Archive for Hong Kong cinema

Wreaking Havoc in Busy Centres

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2008 by dcairns

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.

Advertisements