Newest Reviews
American Fiction
Poor Things
Legend of the Bat
Party Line
Night Fright
Pacha, Le
Assemble Insert
Venus Tear Diamond, The
Beauty's Evil Roses, The
Free Guy
Huck and Tom's Mississippi Adventure
Rejuvenator, The
Who Fears the Devil?
Guignolo, Le
Batman, The
Land of Many Perfumes
Cat vs. Rat
Tom & Jerry: The Movie
Naked Violence
Joyeuses Pacques
Strangeness, The
How I Became a Superhero
Golden Nun
Incident at Phantom Hill
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
Maigret Sets a Trap
Hell's Wind Staff, The
Topo Gigio and the Missile War
Battant, Le
Penguin Highway
Cazadore de Demonios
Imperial Swordsman
Newest Articles
3 From Arrow Player: Sweet Sugar, Girls Nite Out and Manhattan Baby
Little Cat Feat: Stephen King's Cat's Eye on 4K UHD
La Violence: Dobermann at 25
Serious Comedy: The Wrong Arm of the Law on Blu-ray
DC Showcase: Constantine - The House of Mystery and More on Blu-ray
Monster Fun: Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror on Blu-ray
State of the 70s: Play for Today Volume 3 on Blu-ray
The Movie Damned: Cursed Films II on Shudder
The Dead of Night: In Cold Blood on Blu-ray
Suave and Sophisticated: The Persuaders! Take 50 on Blu-ray
Your Rules are Really Beginning to Annoy Me: Escape from L.A. on 4K UHD
A Woman's Viewfinder: The Camera is Ours on DVD
Chaplin's Silent Pursuit: Modern Times on Blu-ray
The Ecstasy of Cosmic Boredom: Dark Star on Arrow
A Frosty Reception: South and The Great White Silence on Blu-ray
You'll Never Guess Which is Sammo: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon on Blu-ray
Two Christopher Miles Shorts: The Six-Sided Triangle/Rhythm 'n' Greens on Blu-ray
Not So Permissive: The Lovers! on Blu-ray
Uncomfortable Truths: Three Shorts by Andrea Arnold on MUBI
The Call of Nostalgia: Ghostbusters Afterlife on Blu-ray
Moon Night - Space 1999: Super Space Theater on Blu-ray
Super Sammo: Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son on Blu-ray
Sex vs Violence: In the Realm of the Senses on Blu-ray
What's So Funny About Brit Horror? Vampira and Bloodbath at the House of Death on Arrow
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
  Monkey Goes West, The monkey is funky
Year: 1964
Director: Ho Meng-hua
Stars: Yueh Hua, Ho Fan, Diana Chang Chung Wen, Tsang Choh Lam, Nam Wai Lit, Kao Pao Shu, Yau Ching, Tina Chin Fei, Yip Ching, Pang Pang, Lee Ying, Fan Mei Sheng, Mars, Chen Pei Pei, Ku Feng
Genre: Musical, Martial Arts, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Written by Wu Cheng-En in the 16th century, Journey to the West is one of the great works of Chinese literature. It spawned a myriad of pop culture incarnations including cult kids television show Monkey (1979), anime classic Alakazam the Great (1960), phenomenally popular sci-fi pastiche Dragonball (1986-1998), and Jeff Lau’s ingenious reworking A Chinese Odyssey (1994), which stars Stephen Chow Sing-chi and was recently ranked among the one hundred greatest Chinese movies of all time. Arguably the definitive classic rendition was the four part film series produced by legendary Hong Kong movie moguls the Shaw Brothers.

On his epic journey to retrieve Buddha’s sacred scriptures, pious monk Tang Seng (Ho Fan) is pursued by monsters and demons that want to eat his flesh and gain immortality. Cowering in fright, Tang hides up a mountain where he discovers the jovial Monkey King (Yueh Hua). The most powerful being in creation, Monkey knows every magic and martial art under the sun, but was imprisoned by Guan-Yin Buddha for trying to conquer heaven. Growing to giant size, he sings a jaunty duet with Tang held in the palm of his hand, then bests the villainous Third Prince (Fan Mei Shang) who transforms into an impressive rubber dragon for a Godzilla-style monster battle.

Shortly thereafter, Guan-Yin Buddha (also known as the Goddess of Mercy/Happiness) hovers by on a floating cloud and tasks Monkey with protecting Tang Seng throughout his long journey. To keep Monkey on his best behaviour, Buddha places a metal band around his head, which constricts painfully whenever someone recites a magic sutra. It will stay there until the day Monkey finds enlightenment. In a nearby town, Monkey takes pity on a poor scholar in love with a rich man’s beautiful daughter (Diana Chang Chung Wen). The girl is reluctantly wedded to a wealthy merchant, whom Monkey discovers is really Pigsy (Pang Pang), the shape-changing pig with an eye for pretty girls.

Naturally, Monkey saves the day and a chastened Pigsy joins the quest. His hungry stomach and rampant libido quickly gets them into trouble with a Snake Woman and her three, lovely fairy-daughters (including future superstars Cheng Pei Pei and Tina Chin Fei), who spirit Tang away to their undersea kingdom. So Pigsy and Monkey dive underwater, where they tangle with turtle people, sea fairies and talking prawns.

This first instalment is mostly a scene-setter, but successfully melds the sweep of a mythological epic with the sing-along fun of an M-G-M musical. Its musical highlight is a comic duet between perfectly cast stand-up comedian Pang Pang and Diana Chang Chung Wen, one of the biggest stars in Chinese cinema, once dubbed “the most beautiful creature in China.” Listen out for great lines like: “Your arms are like lotus stems. I want to have a bite.” Aimed at family audiences, this big-budget spectacle was Shaw Brothers’ equivalent to The Wizard of Oz (1939) or The Thief of Baghdad (1940), with vast, evocative sets, goofy monster makeup and Georges Melies-style special effects. Although only the Chinese would make a family movie that features faces being ripped off, cannibalism, and a sex-mad talking pig.

Kids lapped it up of course, especially the antics of multi-talented leading man Yueh Hua, delightfully manic and playful as that funky monkey. Actor Ho Fan may look suitably pious as monk Tang Seng, but led a double life as an erotic photographer. He went on to direct numerous softcore sex romps like Girl with the Long Hair (1978). Hua and Fan returned for three high quality sequels: Princess Iron Fan (1966), Cave of the Silken Web (1967) and Land of Many Perfumes (1968), each helmed by Ho Meng-hua.

One of Shaw’s most prolific and versatile filmmakers, Meng-hua was adept at musicals (A Maid from Heaven (1963)) wu xia epics (The Lady Hermit (1971)), gritty thrillers (Kiss of Death (1973)), children’s films (The Human Goddess (1971)), award-winning drama (The Warlord and the Actress (1964), Susanna (1967)) and sleazy horror movies (Black Magic (1975), The Rape After (1976)). A decade later, he went for further simian shenanigans with Shaw Bros’ monster movie Mighty Peking Man (1977).
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 5182 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Enoch Sneed
Darren Jones
  Louise Hackett
Mark Le Surf-hall
Andrew Pragasam
Mary Sibley
Graeme Clark
  Desbris M


Last Updated: