DVD Review: Mighty Peking Man

They've ravaged London. Tokyo is no more. Korea is off the map. New York's landmarks underwent unscheduled demolition. Where's a giant monkey to go anymore? How's Hong Kong sound? That's the new playfield for Mighty Peking Man, a 1977 Kong knock-off and re-released with Quentin Tarantino's stamp of approval from his Rolling Thunder studio.

Setting itself up slightly different, Mighty Peking Man is born from an earthquake, resurrected like so many of his other giant monster brethren. As is the norm for the misunderstood giant apes, he finds a girl. This one crash landed years ago in a plane, was left stranded on the remote island, and raised by Peking Man's island natives. At the very least, it changes the formula up slightly, and gives the girl an obvious reason for not wanting the beast killed, not just some literal animal magnetism.

It's hard not to admit that the suit used here is awful, especially in the face. The old man-in-a-suit routine doesn't fare well. However, this is one of those films unfairly judged for its effects, done by recently deceased Godzilla effects veteran Teisho Arikawa. The miniature buildings are superb, and certainly far ahead of those in other ape "epics" around the same time. In fact, their meticulous detailing puts them above most of the New York romp in Dino De Laurentiis over bloated King Kong remake a year earlier.

It takes quite some time to get there though, and that means dealing with some pitiful jungle action, including a scene where lead actor Danny Lee shoots an elephant. That's where the awful effects moniker comes from. The action inside the jungle provides almost nothing worthwhile, except for Evelyne Kraft in nothing but a leather costume that rarely covers anything. She continues to wear that for the entire city destruction sequence without even a passing glance from anyone on the street. Logic is obviously at a premium here.

Mighty Peking Man is easy to take as straight camp, but there's enough destruction to satisfy a giant monster fan. It depends on your tastes in oddball cinema. It's definitely a step above the various other knock-offs from around the same period, and a lot of fun. (*** out of *****)

Simply put, this is an incredible looking video presentation. The print must have undergone some extensive restoration, because this is incredible to look at. This is a crisp, detailed, and sharp transfer, picking up on the smaller details (and in a few cases, making the effects even more blatantly obvious at times). Heavy grain is normal, though it's not saturating the picture. Compression is well under control, and this movie looks better than we've ever seen it here in the US. (****)

Audio is average for a 2.0 mono track. There's that typical hiss to the audio that accompanies movies of the era. Dialogue sounds especially muted. Explosions sound meager without any bass accompaniment. (***)

Extras include only a trailer for Peking Man and two other features from Rolling Thunder. (No stars)

Originally released here as Goliathon in the States, Mighty Peking Man never really stands a chance under close scrutiny. It's criticized and usually with merit, but given how far the Godzilla films had fallen in the 70s, it's great to see Toho's otherwise talented special effects crew showing what they could do when the time was there. You have to able to appreciate something like this, even when it's so absurd it becomes funny.

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