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
Another three episodes of the cult Seventies action series. In 'Pigsy's in the Well', Tripitaka and his three disciples set out to prove that the man ruling as king of Cickrow is in fact a murderous magician imposter. 'The Difference Between Night and Day' sees Monkey rendered powerless when he falls in love with a pretty young girl, while Pigsy defects to join the evil creatures of the night. In 'Pearls Before Swine', Monkey and company promise to help the inhabitants of a land ruled over by three evil immortals.