Peacock King, The | aka Legend of the Phoenix (1989) Review

"The Peacock King" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Peacock King" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Nam Nai Choi
Producer: Chua Lam
Cast: Yuen Biao, Gloria Yip Wan Yi, Pauline Wong Siu Fung, Pauline Wong Siu Fung, Gordon Liu Chia Hui, Eddie Ko Hung, Philip Kwok Chung Fung, Ken Boyle, Siu Tak Foo, Yuen Bun, Kara Hui Ying Hung
Running Time: 83 min.

By JJ Hatfield

All is dark except for an area forming a rough circle around an ongoing archaeological dig. Without warning a great force erupts from the new opening. When the dust settles for a moment a female appears and tells the people they have opened a hole to hell. Then she calls for Ashura, Hell’s Virgin, and commands her to destroy everything which she does. Someone has to prevent the other holes from opening and allowing creatures from Hell to cross over into the human world!

The film was a Chinese/Japanese co-production based upon a highly popular Japanese manga. It is a current (1989) tale of spirits, demons, magic and the King of Hell himself! Two different monks are called by their respective masters to perform a duty. They must prevent the other holes from opening and allowing evil to possess the realm of humans. Peacock (Yuen Biao) was raised by Master (Eddy Ko Hung) in Tibet. He is quite skilled and very modern in some ways. He wears sunglasses, dances, and is up to date on the current trends. He is told that he must go to Tokyo and meet with another monk to keep the King of Hell from destroying all of human kind. Peacock journeys to Japan to find Ashura (Gloria Yip) and prevent the next hole from opening.

In looking for Ashura and the next hole, Peacock meets his Japanese counterpart Lucky Fruit (Hiroshi Mikami), another monk who has the same mission. The two monks have different abilities, mostly seen during fights as Lucky Fruit is not the fighter, acrobat, etc. like Peacock. Lucky Fruit is more humble and more reserved than Peacock. They are very similar however and at one point Lucky Fruit says the difference between them is that Peacock helps people for money whereas he does not charge those he helps. In most ways they are much the same, however Peacock sees Ashura as a victim of fate. It was not her fault to be born the daughter of the King of Hell. He wants to give her as much time as possible to be a sweet young girl experiencing life.

As sappy happy as that might be it would be very monotonous and boring. Fortunately events force Peacock into some of the most inventive fighting of his younger days. And most of the time it’s all Biao. In a film of this wu-xia-ish fantasy, there are of course wires and tubing. The various monsters, demons, ghosts, zombies… I’m sure I saw some zombies… are passable if you don’t look at them very carefully. But the star here is Biao’s moves, so your focus will be on him anyway.

The director Nam Lai-Choi had six writers, or as some credits state five writers and one comic. The writers listed at the IMDb – Izo Hashimoto writer, Heung Sang Kong writer, Makoto Ogino comic, Ikki Sekizumi writer, Edward Tang writer, Suet Lai Woo writer – I don’t recall seeing such a listing before. It’s no wonder the story is uneven! Biao was not only the choreographer but the action director as well. In addition, he is listed in several places as being the co-director.

Fans get a pretty cool extra most people don’t know about. Peacock (Yuen Biao) gets to fight one on one with Kubira (Liu Chia-Hui). It’s pretty damn good and the only time I am aware that Yuen Biao ever fought with Lui Chia-Hui. The special fx ranged from goofy to good for the time and budget. I must admit, sometimes I was reminded of Harryhausen. Over all, Peacock King is quite entertaining. It has some great fighting, but it could have benefited from more. The humor is actually pretty good. Some nice sarcasm – Frightened girl: “What was that noise?” Biao/Peacock “Stereo”

The music, costumes and sets are on the skimpy side but it doesn’t hurt the final product. Peacock King is a manga-to-movie good time.

There is a sequel to this film, The Saga of the Phoenix, that I will be reviewing in the coming weeks.

JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 6.5/10

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About JJ Hatfield

i like movies
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