Child of Peach
Child of Peach has a frantic enthusiasm rarely seen on screen. In 1987 Taiwanese directors Chung-Hsing Chao and Chen Chun-Liang took an old Japanese folktale and fashioned a spectacular and frankly insane cinematic epic for the ages. There are those who might dismiss it as over the top, which it is, or just for children, which it isn’t but no matter how you construe it, it is irresistibly exuberant and surprising.
From the very first second of the film, when we are introduced to Tiny-dog, Tiny-monkey, and, ahem, Tiny-cock, we witness each of these children magically transform from an animal to a human and then perform some kung-fu moves in their respective styles. Each child sports a giant hairdo, metallic gold sash and colorful robe. The magic nature of these children is highlighted with animated, neon, wiggly lines that glow all around them. All this while a child sings a kind of disco/new wave, expositional anthem about the paradise these beings live in. The children serve a wise master who can wield two katanas remotely through neon, wiggly magic. He has a wife and a new baby that live in a cave with a giant peach that drips juice to feed the baby.
The film hasn’t even cleared four minutes before the paradise is invaded by four giant, dirty flying, snowballs which land, roll into a line and explode into four blue faced men with fuzzy, giant, green wigs and demon horns. The quartet appear to be wearing big, black, trash bags and orange socks. They are quickly joined by their leader aptly named King Devil who flies in on a blue lightning bolt, bears his enormous fangs and laughs manically for a several minutes while everyone waits. Then they all fly through the air using kung fu to battle each other amidst magical lightning and an onslaught of synthesizer zoops, boings, and whistles! While the fight rages outside the master’s wife asks the giant peach to protect her baby so it magically flies over to her, splits itself in half, ejects its giant pit, and swallows the baby. All this while the sunny day with which we began turns into a dark, snowy blizzard. This completes the first eight minutes of the film and in comparison to what is to come it is relatively tame.
For instance, when the barrel in which the old woman who has lassoed the giant peach bursts into flame from the friction of being pulled around by the ornery fruit, the peach squirts out the the flames with what I assumed was peach juice, but is then revealed, by the old lady who licks it off her lips, to be urine. There is in fact an unexpectedly large amount of urine in the movie and in its sequel.
When the peach boy grows into an adolescent he is played by a young female actress named Shadow Liu. This would not be strange save that along with her male clothing she wears rouge and lipstick. While peach boy grows up on the farm King Devil goes to hell and refurbishes a bunch of dead folks by giving them super punky haircuts and weird clown make up. Two of them are dwarves inexplicably armed with garden rakes. To add to the confusion there is a female witch which is played by a man who later turns herself into a lovely young lady, played by a lady, but then returns to being played by a man to make what a appears to be a joke about being gay, I think.
I am not sure what the budget for this film was but someone got a bulk deal on pyrotechnic equipment because there are several impressively large fire scenes including the burning of an entire village, the burning of an entire palace, and the burning of an entire army encampment all caused by a flame throwing broom wielded by the aforementioned and dramatically quaffed witch.
The film never relents, just when you think you have it figured out the soundtrack belts out a synth version of the Adams Family theme music or someone has to fight a life size marionette made of giant peaches that shoots urine out of its navel. Even with all I have revealed here there is so much more. I know that there are many Taiwanese folks who look back fondly on this film and remember watching it as a child just as we look back on the Wizard of Oz but our Dorothy never had to face a school of shark people in tighty whities.