Return of Monkey King
Erik Herrmann | Portland, Oregon | 01/04/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you're expecting a high-flying martial arts adventure here,
you're liable to be disappointed. Not that this is a bad film,
it's just really intended for very young children. (It's even
a musical!) Most Asian cinema (and literature) fans know the
the Chinese mythic fable of Monkey-King and his companions as
they travel to the West seeking adventure and enlightenment.
This particular film is, I believe, the second or third film
in the Shaw Bros. series. Why they chose to release this one
on DVD and not the others is probably because of the market-
ability of the dishy dolls playing the Seven Spiders, who lay
out elaborate traps for our travelling heroes in hopes of
acquiring immortality by consuming their flesh. As grisly as
that sounds, nothing really happens that would disturb the
young viewers for whom this film is obviously intended. It is
however quite colorful, with elaborate costumes and settings
and an overall theatrical style that is blantantly rooted in
traditional Peking opera. (lots of banging drums and tumbling
gymnastics, along with the musical numbers.) It's a genuine
curio for lovers of this sort of thing."
Wonderful Chinese Fantasy
K. F. | Massachusetts | 11/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Cave of the Silken Web" is the film verision of one of the episodes from one of the great classical novels of Chinese literature, "The Journey to the West". Written in the 16th century, it is a fictional account of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang's pilgrimage to India to obtain some sacred Buddhist scrolls. Xuanyang is presented as pure and handsome, and he goes around doing good deeds---and as such, he's always the target of various demons and villains. As far as defending himself though, he's pretty helpless, but he's accompanied by his three loyal companions, who are each powerful immortals: "Pigsy", a pig-man who has a heady appetite for food, drink and women, "Monkey", a magical, mischeivous, staff-fighting monkey-god, and Sandy, an honorable formal general who has been banished to the mortal world, and who uses for a weapon his "monk's spade".
In this episode, the four encounter a cave-dwelling group of spider-demons who seek to gain immortality by killing the monk and eating him. The spider-demons, as luck would have it, turn out to be a bevy of absolutely gorgeous Chinese beauties when they're in their human form! The demons know they can't beat the monkey when it comes to martial arts or magic, so instead they come up with various traps and tricks, which our heroes have to overcome.
Hong Kong-based Shaw Brothers was the biggest Chinese movie studio in the 60's and 70's (becoming world-famous for their martial arts movies), and this 1967 production has wonderful sets, costumes, cinematography, it has a fantastic score of traditional Chinese music, and some quite charming special effects. There are elements of traditional Peking Opera throughout, with some musical numbers and acrobatic fight choreography, and in general this movie is just really fun. It's a brightly colorful, engergetic, silly and multi-layered example of Chinese fantasy that's suitable for the whole family (although there a few somewhat risque moments that might be inappropriate for small children). These stories have been popular for centuries, and continue to be so today, as Jet Li recently played the "Monkey" character starring alongside Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom (you can see the young man in that movie watching the Shaw Brothers version of "The Monkey Goes West" in the opening scenes). This movie is highly recommended as a fun introduction to a classic piece of Chinese fantasy literature, and it also showcases a good deal of the strengths of Shaw Brother studios during their golden age."