The Bad Movie Report

Next Friday, August the 18th, marks the first time in fifteen years an honest-to-goodness Toho-produced Godzilla movie will receive a general theatrical release in America. At first we thought to debut this new Roundtable on the day of its premiere, but then we realized we all wanted to be in theaters on that day, driving up the opening weekend box office. So consider these an appetizer, something to whet your appetite for Godzilla 2000. As usual, you can click on the above banner to go straight to Apostic's Nexus O' Kaiju Goodness, or simply use the links to the other B-Masters' reviews that follow mine. Bon Appetit!

Mighty Peking Man

By from

I might as well come clean about something: when it comes to the world of genré films, the kaiju is not my favorite kind of pie. You might have already gotten that impression, when after a hundred-odd reviews, only four are of daikaiju flicks, and those are not typical of the beast. Oh, I own almost all the Godzilla movies, to be sure, and a long shelf over my desk holds various plastic incarnations of the Big G and his opponents, but I'm not what I would call a huge fan (there are others of the B-Masters that more rightly hold that title, and I wanna send a shout out to my posse, Scott H. an' Andrew B. for answerin' my questions when I had some. Word!).

This seeming disinterest toward the sub-genré bothers me at times (and not just because I have a significant chunk of change tied up in figures and tapes). What is there not to like about giant monsters? Show me a little kid not interested in dinosaurs and I'll show you.... well, not an actual child, but one of those sad little creatures raised in a house that preaches that the fossil record is a massive hoax perpetrated by the wicked hosts of secular humanists*, but that's beside the point (way beside the point). The daikaiju, Godzilla and his friends, are the modern equivalent of dragons, the most recent iteration of legends and myths that reach back far, far past written history. They are versions of archetypes that are etched into our reptile brain, so deeply ingrained that it is nearly impossible to not have a reaction to them. Megafauna may have died out thousands of years ago, but we still seem to hunger for their presence, on some level.

So, to put it in perspective: if I am surfing about the cable wasteland, and I come upon a kaiju eiga, I will happily stop and watch. But if I am loading up a film to watch, I'm afraid that Men in Suits Trampling Miniatures is not the first category I reach for. I don't hate them, I just don't love them. It's probably the insane similarity between them all; past the intense human suffering of the original Godzilla (still powerful even with the constant intrusion of Raymond Burr and the backs of stand-in's heads), monsters show up (sometimes aliens crop up, too, to spice the mix) and buildings get trampled as guys in rubber suits rassle.

That breastbaring aside (hm, breastbaring. I should have saved that for later. You'll know it when you see it), I reveal that I do not place giant monster movies on a pedestal only to prepare you for the next (likely yawn-inducing) blockbuster of an announcement, which is simply this: if giant reptile movies only arouse average interest from me, giant ape movies absolutely bore me to tears.

Unfortunately, I made this realization while viewing this week's movie, my choice for Review All Monsters, Mighty Peking Man.

Oh, let's finally begin, shall we? Slimy Entrepreneur (and therefore Evil Capitalist)Giant Footprint Discovered in Himalayas! Lu Tien (Feng Wa) searches through the newspaper files in a local library and finds a front page stating GIANT FOOT PRINT DISCOVERED IN HIMALAYAS. The story dates back to the 60s, and we are treated to a flashback in which a remote Indian village is rocked by an earthquake, which unearths our title character. I suppose we can assume he's been frozen for some time, and has awakened with a grouchy need for coffee that cannot be quenched. Or maybe it's just those panicky natives throwing spears and catapulting rocks at him (WHY exactly does this village have catapults?). Anyway, he trashes the place.

Being an Evil Capitalist, Lu Tien wants to capture the Mighty Peking Man and bring him to civilization to make lots of money. To accomplish this, he enlists the aid of a hunter/explorer with the improbable name of Johnny Fang (Danny Lee), who is recommended because "He just lost his girl, and wants to get away."

So it's off to India, and numerous time-killing adventures. First our party comes upon a deserted village, and (what we in the audience are privileged to know as) the cry of the Mighty Peking Man causes a stampede of elephants. This sets up a couple of the most bizarre moments in the picture, in a sequence which is a hodge podge of rapid cuts and foggy rear-projection. More than one native bearer (a staple of all jungle flicks) is trapped underneath collapsing bamboo-and-thatch walls, and one fellow is actively stomped on by an elephant. Okay, there's actually another of those rapid cuts and he is really stomped on by one of those fake elephant-leg umbrella holders; but in the next cut, his chest is covered with blood, leading me to conclude that either a) the elephant had stepped in red paint, or b) the elephant was wearing cleats.

Too bad the elephant reached for his wallet.The other astonishing moment is when Johnny is composited with a rear-projected elephant that has been trained to lie down on its side so it can look like Johnny is killing it with pistol fire. Besides the dubiousness of being able to kill a charging elephant with a revolver, it causes me to wonder if that particular shot actually fooled anybody. Perhaps I'm jaded, but I can't comprehend anybody older than 12 watching that and not thinking, "Ah, a trained, rear-projected elephant." Maybe way too jaded.

That night, Johnny's two oldest friends brace him about this whole "lost his girl thing", triggering another time-killing flashback. Turns out his girl, Lucy, wanted to be a big success in TV, so Johnny found her one day in bed with a TV producer... who also happened to be his brother! Betrayal-a-go-go!

More time is wasted the next day, as the party is attacked by a tiger. Interesting that I can consider a tiger attack a waste of time, but we'reCaution!  Surgical Tiger at work! past the twenty minute mark in a movie titled Mighty Peking Man and there's been damned little Peking Man. Not only does Johnny lose one of his pals in the attack (when the seasoned explorer runs away from the tiger straight into a quicksand pit), but this is apparently the same tiger from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, as it takes off a bearer's leg above the knee with surgical precision and runs away with it. Johnny calls for the medicine chest, but Lu Tien simply shoots the wounded bearer, saying, "No sense in wasting medicine." (Like what? Iodine?) Have we mentioned this guy is a capitalist, and therefore evil? Johnny, of course, smacks him upside the head for his evilness.

I used to think that the Africa portrayed in all the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies was the most dangerous place on Earth (As I saw the umpteenth screaming white explorer sucked under by quicksand or eaten by carnivorous plants or tortured to death "I wonder where that Peking Guy could be..."by the Ookabalawonga tribe, my young mind decided, with great certainty, Jesus! I ain't goin' there!), but I must now admit that Africa is Dollywood compared to India. The next day our party leaves the jungle for the seashore and must climb up a cliff (who, exactly, is in charge of the map for this expedition? Did Mike kick the map into the stream, or something? I mean, why not bypass the tiger and elephant-infested jungle and just take a boat to this point??!!). Bad handholds ensure that Johnny's other pal and a string of bearers take a quick drop down to the rocks below. Only the fact that they find fresh footprints of the Mighty Peking Man keeps Johnny going; of course, it's also the reason that Lu Tien and the bearers split in the middle of the night, leaving Johnny to his fate (it should go without saying that Evil Capitalists are, by nature, also cowardly).

Johnny gamely continues on his quest, but it's the Mighty Peking Man that This is why Jungle Guys make that howling soundfinds him, almost smishing him (And how, exactly, does something that big sneak up on somebody? Unless he's like the T. Rex in the Jurassic Park movies and can mute his footfalls at will). Johnny is saved, however, by the arrival of ... EVELYNE KRAFT...JUNGLE GIRL!!! Yes, a blonde bombshell, wearing an animal skin bikini (and an intriguing amount of makeup) pops up and makes "ook ook" sounds at the Mighty Peking Man, who tenderly picks up the unconscious Johnny and EVELYNE KRAFT...JUNGLE GIRL! and deposits them in the blonde's cavern home.

We must perforce stop and examine Ms. Kraft's bikini. Yeah, that's it, we're looking at her bikini, that's right, yeah.... The top has a mere single strap, and the unsupported side sports a cannily placed rough edge that manages to conceal her left nipple, except at such times as she is blocked to move so vigorously that the adhesive holding the flap in place gives way, producing the 13 in our PG-13 rating. When she turns her back to the camera, a twinkling of light off something metal is frequently detected... surely, not a clasp of some sort? I mean, that would be unrealistic. For some reason, it's not the fact that the character fashioned a leather mini-skirt, it's the leather panties that she also made that fill me with a good deal of dismay.

With that out of the way, let us now return to the story. EVELYNE KRAFT...JUNGLE GIRL! takes Jungle Girl:  "Mama!  Papa!"  Audience:  WARF!Johnny to a wrecked plane, overgrown with jungle foliage, which also contains two skeletons (nice of the area carnivores to leave the bodies intact). Through charades and general overacting, EVELYNE KRAFT...JUNGLE GIRL! relates the tale of how she, when a mere girl, and her parents were flying the plane through a thunderstorm when the engine suddenly blew up in mid-air (causing one to wonder if it were the work of The Brain from Planet Arous, lurking about in the jungle below). She was found and raised by the Mighty Peking Man, who has instantly smished every other human he has ever run across, but what can you do? You know that thousand pound gorilla? The one you keep hearing about, who can sit anywhere he wants? This is the guy that gorilla answers to.

Johnny also finds in the plane a diary, revealing that EVELYNE KRAFT...JUNGLE GIRL!'s name is actually Samantha; we also learn that Mighty Peking Man's name is Ootah. Samantha also has more friends than just Mighty Peking Man - she is also pals with the Surgical Tiger and a rather drugged-out looking leopard. She is not friends with a cobra, however - like all animals in the lethal jungle of India, it strikes without provocation (right at her femoral artery, no less - it's like every animal in this jungle has a degree in human anatomy). While the Surgical Tiger makes a meal of the snake, Johnny attempts to suck out the poison. Later, Mighty Peking Man brings him medicinal leaves to make a healing poultice for her wound.

When Samantha rises from her envenomed coma, Johnny is so elated, he kisses her - which triggers the most jaw-dropping "Rowr!  May I please just have my two o'clock shot of libirium?"sequence of all: as a generic, sappy 70s pseudo-soul ballad, apparently entitled, "Am I Falling In Love" plays (how bland and generic is it? If Mighty Peking Man were released today, it would get an Oscar nomination for Best Song. That's how bland and generic it is), there is a slow-motion montage of Samantha and Johnny doing just that - starting off with the hackneyed running sequence (the first instance of the nipple adhesive failing) and graduating into carefree frolicking with the drugged-out leopard. This culminates in Samantha and Johnny doing what comes naturally in fur beds in the 70s. But Mighty Peking Man happens to also be the Mighty Peeping Man (sorry), and throws a fit of 100 foot pique when he spies Sam and Johnny making the beast with two backs. Luckily Sam manages to soothe him.

This brings up something I like to call the Oilcan Harry Dilemma. Long, long ago, when TV still showed the old TerryToons Mighty Peeping ManMighty Mouse, the better ones were the musical melodramas, which featured villain cat Oilcan Harry, who was always trying to get Pearl Pureheart (a mouse, needless to say) to marry him. The Oilcan Harry Dilemma is this: as the cat is easily three or four times the size of his chosen bride, what can he possibly want to do with her? Things like this torture my idle hours, which is why I spend so much time either watching mind-numbing movies like this one or fighting my way through games like KISS: Psycho Circus, which is an experience like working your way through the junior year of high school, let me tell you. Where was I? Ah. One hundred foot Mighty Peking Man. Five foot woman. WTF?

So let's see. Johnny has discovered a woman who allows him to forget his feckless former girlfriend. He plays with predators (in slow motion), there is plenty to eat, in a vegan sort of way; in short, an idyllic existence. So naturally he decides it is time to head for civilization, and to take Sam and Mighty Peking Man with him (as the movie was made before the advent of e-mail, I cannot understand his hurry). This is the first time the sentence JOHNNY, YOU ARE A JERK appears in my notes. After a tearful (literally) farewell with the pet elephant and the mandatory drugged-out-leopard-doesn't-want-her-to-go scene (frankly, the animals in this movie exhibit far more sense than any of the bipeds), Sam and Johnny climb into Mighty Peking Man's hand, and he walks to the nearest city.

Causing an immediate panic.

"Is it just me, or is my perspective off here?"Until Sam gets him to lie down. Lu Tien drives up, and the next jaw-dropping scene occurs, as Johnny says, "Lu Tien, I've been looking for you!" Not, "There you are, you murderous son of a bitch," or "What's the idea of leaving me in the jungle to die, you ratbastard," followed by numerous slammings of the head in the car door, no. Johnny promised to bring back Mighty Peking Man, and he did, delivering the unfortunate giant into the hands of the Evil Capitalist.

So Mighty Peking Man finds himself in chains on the deck of a freighter, headed for Hong Kong. This greatly displeases Mighty Peking Man, not to mention Samantha (this is the second time the nipple adhesive fails. Not that I was watching for it, or anything). Johnny tries to calm her by giving her a dress to wear in Hong Kong (this is the second time the JOHNNY, YOU ARE A JERK note appears) It itches, so she pitches it out a porthole, and returns to her leathers, like a good jungle girl.

The captain reveals that they are heading for a typhoon and wants to hit port in "Bastards!  You wouldn't do this to DiCaprio!"Shanghai to let it pass, but Lu Tien has booked a stadium in Hong Kong and sold tickets, and so demands the captain sail through the storm. Instead of saying something cogent, like "Screw you, Evil Capitalist, I don't want to die" or "Pinhead, your meal ticket is unprotected on the deck," the captain agrees, so Mighty Peking Man gets a good soaking (agh! Wet fur smell!) as the ship runs aground on a bigass rock in the middle of the ocean. Sam and Johnny free one of Mighty Peking Man's hands so he can push them off the rock, which causes the sailing to suddenly become incredibly smoother.

In HK, Johnny takes Samantha to his brother's TV studio. For someone raised in the graphically lethal jungles of India, Sam takes to civilization very well, and does not appear to be curious about things like cars or TV studios. She and Johnny sit in on the taping of his brother's show, which gives us another opportunity to hear a lame 70s generic song (actually, you have to admire the movie's pioneering spirit, as it was figuring out to shoehorn salable songs into a movie long before this sort of thing came into vogue in the 90s). Johnny gets a note and leaves Samantha in the studio (jerk) and goes to a dressing room, where he meets... his former girlfriend, Lucy.

You see, she was thinking only of her career when she bedded his brother, not Johnny Jerk.or their relationship. And while Johnny was gone, his brother did ... something. Something so heinous they won't even tell us what it was. So Johnny agrees to start all over again with his former girlfriend. This particular JOHNNY YOU ARE A JERK covers most of the page (though it must be admitted he is a very forgiving jerk), and the movie appears to agree, as Samantha (having sat through the lame 70s song to the bitter end) has come looking for her guy and walked in as Johnny and Lucy are sucking face.

Sam runs tearfully out into the street, skillfully avoiding Johnny the Big HunterUsing these helpful automated aids, Koko will soon be able to walk the dog on her own. by hiding behind the first car she sees. Wandering the streets - in a bizarre sort of reciprocation for her ease with civilization, no one in Hong Kong seems to notice the practically naked blonde walking through their city - eventually sighting Mighty Peking Man on TV. At the stadium, the Evil Capitalist has not only chained him up to various John Deere Tonka toys to see who can pull whom, but the crowd in the stands is pelting him with fruit. Slight digression: at what point can throwing crap at something a hundred feet tall and pissed off be deemed a good idea?

Sam arrives to beg for Mighty Peking Man's release, but Lu Tien carries her away, and to the list of virtues contained in this one Evil Capitalist we can also add venality, as Lu Tien attempts to rape Samantha - unfortunately for him, in sight of Mighty Peking Man. The giant proceeds to go berserk, rip apart his cage, and chase Lu Tien and Sam all over the place, trashing any building or bridge that gets in his way.

Ah, finally! Rampage time! Let's see, we covered stupidity in the makeup "Whee!  Uh... I mean, AIEEE!"of the Evil capitalist, right? Oh yeah - the typhoon thing. Well, just to reinforce that notion, he drags Sam into a hotel and breaks into a room to hide from Mighty Peking Man - right at Mighty Peking Man's eye level! Well, they get to use that full scale Mighty Peking Man hand again, as Lu Tien is dragged out through the window and eventually thrown to the ground, where Mighty Peking Man smishes him. So long, Lu Tien - you were an Evil Capitalist, and so much more.

The model army swings into action, as they always do - too bad they don't have some of those radar-dish lightning-shooting "Nobody cry when Jaws-a die!  Everybody cry when -" etc., etc.thingies the Japanese have had for years, but of course the aroma of burnt fur would have hung around for days. Mighty Peking Man finally winds up atop a tall building with helicopters shooting at him, until Sam goes up to calm him down and the Supreme Commander gives his word that the shooting will stop (of course, he's also wiring the building to explode). Once Sam gets Mighty Peking Man calmed down, the Supreme Commander decides this is their best chance, and orders the shooting to start again (SUPREME COMMANDER, YOU ARE A JERK). Sam is in the line of fire, and gets hit; Johnny tries to get her out before the explosion, but she chooses to stay with Mighty Peking Man. Kaboom. The end.

So that burnt fur smell winds up lingering over HK for days anyway.

In case you didn't catch it, this was the Shaw Brothers Studio's attempt to cash in on Dino deLaurentiis' less-than-successful remake of King Kong. It has to be admitted that it makes a few attempts to carve its own niche, but putting the Fay Wray/Jessica Lange character in a leather bikini and letting her swing from a few vines is hardly enough to let the production stand on its own two feet, no matter how huge they may be.

My own ambivalence toward the giant ape movie still puzzles me - perhaps because it is assumed that, since the main character is a monkey, I will Awwwww!  Monkey!automatically feel sympathy toward it; that I will go, Aaaaaaaw! Monkey! and blubber when it is done wrong and cry when it dies. It bespeaks a certain amount of laziness when I am not given a reason to feel for the big monkey, and I certainly do not in the case of Mighty Peking Man - then again, the JOHNNY YOU ARE A JERK notes are pretty superfluous when everybody on display is one form of jerk or another, including the title character. The only character I feel any sympathy toward is the Surgical Tiger, who does his work quickly and well, and gets the hell out of the way. Excelsior, noble Surgical Tiger! I shall miss you!

I do like to give credit where credit is due: The mandatory Kaiju Rampage scenes are pretty good, and the miniature work is especially well done, except where it was forgotten to overcrank the camera to give the miniatures a sense of size and mass - admittedly, something that occasionally happens in films made by the Japanese, who are the past masters at this sort of thing. The craftsmanship on the models, however, cannot be doubted. It's always nice to see some city beside Tokyo take it on the neck, and Hong Kong is different enough to add an exotic thrill to the usual smash-through-the-building hi-jinx.

There's been a certain amount of fanboy hubbub over Mighty Peking Man since Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures Smish.(love the logo, Quint) re-released it. I enjoy a sour bit of ironic bemusement when I consider that these same fanboys passed the film up, over and over again, at their local video stores for years when it was known as Goliathon. And now Roger Ebert praises it as "Genius! Crazy demented weirdness!" (or so claims the video box). I'll agree to the crazy demented weirdness, but genius? There is a large amount of entertainment potential in Mighty Peking Man - with two-dimensional characters doing amazingly stupid things, all in badly-dubbed glory, the movie seems to exist only to be ridiculed, not even trying to tell a convincing story. It fails as a solitary pleasure but it will make a great party tape - and I'll probably enjoy it far more in that setting.



And You Call Yourself A Scientist!
Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension
Oh the Humanity!
Godzilla vs. Mothra
Stomp Tokyo
Stomp Tokyo
Teleport City


Mighty Goofy, Man.

- August 11, 2000