Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Child of Peach (1987)

If you were a comic book fan in the Eighties, you may have noticed a few titles which came out under the banner of Jademan Comics.  There weren’t very many, but they were all great (the titles, not necessarily the books), like The Force of Buddha’s Palm, Iron Marshal, and Blood Sword Dynasty.  To my knowledge, all but one of the titles were written and drawn by Tony Wong (Blood Sword, not to be confused with Blood Sword Dynasty, was written and drawn by Ma Wing-Shing, perhaps best known for his Storm Riders which was turned into an abysmal film in 1998; Personally, I’ve always been partial to his Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre), and his aesthetic is at once both gorgeous and kind of primitive, hyper-stylized and childishly cartoonishly stiff.  

The American Jademan books, unfortunately, suffer from some seriously bad editing and translations.  Word balloons often don’t line up with the characters speaking, the balloons are out of order, so you’re not totally sure what a character is referring to until after you read the next balloon, and there are typos that require some serious reading between the lines in order to not get completely lost.  For example, the very first issue of The Force of Buddha’s Palm elides about ten years in one page break, and in that time, we’re expected to catch up with such events in the life of the hero, Nine Continents, as the passing of the love of his life (whom we never get to meet) and the growing bond between himself and White Jade Dragon (whom we only meet after they’ve been besties for years).  This amateurishness is despite the supposed English scripting duties of Mike Baron and Roger Salick, no strangers to comic book writing (I can only assume the problem lies in the translation of the translation by the publisher).  

And yet, there’s an undeniable energy at work in these books that transcends the dopier plot aspects or the fact that every martial arts move looks alarmingly similar (the distinction comes in the naming of the moves, apparently).  As with the more entertaining Wuxia films, like Holy Flame of the Martial World for example, the cultural restrictions have to be taken in stride to get to what makes them work; their imagination.  Likewise, in 1987 (one year prior to the American premier of Jademan Comics), directors Chung-Hsing Chao and Chun-Liang Chen brought the world the incredible Child of Peach (aka Xing Tao Tai Lang), and if you’re already a fan of Shan Hua’s The Super Inframan, you’ll find a lot of similarities herein.  Plus, lots of people getting peed on.

In the Peach Garden high atop the Himalayas, a loving martial arts couple practice their techniques and feed drippings from a giant peach to their infant son.  The flagitious Devil King steals the Sword of Sun and kills the couple, but not before their son is sealed up inside said peach and sent off to safety.  Found by a comedically dreary old couple, the child is named Peach Kid, and, after being prematurely aged by Little Fairy, he takes off to fight Devil King and his minions and save the beauteous Apple Princess.

I said that this film owes a lot to The Super Inframan, and I meant it.  There is an opening where the monsters show up and wreak some havoc.  There is the entrance of Grandma and her colorful monster cohorts, who always appear as if they’re waiting for their curtain call and who will individually take on Peach Kid and his pals and be defeated.  There are the super-stylized sets that are just big enough for lots of martial arts action and pyrotechnics to take place (most notably the villain’s lair on Devil Island).  Come to think of it, maybe it just follows the mold of every other wuxia/Chinese genre film from the Sixties onward.  But even more than these are the parallels between Child of Peach and the sentinel of truth, justice, and the American Way, Superman.  Both were sent away from their homes in vessels just before their birth parents were killed.  Both were discovered and adopted by a couple who couldn’t have children of their own naturally.  Both had to deal with the onset of their powers as they grew.  Both decided to fight for what’s right and are the only ones who can defeat the evil that has reared its ugly head.  Child of Peach then incorporates all of the insanity that comes with the fantasy/Wuxia stories of its native culture.  As stated, there’s a lot of urine jokes in the film.  The giant peach pees on the Old Lady, after setting her ass on fire by dragging her all over the place.  Tiny Monkey and Tiny Dog pee in the drinking bowls of Knight Melon and Priest Bowie.  Bowie winds up puking.  Even Devil King is not immune from the micturating.  This is easily one of the oddest fetishes I’ve ever encountered in otherwise mainstream (this would be a subjective distinction) fare, but the Taiwanese assumedly love it.  Fair enough.  I should also mention that two of the main characters, the villainous Grandma and the more matured Peach Kid are played by people of the opposite gender.  I have absolutely no idea why.  None.  Yet, these aspects (along with a particularly groan-worthy fart joke) didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the film in any way.

The element of kid empowerment and the threatening of innocence also plays into the proceedings.  Peach Kid is harder on his parents than any child in their terrible twos, but it’s he who can take on the Devil King (his adoptive father wants to join in the fight, but Peach Kid denies him this, looking out for the people he loves and taking on the responsibility himself).  He isn’t doing this alone, however.  He is joined by Tiny Monkey, Tiny Cock, and Tiny Dog, three animals who transform into kids (or perhaps the other way around?) with wicked martial arts abilities and Knight Melon (who is more young adult than anything else), the requisite fat buffoon character, who actually turns out to be taken a bit more seriously than one would initially expect (though he is also the perpetrator of the aforementioned flatulence humor, natch).  Adults like Priest Bowie show their poltroonish natures, cowering in the face of imminent death.  It’s the youth that can conquer evil, because it’s their youth which, it can be argued, gives them their power (yes, you can say that they are mostly mystical beings, but that doesn’t really account for Melon; he’s all heart).  The kids play in the big leagues, and they are up to the task.  Uncoincidentally, Child of Peach was up to the task of delighting the piss out of me.

MVT:  The whacked-out imagination, combined with the level of the technical effects (with a couple of exceptions).

Make or Break:  The Old Lady’s initial interaction with the giant peach sets the tone for almost every scene involving her and her husband (i.e. ultra-slapstick).

Score:  7/10

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