A loose (very loose) Japanese TV adaptation of Wu Ch'eng-en's 16th-century collection of Chinese fables, Monkey!
was re-dubbed into English in the early 1980s and became required viewing for a whole generation of British schoolchildren.
The appeal of Monkey! is easier to experience than explain. This children's show is an occasionally surreal blend of Oriental fable, knockabout martial arts, pop Buddhism and slapstick comedy. The frequent comic fight scenes are accompanied by a 1970s disco-fusion soundtrack, and a narrator (English voice: Frank Duncan) uses gaps in the action to deliver inscrutable snippets of wisdom ("Even a starving camel is still bigger than a horse", "Does love mean labour even for the carp-hearted?"). Best of all, though, is the dialogue: without regard to any lip-synch niceties the English script (by David Weir) is full of idiomatic delights, jokes and double entendres ("I can use it as well", boasts Monkey of his staff that grows from a tiny stick into a big pole. "Ooh, I never doubted it passionate primate", purrs the Dragon Princess into his ear, "go on, make it bigger"). All are delivered by British actors in hilariously cod-Japanese accents (distinguished thesp Miriam Margolyes is the voice of Tripitaka). Bad special effects crown the show's cheesy, retro appeal.
Volume 4 features episodes 10-12: "Pigsy's in the Well", "The Difference Between Night and Day", and "Pearls Before Swine". --Mark Walker
Three more episodes of the Japanese fantasy series. In 'The Minx and the Slug', Pigsy disguises himself as the slug monster husband of the beautiful Hai-Min. 'Catfish, Saint and Shape-Changer' sees the quartet of pilgrims divided by the revelation that one of their number is a shape-changing imposter. In 'Monkey Meets the Demon Digger', Monkey is dismissed by Tripitaka after using his magic skills to speed up the digging of a mountain tunnel.