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  Peacock King, The Who Ya Gonna Call? Yuen Biao!
Year: 1989
Director: Simon Nam
Stars: Yuen Biao, Gloria Yip, Pauline Wong, Hiroshi Mikami, Narumi Yasuda, Ken Ogata, Gordon Liu, Tonpei Hidari, Hong Li, Eddy Ko, Bun Yuen
Genre: Horror, Action, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: At an archaelogical dig which has uncovered a huge stone pot, strange events are occuring. The object is actually a gateway to Hell, and one night it breaks open to reveal Ashura (Gloria Yip), the Virgin of Hell and indeed the daughter of the King of Hell, accompanied by her guardian, and they declare that the world will soon be laid to waste in an Armageddon for all its wickedness and immorality. The archaelogists shoot at the figures with machine guns, but it's to no avail, and the devastating promise is backed up with a multitude of explosions. Only two people can stop this: a Tibetan monk, Peacock (Yuen Biao) and a Japanese monk, Lucky Fruit (Hiroshi Mikami) - but will be able to hold back the forces of evil?

Who combines machine guns with archaeology anyway? Well, to say that in this film they do should tell you all you need to know about Peacock King, a co-production between Japan and Hong Kong that was based on Makoto Ogino's comic book, which in turn was based on legend. As usual with this sort of thing, the mythology you have to take for granted and let the characters get on with picking their way through the absurd storyline, because Kujaku รด, as it was known in Japan, is somewhat less than serious, even if it does take the business of Hell with appropriate gravity.

The other big influence on this film would appear to be Ghostbusters, with Yuen Biao in the Bill Murray role as the wisecracking Tibetan monk. There is a Sigourney Weaver character in the form of Miss Okada (Narumi Yasuda), but as both her leading men are religious types, there's not so much as a whiff of romance between any of them, not even a love triangle. Okada works at the Tokyo department store where a dinosaur exhibition is being set up, but is unaware that this store is really a gateway to Hell - I'm sure we've all been in shops like that.

Lucky Fruit shows up in Tokyo, noting the stop motion animated plasticine that is littering the streets (he feeds them to a dog) as proof of demonic intent, and shows up at the store to persuade its manager to let him exorcise the place. After seeing a beastie on Okada's shoulder, the manager agrees, and not before time as Okada is nearly grabbed by a huge claw in the locker room. Much flinging about of magic spells ensues, and Peacock makes his presence felt when he appears in the nick of time to close the gateway, but alas there's still a portal in Hong Kong that needs seeing to.

However, there's a twist in that Ashura is quite a nice person, and Peacock realises she should be saved from her devilish duties before the King of Hell can get his hands on her. After causing chaos at a fairground, Ashura is persuaded to give up her life of evil, but her guardian, Raga (Pauline Wong) has other ideas. The effects reflect the film as a whole, with more enthusiasm than skill as Raga, for example, does an impression of The Thing and mutates into a huge-mouthed creature that chomps on a few unlucky extras, but the effects are the best reason to watch, as martial arts fans will be let down that there's only one hand-to-hand combat sequence in the whole movie. Thoroughly silly, The Peacock King should appeal to those who prefer the cheesy side of cinema. Music by Micky Yoshino.

[The Hong Kong Legends DVD includes an interview with Yuen Biao where he says that the film will be best enjoyed by people who don't think (!), an interview with him about Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain, and trailers.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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