Mighty Peking Man June 1, 2015
Mighty Peking Man is not a movie one can just stumble upon after a particularly hard day and hope to enjoy as a straight-laced monster movie. You have to go into it knowing it’s shoddily made, knowing you’ll be roaring with laughter more often than you’ll be oohing and awing. It deserves to be viewed on a Sunday morning following a partytastic night out with a couple of friends, after a marathon of Prehistoric Glamazon Huntress MADtv sketches. You must be in a certain euphoric mood to have your intelligence vomited on, after all, and Mighty Peking Man requires a viewer with the IQ of a gnat.
Granted, you most likely don’t have the IQ of a gnat, and I know I shouldn’t be recommending bad movies to you. But if you were going to die tomorrow and your final wish was to watch one final bad movie (though I'd prefer you spent time with your loved ones instead), you'd be wise to set your sights on 1977's Mighty Peking Man. It isn’t Jack Hill bad (which translates into unpleasant, slight humorlessness), no; it is, rather, Ed Wood, Claudio Fragasso bad, unwittingly awful but so good at being awful that even Russ Meyer, post-viewership, might take a minute from objectifying nubile young woman and pat himself on the back for actually being good at what he does. We can agree that Mighty Peking Man is garbage. But when considering that it set out to be a cheap King Kong knockoff, not a mind-blower of a grindhouse masterpiece, it doesn’t just succeed: it also prevails. It's the finest cheap King Kong knockoff there ever was.
Its plot, sketchy and fraught with unintentional humor, involves a group of Asian explorers trudging through the strenuous jungles of India in hopes to find the Mighty Peking Man, a legendary (and massive) ape-like creature who stalks the territory with reckless abandon. Leading the way is Johnny (Danny Lee), a man still recovering from the infidelities of his ex-fiancee. But only a few moments into the trip does Johnny get separated from the group.
Near instantaneously is he almost killed by the Peking Man himself, until buxom wild woman Samantha (Evelyne Kraft) comes to the rescue. In a terribly conceived flashback sequence, it is revealed that, as a little girl, Samantha’s parents were killed in an airplane crash. In the years since, she has tended to a rustically decorated cave, and, more or less, has considered her ape pal to be a father figure.
Johnny quickly falls in love with her, but he can’t just go back home and claim her as his bride: he also has to bring the ape back to Hong Kong by the force of Lu Tiem (Feng Ku), a ruthless promoter. And just when things start beginning to look like King Kong, coincidences start to pile, treading into territories of unparalleled duplication right up until the film ends in a predicted showdown atop a helicopter swarmed skyscraper.
But our skepticism is unimportant to the film as a whole. Mighty Peking Man has more of an understandable fascination with Evelyne Kraft than with its titular monster, obsessing over the heaving possibilities of a nip slip (she wanders around in a sure-to-be taped-on animal skin bikini top akin to Lil’ Kim’s ’99 VMAs outfit), obsessing over slow-motion sequences in which she gets to make orgasmic faces at the most cringeworthy of times (like when a snake bites her a few inches to the left of her crotch and Johnny must suck the poison out).
But alas, Mighty Peking Man isn’t high art; at times, it works more as schlocky (if not, accidental) comedy, and it’s impossible to be anything less than shallowly amused. Perhaps the film didn’t realize it was terrible while it was being made. But once again, any filmmaker that figures a myriad of doll house sized “sets” or an abundance of horrifying green screen special effects suggests anything resembling quality can’t possibly be sane. Mighty Peking Man wanted to capitalize on the King Kong craze, economically and efficiently. And, for all its appalling productional decisions (and I mean appalling), it works. Barely. B