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Film / The Monkey Goes West

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Monkey See, Monkey Do

In the late 1960s, the higher-up at Shaw Brothers decides that they're ready to make their own adaptation of the classic novel Journey to the West, resulting in a tetralogy of films which is pretty much a Compressed Adaptation of the novel.

The Holy Monk, Triptaka / Xuan-zhang (Ho Fan) has been assigned by the heavens to travel from China to India to collect the Buddhist scriptures, but his journey will be a perilous one, as demons of all sorts are hunting him everywhere he goes, knowing that by consuming Xuan-zhang's flesh they will become immortal and invincible. Luckily, Xuan-zhang isn't travelling alone — his disciples Sun Wukong the Monkey King (Chow Lung-Cheung, and later Yueh Hua), Pigsy / Cho Hakkai (Peng Peng) and Sandy / Sha Wujing (Tien Shun) are around to defend him from demons of all sorts.

Four movies are made in the series:

  • The Monkey Goes West (1966) [Director: Ho Meng-Hua]: The origin story where Xuan-zhang is bestowed with his quest, and encountering his disciples, one at a time. After releasing Sun Wu-kong from his prison in the mountains, Xuan-zhang later foils a demon's attempt to take over a wealthy household — with the demon later revealed to be Pigsy / Cho Hakkai, who becomes his second disciple. They then meet their final comrade, Sandy / Sha Wujing the Water Demon while attempting to cross a river.

  • Princess Iron Fan (1966) [Director: Ho Meng-Hua]: Released a few months after the first, the sequel continues with the Pilgrims trying to bypass the Mount of Flames, which had unexpectedly erupted and is killing entire villages within its surroundings. The only weapon capable of extinguishing the mountain is by obtaining an enchanted fan from a sorceress princess. The second film notably contains two stories in one: after dealing with the Mount of Flames, Xuan-zhang had to contend with a pair of Bone Demon sisters (Cheng Pei-Pei, Lily Ho) who intends to separate Wu-kong from his mentor allowing easy abduction of Xuan-zhang.

  • The Cave of the Silken Web (1967) [Director: Ho Meng-Hua]: Xuan-zhang and his trio of disciples unintentionally found themselves trapped in an enchanted cave full of Spider Demons. Sun Wukong must find the only weapon capable of destroying the demons, a magic gourd filled with flames, but he risks incinerating his trapped master in the process.

  • The Land of Many Perfumes (1968) [Director: Ho Meng-Hua]: The quartet of pilgrims made their way to the Land of Many Perfumes, populated entirely by women, but their quest is made difficult by a Scorpion Demon who wants the Disciples to stay in the Land... forever.

The Tetralogy of Movies contains Examples of the Following Tropes:

  • Adapted Out: The movies covered maybe half of the entirety of its source material, and by the fourth and final film, they haven't achieved their goal of arriving in India to collect the Buddhist scriptures yet.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The fourth and final movie ends with the Scorpion Demon and her sisters all defeated, as the heroes then leaves the Land of Many Perfumes and continues their journey to India.
  • Arranged Marriage: The Land of Many Perfumes uses this as a (hilarious) plot point; as Xuan-zhang and his disciples are about to enter the titular land, whose population consists entirely of women, the Scorpion Demon and her sisters who had her sights on Xuan-zhang decides to separate the monk from his disciples (namely, his most powerful protector, Wukong) by posing as the quartet and arriving before the real deal, and convince the Empress of the Land that Xuan-zhang and his disciples is bethrothed to her. When the real Xuan-zhang arrives, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Beam-O-War: The Scorpion Demon's flames against Sun Wukong's in the fourth movie. The Demon lose, unsurprisingly.
  • Beware the Skull Base: The Bone Demon sisters' domain, unsurprisingly. It's not just the entrance, but the walls and floors are decorated by Nothing but Skulls too.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Sun Wukong is required to have at least one of these per movie. Usually arriving just in time to beat up the demons trying to abduct or devour his mentor or fellow disciples.
    • The Armies of Heaven arriving to arrest the Bull Demon and the Princess Iron Fan.
  • Breath Weapon: Most demons can breath fire, notably the Scorpion and the eldest Spider. It doesn't stop Wukong from beating them up with ease, though.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The later movies have multiple Demons antagonizing Xuan-zhang and his disciples, though they're not always on the same side. Princess Iron Fan sees Wukong facing the titular Princess and the Bone Demon sisters, one at a time, while The Land of Many Perfumes have the Scorpion, Snake, and the River Demon as villains.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Justified because the novels are Doorstoppers.
  • Decomposite Character: There are two Bone Demons in this version, which are a pair of sisters, and for the scene (lifted from the novel) where they tricks Wukong into "killing" them resulting in Wukong getting subsequently expelled, here Wukong kills a pair of sisters while other adaptations he only kills one. Although the older Bone Demon played by Cheng Pei-pei gets slightly more focus.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: In the second movie, Princess Iron Fan, the titular princess is defeated roughly 45 minutes into the film. The movie continues for another 40 minutes, with the Bone Demon sisters taking over as the antagonists.
  • Doppelgänger Spin: Sun Wukong can create duplicates of either himself, or his allies, in order to confuse his enemies. Notably making the Bone Demon sisters unable to find the real Xuan-zhang amidst a dozen fake ones made of shadows, while the real deal is safely out of the demon's caves.
  • Dual Wield: Most demons in the film, when in human form, uses twin jian in combat. Helps that they're played by trained, kung-fu fighting actresses from the Shaws, such as Cheng Pei-pei, Angela Yu, Lily Ho, and the like.
  • Evil Knockoff: The Centipede Demon, a henchman of the Spider Demon sisters, transforms himself into Sun Wukong in an attempt to confuse Xuan-zhang, Pigsy and Sandy. Resulting in a Mirror Match as Wukong fights his double.
  • Fanservice: Considering most of the demons are played by gorgeous leading ladies from Shaw Brothers studios, and spends much of their screentime scantily clad with a lot of skin exposed. Special mention goes to the Spider Demons, the leader who is played by the Shaws' resident Ms. Fanservice Angela Yu.
  • Fast Tunneling: An ability Pigsy is shown being able to demonstrate in this quadrilogy, which isn't shown in most other adaptations. Such as using it to sneak on the Scorpion Demon and distract her by popping out behind her and biting her heel. Usually when Pigsy does this its accompanied by a Worm Sign.
  • Ghost Town: Early in Princess Iron Fan, Xuan-zhang and his disciples arrives at a rural village, only to find it devoid of life, with dozens and dozens of civilains scattered lifelessly all over the area. A dying old man then warns them of the danger right up ahead — as it turns out, a volcanoe called the Mount of Flames have unexpectedly erupted, and the subsequent heat wave is wiping out entire villages within the area. Of course, it's up to Wukong to find the titular Princess to obtain her Iron Fan, which will extinguish the Mount of Flames and restore peace to the valley.
  • Honey Trap: Since the Demons usually takes the form of attractive young females, they tend to use this trick on Xuan-zhang's disciples to lure them away so that they may capture Xuan-zhang alive. It usually works really well on Pigsy.
  • In a Single Bound: No adaptation of Journey to the West would be complete without showcasing Wukong's ability to traverse 33 miles in a single jump.
  • Kaiju: The first movie climaxed with the Monkey King fighting a giant dinosaur monster that looks more like its from the Ultra Series than Shaw Brothers.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The Scorpion Demon uses this tactic in order to lure Wukong away from his friends; by revealing to another River Demon that Sun Wukong had left his domain on the Shuilian Caves and the entire caves are theirs for the picking. She then deliberately gives Pigsy, who's collecting water from a lake, a vision of the caves being attacked, which Pigsy quickly reports to Wukong that his home is in danger. Sun Wukong hurriedly leaves, going back to his home in the Shuilian Caves to drive away the River Demon and his cronies, allowing a perfect chance for the Scorpion Demon and her sisters to abduct Xuan-zhang.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Spider Demon and her sisters are all wiped out by the flames from an enchanted gourd.
  • Magical Barefooter: Most of the demons tends to go around barefoot when in human form.
  • Me's a Crowd: Much like the original novel series, Sun Wukong in this version can split himself into multiple copies as well, notably when battling the Bone Demon sisters and their army. Both sisters ends up being overpowered when a dozen Wukongs knocks them down with their staffs.
  • Musical Episode: Most of these movies will throw in musical numbers in between the fights, but most notably in Cave of the Silken Web.
  • Ring of Fire: When the Scorpion Demon and her sisters tried to attack Xuan-zhang, Pigsy and Sandy, but are unable to breach the invisible barrier Wukong had formed around them, the Scorpion ends up using her fire breath to form a burning circle around the trio in order to smoke them out. She nearly succeeds, but Sun Wukong arrives just in time to interrupt.
  • Stripped to the Bone:
    • The Bone Demon sisters both reverts to their skeletal forms after being defeated by Wukong.
    • The Scorpion Demon and Snake Demon, while infiltrating the Empress' palace in the Land of Many Perfumes, spots two female guards passing by. They devours the guards by grabbing them, turning both of them into bones in an instant.
  • Telescoping Staff: Wukong's iconic Ruyi jingu-bang (Expanding Bo-Staff) makes a comeback in this series, which he uses to beat up multiple demons.
  • This Was Her True Form: Most demons, taking the form of beautiful young women, will revert to their native forms the moment they're defeated. The Bone Demon sisters for instance becomes a pair of skeletons, the Scorpion turns back into an actual scorpion... and the Spider's lair, filled with dozens and dozens of Spider Demons, turns into a cluster of dead spiders after being exposed to enchanted flames.
  • Villainous Princess: In the second movie, Princess Iron Fan, the titular princess is a cruel tyrant who rules with an iron fist with her husband, the Bull Demon, which Sun Wukong the Monkey King must overcome in order to obtain her enchanted fan.