A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
There is an earthquake near the beginning of "Mighty Peking Man," but unlike the earthquake in the fondly remembered "Infra-Man," it does not unleash the Slinky-necked robots and hairy mutant footstools controlled by Princess Dragon Mom. Still, it offers attractions of its own. It disturbs a giant ape, for example, which lumbers down from its mountain home and heads for the jungles of India. And it is no ordinary tremor; it unfolds progressively. First, a character shouts that there's an earthquake. Then we hear it, although we do not see anything alarming. Then the back-projected landscape begins to shake violently, although the foreground does not shake. Then the camera begins to shake, while the foreground still holds steady. Later, finally, the earth moves. This may be the first special effects-generated earthquake, in which the back projection shakes so hard it moves the earth.
The earthquake doesn't really impact on the plot. It's simply an earthquake scene, just as later, there is a quicksand scene, a scene where a python fights a tiger, etc. "Mighty Peking Man," made in 1977, is being re-released by Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures, and we can only imagine young QT behind the counter of that legendary video store of his youth, watching this on the monitor and realizing he'd struck gold.
The plot involves an expedition to discover the giant ape-like Peking Man, who is said at one point to be 10 feet tall--although a grown man is able to stand inside one of its footprints. Later in the film, however, the creature has grown enough to knock down tall buildings, although later still it has shrunk enough to climb one.
The dialogue is to the point. After the expedition is suggested, a character says, "I know an explorer here in Hong Kong! He just lost his girl! He wants to get away!" The explorer, whose name is Johnny Feng (Danny Lee), is drunk when we first meet him; a flashback reveals that his girlfriend is having an affair with his brother. That doesn't dissuade Lu Tien, the hunt financer: "You're going to lead our expedition into the Himalayan jungle! You're the only one I trust!" Soon the expedition sets off, not in Land-Rovers, as we might expect, but in tall, two-wheeled ox carts. There are hazards along the way. My favorite is when a sherpa gets his leg bitten off above the knee. Johnny wants to summon medical help, but Lu Tien simply shoots the man in the head. The expedition soon encounters a blond woman named Samantha (Evelyne Kraft), who has lived in the jungle since the crash long ago of a plane carrying her family (in a flashback, we see the tot crying out "Mama! Papa!"). Mighty Peking Man and Samantha hang out together, but are just friends.