Mighty Peking Man

A brief history of the Midnight Movie is probably much more interesting than a plot summary of Mighty Peking Man. In fact, those who – for some strange reason – sat patiently through Mighty Joe Young, already know the plot: Blond, drop-dead gorgeous young woman controls – affectionately – enormous gorilla that will find itself in deep doo-doo if bad guys get to it before good guy does. And good guy does.

Jungle romance follows, after which the happy threesome sets out for Hong Kong. Once in the heart of the city, after a lot of crowd-chasing and building-smashing scenes, distressed Mighty Peking Man finds his sorry end. And so, we conclude, the only admirable thing about Mighty Peking Man is that it spares us the happy ending.

Rereleased by Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures as a Midnight Movie, this 1977 "shameless attempt at cashing in on the anticipated success of Dino de Laurentis’ remake of King Kong" is advertised as a "classic tale of Love, Adventure and Urban Destruction." And though action, sex and the destruction of property are the main ingredients of any successful movie, the fake backdrops, the heavy-handed special effects and the large quantities of mascara sported by the blond jungle vixen defeat the purpose of the whole affair.

On the other hand, this is a Midnight Movie intended for a "midnight audience," who – in the ’70s, when the Midnight Movie was "invented" by distributor Ben Barenholtz – was "young, perverse and probably altered by legal and illegal substances." Who knows? Under these circumstances, even Ho Meng-Hua’s mindless epic of jungle lust might prove entertaining.

The question, however, is not why a Midnight Movie? Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eraserhead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show enjoyed tremendous success on the Midnight circuit. The question is, why this movie? What is it that we missed in ’77 that we are going to grasp now? And why – after having spoiled us with the work of new wave Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express) – does Rolling Thunder subject us to this utterly forgettable flick?

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].

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