Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When the Ripoff is More Enjoyable than the Original

I've been having some fun lately with THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977).  Trailer link here.

Produced amidst all the hoopla surrounding the 1976 remake of KING KONG, the film was an attempt by Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studio to expand their international box appeal beyond the kung fu flicks that had made them famous.  They had already had some luck with INFRAMAN (1975), another giant monster epic that deserves its own post.  TMPM combines the monster-suit-vs-miniature-buildings approach with a nearly point by point lifting of the King Kong plot.  Note that the title of the post calls this ripoff "more enjoyable"  not "better."  I'm talking strict subjectivity here, folks. It's simply more enjoyable to me than the '76 Kong.  KING KONG (1933), by the way, doesn't belong in the same discussion with either of these films.  Kong '76 has its defenders, but I would watch PEKING MAN 3 times before I'd watch 76 even one more time.

THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN is delirious, campy but not too campy, and just a tad more "adult" than you'd expect.  It features no small amount of blood and belongs on the very short list of giant monster films that contain nudity.   Another plus is the incredibly detailed miniature Hong Kong that gets torn to shreds by the fur-suited menace.  The picture careens from one WTF scenario to another and ends with a wild final battle (yes, on top of a building) that is more exciting than one would expect.  The last shot of the film is genuinely excellent, capping off the previous 90 minutes of insanity with an iconic image that John Ford might have been happy with had he made a giant gorilla movie.

I don't know if THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN performed as expected or not. It doesn't seem to have made much of a splash in the U.S.  I've been into monster movies since I was a kid and went to see INFRAMAN at the Ross Cinema when I was about 9, but I'd never heard of this picture until Quentin Tarantino acquired the rights and released it on his Rolling Thunder video label in the 90s.  It's still available from Rolling Thunder on a very affordable 3 film set which also includes DETROIT 9000 (1973) and SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975) both of which are worth your while.  And if you're cheap or shady or both, I think the whole film is available on Youtube, whether it's supposed to be or not.

THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN would make an excellent party movie and should be enjoyable for anyone who enjoys old school monster movies or is just in the mood for something jaw-dropping.

Thanks for reading.  I leave you with the Love Theme from THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN.  Don't try this while pitching woo at home.  Direct link here.

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