, you read that right the first time.  Samantha is dead.

I could go on and on pontificating about the many themes at play here - the Beauty and the Beast scenario, the Primitive versus Technology element... but I'll refrain.  I'll just say one last thing and be on my way...

IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT, JOHNNY, YOU ASSHOLE!!!

The Mighty Peking Man (1976)

12 comments:

  1. Wow. Johnny IS an asshole. The whole part about when Johnny catches his girlfriend with his brother (esp. the screen cap) reminds me of the monkey from Family Guy.

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  2. Wow. What an awesome movie review. About Samantha in the jungle with lip gloss, my wife and I recently watched the Wonder Woman pilot, where they show her on the Amazon Island. All the women were in silk short skirts and lingerie looking stuff. The wife just laughed and said "On an island with only women, that is not how we would dress."
    RetroHound.com

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  3. "On an island with only women, that is not how we would dress."
    Sure, but the show wasn't made by or for women so that's what we get.

    For this review, wow what a crazy sounding movie. Sounds like they were big on ideas, but short on sense.

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  4. Great review, but after having read it, I MUST HAVE The Mighty Peking Man on DVD! I simply MUST!

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  5. crushed red berries = lip gloss
    crushed blue flowers

    crushed red berries = lip gloss
    crushed blue flowers = eyeliner
    mud = mascara

    jungle living is easy.

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  6. OK. But how does she manage the Farrah hair with no blow dryer or Aqua Net?

    Oh, that's right. Himalayan Mountain Goat semen'll do the trick.

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  7. Quick hits on a great review:

    First, I KNOW I'm Captain Alienation, and of all things to complain about with this film, this has got to be the dumbest. But I can't help myself. "Peking Man" was an early primate, that was about three feet tall.

    Second, in light of the Divine Ms. Retrohound's comment that on a island of all women, the women would not dress in "silk short skirts and lingerie looking stuff," I'm not entirely comfortable wondering how an island of all men would dress...

    Next, what makes me laugh about these kinds of films is the heroine always, always, always wears the same raggedy two pieces of chamois, no matter where she is: from the deepest, darkest jungle to the richest, high society parties. I wonder if she has five or six of those "outfits." And when she's in "civilization," does she send the outfits to be dry cleaned? Because you can't just throw your leathers in a washing machine, you know .... Or why no one can seem to find anyone in the "big city" who can AT LEAST stitch up those rags a little. Wouldn't the "Jungle Girl" feel a little self conscious about the crowd she generates? I mean--I AM a big feminist and all, but if Irish McCalla comes walking down the street in the leopard outfit....screw it: I'm running along with her, staring my eyeballs out of my head.

    Finally, on a serious note, I was all set to make jokes about Tim Butler's comment about "mud for mascara." I know Mr. Butler was kidding (and his comments are funny). Nevertheless, I remember reading that some French women in one of the Nazi concentration camps used a type of dirt to darken their eyebrows. Even in an environment of devastation and horror, those women did what they could to preserve who they were, and their fundamental humanity. That truly is heroic.

    But I am being too gloomy. Per usual, don Juan Gilligan has written a review that is much more entertaining than the film ever could be....

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  8. Great review. I'd forgotten how amazing this movie is. I bought it after seeing Tarantino's name connected and hearing about the precarious nature of Ms. Kraft's bikini situation. I do have to say though, that there is some slight nudity. Of course it's of the pause/slow motion button variety. But it is there for us pervs. One of the best bad movies ever. Buy this DVD folks. I might have to pull this one off the shelf sometime soon.

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  9. More bikini-weirdness: Those Heidi-Saha-as-Vampirella costume-contest shots you've been posting on Zeta... do you know the whole story behind them? And why she was booed?

    I'd seen the ad for her one-shot magazine when I was a kid and wondered who this Heidi nobody was...

    Then the internet happened, and I learned that she was a 14-year-old with pushy stage-parents and connections. And that FJA was... a big weirdo.

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  10. Yeah, I actually did a post on Saha (10/5/10), Fact or Fiction #15

    But, yes, the whole story is pretty messed up. Not sure what to make of ol' FJA

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  11. Now I feel quite stupid- I'm a fairly regular reader of yours, but I guess I missed that post. Dumb of me to think I was clueing you in when it was ground you'd already covered! I guess I've earned a zheesh...

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  12. That was NOT a movie review: It was a movie!

    Seriously! All I needed was popcorn and I'd be more entertained reading this than I was during the last monster movie I'd seen, (which, sadly, was Roger Corman's "DinCroc.")

    Thanks, Gil!

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