Word of a monster ape ten stories tall living in the Himalayas reaches fortune hunters in Hong Kong. They travel to India to capture it, but wild animals and quicksand dissuade all but Johnny, an adventurer with a broken heart. He finds the monster and discovers it's been raising a scantily-clad woman, Samantha, since she survived a plane crash years before that killed her parents. In the idyllic jungle, Johnny and Samantha fall in love. Then Johnny asks her to convince "Utam" to go to Hong Kong. Lu Tien, an unscrupulous promoter, takes over: Utam is in chains for freak show exhibitions. When Lu Tien assaults Samantha, Utam's protective instincts take over: havoc in Hong Kong.
Directed by: Meng Hua Ho
. Starring: Evelyne Kraft
, Danny Lee
, Feng Ku
, Wei Tu Lin
, Norman Chu
, Hang-Sheng Wu
, Yao Hsiao
, Ping Chen
, Yi-Hsiung Chi
, Chuen Chiang
, Szu-Ying Chien
, Chun Chin
, Tien-Chu Chin
. Music by: Yung-Yu Chen
Holy Kong-Knockoff Power! This is bad! But it's also glorious! (and yeah I felt the need for more ape madness after Kong: Skull Island, but that's neither here nor there).
So let's address something right out the gate: Evelyne Kraft is a (conventionally) attractive blonde 'hottie' woman... and she and her character are treated to one of those most over the top depictions of sexism I've seen for a movie like this. It's almost to the point that I wondered early on after the movie introduces "Samantha" (yes, it's her name, but I'm using quotes anyway), in her outfit that is so skimpy that it seems to be teasing what is acceptable as a "family" movie if the director was doing a parody of skimpy girl-in-almost-nothing clothing movies. Seriously, if you have a problem with your kid seeing even the tiniest bit of breast, let alone nipple, in your ultra-cheese monster movie knock-offs from the 70's, you've been warned.
And yet I'm not sure if it is a parody though, because there is a stretch of film here - oh I'd say about ten minutes, give or take another ten - where the movie practically stops so that our main guy Johnnie Fang (Danny Lee, a Bruce Lee surrogate of sorts, ideal for a Kongsploitation) from literally frolicking, at 60 frames per second, with Samantha along with her 'pets' being the tigers and leopards and elephants. It's almost as if the filmmakers somehow saw the early rushes of the movie ROAR and thought they could do one better - or simply less awkward and more silly - by having it that this woman Samantha, who was a little girl when her parents died in a plane crash (she doesn't scream or yell at all about this as a little girl by the way, she's totally placid) and then 'Mighty Peking' (that's not his real name, don't ask me what it was now) raised her as if she was his own... which included specially made clothing to just barely cover her lady parts.
In other words, this director I think means all of this sincerely, and if there is a tongue in cheek it's so firmly planted it's wagging out the side of his mouth (and as realistically as one of the toy cars or tanks that make the toys in the Godzilla movies look like ILM creations). But this isn't a downside; on the contrary, The Mighty Peking Man is a fantastic monster movie when you take it on its ridiculously stupid terms. It's no wonder that Tarantino was involved in its re-release - though I recall, from owning the VHS years back of the Rolling Thunder release, that he didn't do an intro to this like the other films, for shame Quentin! - as it certainly appeals to what he (as well as I) want in a ridiculous Asian monster movie that sometimes is in India and sometimes is in Hong Kong.
There's an affection I can't shake off for this kind of movie-making, for all of its dopeyness and all of the bad dubbing and all of the nonsense from the villain of the film (who sometimes wears some amazingly sparkly t-shirts as he plots his 'we must get to Hong Kong or else' and 'we must fill up the stadium' and 'oh, I must rape you now' moments... yeah, that happens) and how completely wild the climax of the movie gets, which seems to last for about 20 minutes. This is cinema that involves mattes and rear-screen projection and those shots where it's clearly processed to where you can see the black lines separating parts of the screen from the foreground and the background, and you can see the man inside the ape suit's skin around his eyes. And with all of this, there's some work and skill put into this cheese... at points.
Sure, there are times, especially early on, shots don't cut well together, and the animal actors look probably doped up to the gills. And through it all, every actor plays it completely straight, and so every irresistibly nutty beat is sold all the more. On top of all of this, the ending gets surprisingly dramatic and tragic, as if Meng Hua-Ho has to top how sad and tragic it got at the end of King Kong (or the 76 King Kong too, can't forget that, which I could bet this is as much a rip-off of, probably more, since that was a fresh blockbuster at the time). Like, the poster that you see for this movie, it's one of those times that's NOT a reaction, there really IS a leopard or cheetah or whichever that the lady of the movie just has around her shoulders and back like it's a pet, and there's nothing at all seen unusual about this by Mr. Johnnie.
(oh, and there's also a teary subplot involving Johnnie being cheated on by his long time girlfriend and then he goes away and comes back with the blonde white lady and then his ex is jealous and sad and oh neverfingmind).
Review by MisterWhiplash from the Internet Movie Database.