The Peacock King (1989)

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 11/13/2009

Characters in various types of dramas have been going to hell for centuries. Among the notable voyages taken to Satan’s fiery lake by mortals include Dante Alighieri taken on a tour by Virgil, Orfeo to rescue his beloved Euridice and Don Juan snatched into hell by the Commendatore he killed in the beginning of Mozart’s opera. And so we come to “The Peacock King” in which Yeun Biao, as Monk Peacock, drops into the underworld in order to do battle with Pauline Wong who is not the devil but Witch Raga. He winds up frozen in a block of ice, which the Monk might prefer to continuing the thankless task of keeping the very annoying Ashura (Gloria Yip) out of trouble on earth. Ashura’s animatronic little buddy, an imp who eats like a pig and has the disposition of a mean dog, joins him in this version of Hades but gets there by flushing himself down a toilet,

Your reaction to “The Peacock King” may depend on how you enjoy that specific genre or sub-genre of movies. If you like them it is easy to skip over the logical inconsistencies—action that is not only at odds with what happens in “real” life (such as the laws of gravity) but which is out of step with the reality created by the movie itself. If one likes Danny Lee tough cop movies, for example, it is easy to think that Lee and his squad operate in a vacuum with no help or interference from the command structure of the Royal Hong Kong Police as well as an ethical universe in which it is acceptable to beat up suspects without repercussions from above or moral qualms from below. Fans of westerns aren’t bothered by revolvers that are accurate at 300 yards or horses that can run, if necessary, for days on end. Not being an aficionado of supernatural comedies like this one I found the otherworldly goings-on more distracting than anything else.

“The Peacock King” begins promisingly enough with Ashura riding an elephant down a major street in an Asian city—given the combination of elephants, Buddhist temples and saffron robed monks, it was probably in Thailand, never a good destination for anyone from Hong Kong, at least in the movies. Ashura has been stuck in hell for 660 years but has been able, through a system of prayers and spells that are incomprehensible to the viewer, to get out. Not surprisingly upon seeing the sun for the first time in over six centuries she is happy to be on earth and wants to stay. Based on just about everything she does those she encounters and most of the audience is in favor of casting her back to the eternal darkness, since she immediately sets about upsetting both the natural and occult practices of the people here. She spins prayer wheels the wrong way even after being cautioned by a nun, which cause the sky to cloud up and the sun disappear. She is accompanied by a group of monsters who are only partially under her control—and who spend too much time on screen and are shot from too many angles since the seams and wrinkles in their costumes show up pretty quickly.

One continuing problem is that most of the monsters and demons, whether they are commanded by Witch Raga in hell, hanging around with Ashura on earth or just popping up to keep her imp company are about as threatening as Puck in a summer stock production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. If fiends and specters are supposed to scare the audience—or at least make them uncomfortable—they need to be designed and played seriously. If they are there for laughs they need to be funny. If they are carrying out evil deeds but look ridiculous while they are doing so, it is a failure all around. Which the monsters in “The Peacock King” are. The imp/genie that is Ashura’s companion and only friend is a well done and convincing puppet, so the crummy monsters could be caused by lack of money to get them right or lack of interest in doing so.

Gordon Liu, Kara Hui, and Eddy Ko and Phillip Kwak had supporting roles that they seemed to enjoy and Gloria Yip was cute. Yuen Biao is not (or at least at this point of his career was not) a comedian but the action scenes were decent

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 03/08/2006
Summary: ha ha! you said 'cock'...

raga, a servant of the hell king, resurrects ashura, the hell virgin, in order to open the four gates to hell and cast mankind into darkness. two priests, one from tibet (yuen biao) and one from japan, must fight their way past gordon lui, save ashura, who is kind at heart, and defeat raga and the hell king!

i love this kind of nonsense from hong kong; look, there's some pretty cool stop-motion animation, dinosaurs, a touch of gore, some quality martial arts, ace 80's special effects, stupid hong kong humour and gloria yip - what more could anyone possibly want from a film?


Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 06/09/2002
Summary: Good stuff..

Always moving at a frenetic pace with 80's special FX...this is really cool!!. Pauline Wong is sooo hot in this flick..love the poofed up hair etc.. Lots of really unpredictable surprises through out. Must see/own! A cult classic type of flick.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/20/2002

This movie has Top notch special effects, groundbreaking IMO. It does not shy even compared to Storm Riders, which came out 10 years later. The SFX here easily beats Zu Warriors (and it should, since Zu was released 6 years ago). That's really too bad, because this really is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

Inner Strength is absolutely right on that the movie has great potentials but fails to deliver. As he said, the badly executed, boring, and flawed plot is the main weakness. Despite some of the best SFX I have seen, this movie just couldn't capture my attention. The pacing is terrible, and you just have to wonder, what's the point of this movie? Is there anything we haven't seen besides the SFX? It's all too familiar, and it's all been done better. This is even worse than Iceman Cometh, although I never thought that's possible. If you desire to witness some great SFX for the period, see it, but don't say we didn't warn you about the plot.


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/25/2002
Summary: Average

Peacock King had the potential to be a classic, but it failed on one major point...the story. The main story is obvious I suppose, but there are lots of little bits added into it that don't come to anything. So it could have had lots of plot twists, but it fails in that way.

As 'Sydneyguy' mentioned on his review, the special effects are terrible, even for 1989. Compared to 'Iceman Cometh’, which was made about the same time, the effects were much better in that.

All in all, I don't agree with most of the reviews for this, I did find it dull, and watching it for a second time recently after all these years, it looks pretty bad in my opinion.

Rating: 2/5

(This rating is compared to other movies of the same genre released in the same year.)

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 07/03/2000
Summary: GOOD!!

A movie which i think is under rated!! Though it's not the greatest movie it is still quite entertaining!!
The action is good while the animation in todays standards look like play-dough, but still realisitic enough for you to believe thats a REAL mosnster!! A good fantasy/horor movie!!

Less than one and a half hours, one of Yuen Biao's better movies


PS the sequel to this is REALLy BAD!! Avo id!!

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: leh
Date: 12/09/1999

Great. Yuen is a traveling "ghost-buster" who encounters various stop-motion animated creatures.

Reviewed by: Brad.Daniels
Date: 12/09/1999

I agree with Lars-Erik.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This Chinese-Japanese co-production is a timeless story withstate-of-the-art designs and special effects. Set in the present day, its valiant young heroes battle their mythological foes through the streets of Tokyo and Hong Kong. The beautiful Ashura holds the only key to The Gates of Hell, where its King is imprisoned. But Ashura has been asleep for centuries. When the evil Raga awakens her and tries to steal the key, it is up to two young monks to foil Raga's plan.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Based very loosely on the Japanese manga "Kujaku-Oh", about a tantric Buddhist priest born with the power of Mahamayuri vidya-raja (Peacock King of magical know-how). The original was an epic 3,000-page thesis on the occult; its depth, excitement and 99% of the story are absent from this cheesy B-movie. (Sequel: "Ashura")

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]