A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box (1995)

Spider Devil!
Spider Devil!

Directed by Jeffrey Lau, this fantasy-action-comedy stars Stephen Chow, Man-Tat Ng, Yammie Lam, Karen Mok and Kar-Ying Law.

The gang put out the fire by repeatedly stomping on their leader's groin!
The gang put out the fire by repeatedly stomping on their leader’s groin! Ouch!
The soles of Joker's feet are very hairy!
The soles of Joker’s feet are very hairy!
Karen Mok, Stephen Chow and Yammie Lam
Karen Mok, Stephen Chow and Yammie Lam

Joker (Chow), the rather inept leader of a gang of robbers, is oblivious to the fact that he is actually the Monkey King, who was punished for his bad behaviour and turned into a human 500 years earlier.

Chow appears briefly as the Monkey King at the very start of the movie
Chow appears briefly as the Monkey King at the very start of the movie

The movie begins rather abruptly, as if some of the introduction to this sequence got trimmed down too much, showing the Monkey King disobeying his master, Longevity Monk, and being swiftly chastised for his misdeeds by Guanyin, the Goddess of Happiness. The narrative briskly zips forward hundreds of years and focuses on Joker’s comedic, slapstick encounters with a couple of she-demons, who take over his motley crew of incompetent thieves as they await the arrival of Longevity Monk. You see, these monstrous (and attractive) femmes want to eat some of Longevity Monk’s flesh, which will make them eternal.

One of the she-demons can change into a spider-creature!
One of the she-demons can change into a spider-creature!

Even though the characters are taken from the classic novel ‘Journey to the West’ by Wu Cheng’en, A CHINESE ODYSSEY PART 1: PANDORA’S BOX has nothing to do with that story.

The late Yammie Lam plays Spider Devil
The late Yammie Lam plays Spider Devil

The earlier portion of the movie is crammed with Chow’s usual blend of earthy humour, pratfalls and slapstick, and is followed by loads of enjoyable fantasy-action situations. These include the woman-demon known as Spider Devil (Yammie Lam) going on a well-mounted rampage after transforming into a long-legged arachnid-monster, Joker inexplicably zooming around the place using his hands instead of his feet, and encounters with King Bull (Luk Shu-Ming), who is a huge, bull-headed dude who can also shrink down to human-size.

The woman-headed spider-demon...
The woman-headed spider-demon…
...she can spit web from her mouth!
…she can spit web from her mouth!
Joker gets trapped in a big spiderweb...
Joker gets trapped in a big spiderweb…
...and the arachnid-monster closes-in across a roof!
…and the arachnid-monster closes-in!
Joker escapes from the spiderweb, but the multi-legged demon continues to pursue him
Joker escapes from the spiderweb, but the multi-legged demon continues to pursue him
King Bull!
Spider Devil (Yammie Lam) accidentally uses her 'seductive magic' on the buffoonish Assistant Master (Man-Tat Ng)
Spider Devil (Yammie Lam) accidentally uses her ‘seductive magic’ on the buffoonish Assistant Master (Man-Tat Ng)

Once the main characters reach the Spider Web Cave, the filmmakers seem to depend too much on the opening and closing of sliding rock doors as a device to propel the plot forward but, on the plus side, we get some fun, oddball moments, such as a fight inside King Bull’s guts, a time loop sequence and an on-off romance between Joker and the demoness Pak Jing-Jing (also known as Boney M), who can turn from a human-looking female into a robed, strange-faced, white-haired being.

Boney M!
Boney M!
Spider Devil shrinks down and enters King Bull's guts!
Spider Devil shrinks down and enters King Bull’s guts!
A battle amongst the huge intestines!
A battle amongst the huge intestines!
Joker's head becomes trapped under a sliding door
Joker’s head becomes trapped under a sliding door
 Water gushes from King Bull's mouth!
Water gushes from King Bull’s mouth!
Red-eyed Boney M!
Red-eyed Boney M!

The film ends just as abruptly as it starts, finishing with some action-packed footage from the second part, A CHINESE ODYSSEY 2: CINDERELLA.

DVD sleeve
DVD sleeve
When King Bull's minions are struck with a sword they discharge clouds of smoke
When King Bull’s minions are struck with a sword they discharge clouds of smoke
Assistant Master and King Bull
Assistant Master and King Bull
Hair-raising antics!
Hair-raising antics!
Monkey's servants are encountered in a cave
Monkey’s servants are encountered in a cave

Okay, let’s have one more look at the cool spider-critter…

The spider-demon is brought to the screen as a full-scale marionette
The spider-demon is brought to the screen via a full-scale marionette

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