Wreaking Havoc in Busy Centres

If I had seen this film at age eleven, I would probably have had to saw my own head in half just to prevent the rest of my life from being one long anti-climax.

As it is, I have NEVER seen this film. Maybe I shouldn’t?

THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN, AKA XING XING WANG,  AKA GOLIATHON (my favourite, sounds like a charity event for victims of giantism), AKA COLOSSUS OF CONGO (these title translators are a geographically confused bunch).

Anyhow, my older self seriously digs:

1) The way the Shaw Brothers logo is embossed on a frosted glass lavatory door. Genuinely beautiful.

2) It’s called THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN but they’re so proud of having shot it “on location in India”.

3) The naive assumption that an audience primed to see a GIANT MAN-APE will be tickled to death by something as banal as “stampeding elephants” or “fierce tigers” or even “leopard fighting with snake”.

4) The special effects: some great, some inexplicably terrible, but all rather imaginative, using unexpected angles quite different from the standard process-shot proscenium compositions you get in, say, Harryhausen.

5) “Whole leg gone, eh?” The way the “fierce tiger” just nips the fellow’s knee then makes off with his lower limb. So suave!

5) Peking’s face — a slightly hairy bloke. MUCH better than the usual blank gorilla mask. If you’re going to be cheap and eschew stop-motion animation, having an expressive Cantonese bit-part player in some fake whiskers seems a good fall-back option. Although Robert Florey’s solution in MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE is the best of all: simply cut in shots of a real chimp’s grimacing physog whenever you go to close-up. Genius.

6) “The modern Hong Kong audience isn’t going to be satisfied with just jungle savagery and a giant man-ape. We must give them a topless blonde!” Although I was disappointed that a bilingual title didn’t strobe up when the jungle bimbo appeared, screaming “TITS”. Based on my friends’ hysterical reactions to Victoria Vetri in WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, who disrobed at a matinee to our astonishment, I believe that if we’d seen Evelyne Kraft as “Lady Tarzan”, we would have instantly CONGEALED into a single solid mass of pulsing child.

7) The date: 1977. The same year as Dino DeLaurentiis’ KING KONG remake but that is MERELY A COINCIDENCE. But mentining the KONG gives me an excuse to end on a John Guillermin story. My old friend Lawrie knew Guillermin quite well. I once read out a review of Guillermin’s EL CONDOR from a TV guide. “Nasty, slick and superficial.”

“That’s John,” remarked Lawrie with a chortle.

Lawrie said that he was working (probably as assistant director) on an early Guillermin film in the ’50s (regrettably, I have no idea which) when he got a panicked phone call from the director the night before shooting began.

“We can’t start tomorrow,” barked the Franco-Irish auteur, “I haven’t slept with the leading lady. And I ALWAYS sleep with my leading lady.”

“Well, we’ve GOT TO start tomorrow,” insisted Lawrie.

A couple of hours later, the phone rang again. “It’s OK, we can start tomorrow.”

Now, it might be tempting to make a list of Guillermin’s female leads, from Kathleen Byron and Donna Reed, through Inger Stevens and Yvette Mimieux, to Jessica Lange and Linda Hamilton, but I would caution against jumping to any conclusions.

Let’s all be careful out there.

10 Responses to “Wreaking Havoc in Busy Centres”

  1. Lady Tarzan has Mighty Rack!

  2. Christoph Huber Says:

    I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it by now, but The Mighty Peking Man just keeps on giving. Its director, Ho Meng-hwa (pronounciation varies), is kind of the super-hack of Shaw Bros., probably never having turned down an assignment und thus having given us a fair share of solid action, crime and martial arts genre films, but also things like this or . . . Oily Maniac, whose infected hero at some point turns into the titular oil monster by stopping at the next gas station and dousing himself with petrol! True to the spirit ot it all, Ho gives the whole affair molasses-like pacing.

    Lady Rack, alias Evelyn Kraft, the never-quite-made-it next Swiss Urschel Andress, played in another Shaw film, which if memory serves was the Charlie’s Angels rip-off, though I wish it would have been the somehwat forgettablöe, if unforgettably titled Sexy Girls of Denmark.

  3. OK, I’m going to have to get Mighty Peking Man now. It can’t actually be a hard watch with a trailer like that.

    Feel kind of bad for calling Evelyn a bimbo — better to say that she has the kind of intelligence that doesn’t photograph.

  4. Oily Maniac sounds fantastic too:

    The shots of him transforming back: very funny! Just a guy getting less oily.

  5. […] From the always-dependable Shadowplay. David C checklists teh awesome here. […]

  6. There was another astonishingly bad Kong knock-off around the same time, Frank Agrama’s Queen Kong. It tries for laughs but fails miserably at every turn. As you’ll have inferred, it’s a gender-switched take on the story, with Robin Askwith in the Fay Wray role and Rula Lenska as Denham stand-in Luce Habit. It’s notionally a musical but they obviously forgot this during production as there are only two or three songs in the whole thing. It’s so shoddily put together that at least one fluffed line made it into the final cut.

    It had a weird Rocky Horror-ish revival in Japan a few years ago, when a Japanese comedy troupe re-voiced the whole film with presumably hilarious Japanese dialogue.

  7. That sounds like my kind of film. Robin Askwith’s career, if used judiciously, could sterilize a nation. Konga, with Michael Gough, a woman-eating plant, and a chimp that gets enlarged into a man in a gorilla costume, is a truly astonishing affair.
    The producer spoke with pride about the special effects used to insert Gough into the monkey’s paw.
    Interviewer: “You mean you didn’t build a giant hand?”
    Producer: “We didn’t have the money for a giant SCHMUCK!”

  8. Queen Kong — the Askwith character was named Ray Fey, or something like that. Filmed in some British country estate-come-parkland that has, if you look carefully, tourists wandering about in the far backgrounds of what are meant to be remote jungle settings.

    I think it never got a proper commercial release but there were pirate copies on video circulating for years.

  9. Brilliant! I have GOT to see this. Crap films are always tempting, unreleasably crap films make me salivate from the eyes.

  10. MPM was the all-time classic, but not the only B the lovely Ms. Kraft was in. Here are some more – and a little bio as well:


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