Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Child of Peach (Taiwan, 1987)

Child of Peach is the first in the series of goofy Taiwanese martial arts fantasies starring the teenage actress Lam Siu-Lau in the role of Peach Kid, a figure somewhat surprisingly derived from Japanese folklore. I've already covered the third Peach Kid film, the wonderful Magic of Spell, on this blog, and while Child of Peach may not boast anything quite as awesome as Spell's miracle of human/root hybridization, Ginseng Boy, there is still plenty that marks it unmistakably as part of the series. And by that I refer to, among other things, its copious wire-work and cartoon-assisted displays of martial arts prowess, insistently chirpy Cantonese synth-pop score, abundance of bad guys with hair-metal dos and duds, and numerous instances of people, animals and giants pieces of fruit pissing and farting upon one another.

I don't want to go overboard in stating how "weird" Child of Peach is, first of all because so many of its absurdities are clearly played for laughs. Secondly, it's a children's adventure film made during the eighties, a time when a lot of children's adventure films were pretty damn weird regardless of their culture of origin. As such, I think it would sit fairly comfortably alongside movies like Labyrinth or The Neverending Story as part of a kiddie matinee of its era. Except, of course, for all of its violence. And its strangely translated swearing ("Your kung fu is nothing but a shit!"). Oh, and also? All of the face pissing.

Indeed the urine in Child of Peach flows like the great Yang Tze, into the faces and mouths of all and sundry and out of some places we would never have previously expected urine to issue from. This is a film in which the sight of a monkey pissing into an unwitting soldier's drinking cup represents the height of comedy. When an old lady's ass gets set ablaze, a giant, sentient peach uses its powerful stream to douse the flames, and then gives her a blast in the face as a coup de grace. And, in case you were trying to reassure yourself that that spray was just meant to be peach juice, the old lady then smells her fingers, makes a sour face and gives us angry verbal confirmation of the much less desirable alternative.

Child of Peach begins with a recounting of Peach Kid's origin, which is fairly archetypal and could even be characterized as a more peach-dependent telling of the Man of Steel's origin. It seems that at one time there existed, on the peak of Mount Holy Mother, high in the Himalayas, an enchanted paradise called the Peach Garden, which, despite its snowy surroundings, was always bathed in sunlight thank to the power of a magical weapon called the Sun Sword. The Peach Garden was lorded over by a budding nuclear family made up of the Master, his wife and their infant son, and guarded by a trio of kung fu capable, child-to-animal shape-shifters named Tiny Dog, Tiny Monkey and Tiny Cock -- the last of which names offers up opportunities for quips so lazy and juvenile that even I have to pass on them.

This being a fantasy martial arts film, and given that the requisite weapon of supernatural power has already been introduced, it is now time for a super-villain with designs on said weapon to make the scene, and so the Kabuki-esque King Devil and his Kajagoogoo-coiffed minions show up at the Peach Garden with the intention of stealing the Sun Sword. In the process, and despite the best efforts of the Tiny three, they murder the Master and Mistress and, with the removal of the sword, plunge the garden into endless, blizzard-swept night. Before this can happen, however, the Mistress places her young son inside of the Garden's -- Mascot? Diety? -- the Holy Peach, a giant, intelligent peach which opens up like a clamshell for the purpose. The peach then takes flight and heads for brighter territories, where it is soon found by an elderly couple who, taxing their creative capacities to their fullest, decide to name the enclosed child Peach Kid.

Because Peach Kid lived in the time before the time-lapse training montage was invented, we instead have a helpful fairy (Shadow Liu Chih-yu) on hand to transforms him from infant to strapping, super-strength endowed twelve year old in a matter of minutes. Thus he is now able to strike out on his mission of vengeance against King Devil, who has now enlisted the aid of an old witch and her army of Vince Neil-haired, zombie midget offspring in his quest for Martial World dominance. Coincidentally, it just so happens that an oafish young nobleman by the name of Knight Melon (Boon Saam) is assembling a force with the intention of mounting an invasion of the King's hideout, Devil Island, at that very moment. Unfortunately, Melon feels that having an underage superhero on his team might serve to upstage him during his glory moment, and so turns Peach Kid away. This proves to be a mistake, of course, leading -- once Peach Kid has re-teamed with the not-dead-after-all Tiny Monkey, Tiny Dog and Tiny Cock -- to Melon being permanently relegated to the role of comic relief fat guy once the high-flying preteen magical kung fu mayhem starts in earnest.

Having starred in such loopy fare as Kung Fu Wonder Child and Magic Warriors in addition to the Peach Kid films, Lam Siu-Lau is perhaps as much of a patron saint of the wild and silly side of Taiwanese martial arts cinema as Polly Shang-Kwan. In contrast to Shang-Kwan's game, in-on-the-joke approach to such shenanigans, however, Lam Siu-Lau affects an unflagging earnestness that serves to enhance the hilarity of the outlandishness around her equally well. This is especially appropriate since these films, unlike Shang-Kwan's, are less of a showcase for their stars' fighting abilities than they are for the myriad off-the-wall wonders that their simple but imaginative special effects accomplish.

Since Child of Peach exhibits a sort of constant, low-level oddness throughout the majority of its running time, it's difficult to single out any one feature as being the strangest. That is, of course, until we reach the film's final moments, during which the giant peach itself enters the climactic fray, taking the form of a giant peach marionette which the Peach Kid and his three young fellow fighters pilot Voltron-style. In fact, few moments in world cinema high or low can match the instant when that marionette opens its mouth and vomits forth a flying, sword-wielding Peach Kid, rocketing forward like a human missile to deliver the death blow to the villain. At that moment it seems like the only fitting response -- or, at least, the one most in the spirit of Child of Peach itself -- is to literally piss oneself laughing.


Anonymous said...

how do you do? may I ask you something? that question I wanna ask is.... do you know what number of this film in IMDb? anyway, thanks^^"

Todd said...

This film doesn't appear to be listed on IMDB, though a couple of the other Peach Kid films are. It is, however, listed on the Honk Kong Movie Database.

Anonymous said...

I use to love this film as a kid and I wish to watch it again. I remember most of the wierd things about it. Do you know how i can get a copy of it?

Hatuan said...

Magic of spell 1-6 : no sub

Magic of spell (full) : eng sub