Thursday, July 22, 2021

Xing tao tai lang (1987)

... aka: 捉鬼雜牌軍
... aka: 新桃太郎
... aka: Child of Peach
... aka: Shin Momotaro
... aka: Sword of Sun God, The
... aka: Zhuo gui za pai jun

Directed by:
Chung-Hsing Chao
Chun-Liang Chen

Yesssss! A warrior with magical powers (Fu-Chien Chang), his lovely wife (Bao-Lien Yin) and their newborn baby son live a peaceful and carefree life in the beautiful and fertile mountaintop Peach Garden, along with the child / animal guardians Tiny-Dog (Fu Lai), Tiny-Monkey (Chun Hsiao) and the unfortunately-named Tiny-Cock (Yu-Jiu Yang). In the Peach Garden it's always sunny and warm thanks to the father possessing the powerful, laser-shooting "Sword of Sun." They also have a giant magical peach that always drips nectar and that they can command to do their bidding. However, the evil, flame-haired, vampire-fanged Devil King (Chung-Yu Huang) wants the sword for himself. He and his green-afro'd minions manage to steal it. The garden instantly dies, it starts snowing and the sword is used to murder both the father and mother. Before dying, Madame Peach manages to seal her baby inside the magic peach and orders it to leave and go hide somewhere. She informs a visiting little girl fairy (Shadow Liu) to eventually find her child so he can avenge their deaths.

We then meet a goofy, childless elderly couple; Kung (Tu Chin) and his wife Ah Po (Mei Fang Yu), who keep bickering and blaming each other for why they could never have any kids. The old woman goes to wash laundry by a river and stumbles upon the big peach. During a hilarious scene, it ends up dragging her down a river, over waterfalls and through the forest, catches her ass on fire and then promptly pisses in her face! She ends up back home, where the peach causes problems for her and her husband but finally cracks open to reveal there's an infant inside. Thinking they've finally been blessed by Buddha after all these years, they decide to keep and raise the baby, christening it Peach Kid for obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, Devil King goes down to hell and rescues some eternally damned souls led by cackling old witch named Wu Po (played by male actor Kuang-Yung Lin) and her two dopey dwarf sidekicks. He brings them back up to Earth, where they're outfitted with new rainbow fright wigs and clown make-up (the witch is also given a nifty skull broom that shoots fire like a flamethrower!) and now has his very own army. Their first assignment is to attack a village, which they burn to the ground after slaughtering the parents and kidnapping the children. They then easily take over a castle and kill all the guards. Before long, they've successfully occupied, and now control, over half the land in whatever wacky world this is supposed to be set in.

Because society can't wait forever for the Peach Baby to grow up and it's his destined to oppose the Devil King, the fairy uses her magic to speed the growing process along. The baby becomes a toddler and then a little boy and then a young teenager (played by cherubic-looking actress Hsiao-Lao Lin, who was 17 or 18 years old at the time of filming). In all of his forms, Peach Boy is both amazingly acrobatic and amazingly strong and can do things like split wood with his bare hands and even carry entire trees.

When Princess Apple (Sze-Ping Chen) is kidnapped by the Devil King and his minions and taken to hell, her father announces that anyone who's able to save her will also win her hand in marriage. That offer sounds too good to pass up for portly, virginal King Melon (San Peng) and his men. They're joined by the cowardly priest Bowie (Sun-Young Chen) and his troops and set off on a quest to rescue the girl. When Peach Boy attempts to enlist in their army, he gets rejected and instead meets up with his animal-kid friends monkey, dog and chicken. The bad guys slaughter most at the army camp, save for Melon, who's then forced to follow the child warrior and her sidekicks into battle at Demon Island.

This is really everything it should be: colorful, fast-paced, weird, flashy, enthusiastic, imaginative, filled with action, stunts, wire work, good fight choreography, special effects, garish costumes, spirited performances, variable special effects and, underneath it all, a little bit of heart. There's also a lot of slapstick and childish humor thrown in for the juvenile target audience, like men accidentally drinking dog and monkey piss, farting in faces, biting an ass and the witch taking on the form of the princess so she can seduce "fatty" Melon and make him strip off his clothes. Of course, I could imagine more conservative parents sitting down with their kids to watch this and being aghast at some of the content (not limited to the surprisingly profanity-laden English subtitles), but for everyone else, this delightfully bonkers fantasy holds a lot of entertainment value.

There's a strange (and usually highly amusing) surprise around nearly every corner, including a bad guy who uses a large bag of captured wind as a weapon, laser-shooting skulls, shark-finned men with tridents, a muscleman with a huge spiked club, gory moments like an exploding head and, best of all, a big monster comprised entirely of peaches of varying sizes that does kung fu, fights with lasers and shoots exploding pits out of its mouth! The lead character and most of the story has been swiped from the Japanese folk tale Momotaro ("Peach Boy") and the music score has clearly been inspired by The Neverending Story, right down to the theme song.

Though this Taiwanese production has never even been officially released here in America and didn't set the box office on fire during its theatrical run in Hong Kong it made a lot of money in its home country and especially Japan (where it was re-titled Shin Momotaro and distributed by Bandai) and led to many more similar films. The immediate sequel, Tao da liang da xian shen wei / Magic of Spell (1988), was also made by Chao (who'd previously directed the successful Hello Dracula) and featured some of the same cast and characters. While not an official sequel (and not even containing the Peach Boy character), another Lin vehicle called Feng huang wang zi / Magic Warriors (1989) was released in some quarters as Child of Peach 3 and called Shin Momotaro 3 in Japan.

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