Color, 1977, 90m. / Directed by Homer Gaugh (Ho Meng-Hwa) / Starring Li Hsiu-Hsien (Danny Lee), Evelyne Kraft / Buena Vista (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

An utterly berserk attempt to ride the very short coattails of Dino De Laurentiis' 1976 version of King Kong, this Hong Kong production (originally titled Hsing Hsing Wang) first amazed drive-in viewers under the name Goliathon throughout the late '70s before disappearing to the wilderness of late night television. Ever the cinematic archaeologist, Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures salvaged this oddity from oblivion to greet a new, appalled public, and the results have been lovingly preserved on DVD. Legend has it that a remote jungle area in India is the stomping ground for a huge, ape-like creature known as the Mighty Peking Man. An expedition controlled by the greedy Norman Chu (We Are Going to Eat You) recruits the aid of young adventurer Johnnie Fang (a young, shaggy-haired Danny Lee), who is recovering from the heartbreak of discovering his girl in bed with his best friend. Out in the wilderness he encounters a beautiful blonde woman (Russian actress Evelyne Kraft), who swings Tarzan-like from vines and somehow barely conceals her body with a sticky piece of fabric. In fact she became a soulmate to the Mighty Peking Man after her parents died in a plane crash when she was a child; she then introduces our hero to the giant ape, who is a bit uncomfortable when he spies his little blonde woman making the beast with two backs with Lee. Pretty soon it's back to Kong territory as the ape is packed up for the big city, where he doesn't take very well to all the big buildings and loud noises.

A thoroughly loony movie, The Mighty Peking Man is nowhere near being good in any cinematic category at all. However, it still piles on the entertainment value thanks to its howlingly awful dubbing and wacko plot tangents, such as a kitschy romantic montage (complete with pop music) that should leave the most stone-faced viewer howling for mercy. Somehow Roger Ebert, not exactly a model of critical consistency, gave this a thumbs up and proclaimed it "Genius!" (according to the cover box) while trashing Lucio Fulci's The Beyond. Can anyone offer an explanation? Buena Vista's DVD looks remarkably good for a zero budget Hong Kong movie from the '70s. Some awkward splices in the source material still crop up, but the print itself is exceptionally clean and colourful, certainly the best this film has looked in ages. The dubbed audio (English only, of course) sounds fine for mono, with no distracting hiss or crackling. The DVD also includes the original English-language trailer (with the Rolling Thunder logos tacked on) as well as the trailer for Switchblade Sisters, a radically different cult item also presented by Rolling Thunder.

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