Spot the Difference
Following Peacock King, this sequel seemed to be somewhat of a rush job to cash in on whatever success and goodwill the first film had established, only to come off as being a pale shadow of the previous movie, dumbed down for a more juvenile audience. A number of principle cast members got replaced, which isn't exactly a good thing, save for Yuen Biao to return as Peacock and Gloria Yip as the Hell Virgin Ashura, now hell bent on living on wonderful Earth instead of going back to where she came from.
With Lucky Fruit (now taken over by Hiroshi Abe) and Peacock forming a friendship with Ashura, they plead her case with Master Ji Ku (Ken Ogata taken over by Shintaro Katsu) and a High Abbess (Yuko Natori), who are adamant that Ashura cannot remain on Earth and have to be sentenced to eternity living inside a Buddha stature, only for them to relent and allow Ashura seven days to roam the human world under the watchful eyes of Peacock and Lucky Fruit, and 3 more female nuns who shadow their movement without their knowledge. Happy for her wish to be granted, Ashura grabs this opportunity, and picks up her companion Genie, a gremlin like creature which allowed the filmmakers to utilize stop motion techniques and puppetry developed from the earlier film.
But of course Hell still has some unworldly creatures left who are harbouring hopes of conquering our world, with the Hell Concubine desiring whatever's left of Ashura's powers, and so from time to time our heroes have some fight sequences during their watch, culminating in Yuen Biao's convenient disappearance for about a third of the movie when he got frozen in ice. The rest of the story deals with Ashura's time spent on Earth like a teenage girl who has her curfew lifted, tracking her Genie down, inadvertently picked up by a girl (Loletta Lee) who brings it back to Hong Kong, who soon got befriended by Ashura and Lucky Fruit, as well as her brother Tan (Lau Shek Yin) who's a madcap scientist working on a teleportation device. Most of the mid section deals with the shenanigans of Genie so much so that you'd be mistaken if that creature was the focus of this film, with half baked subplots such as the unlikely romance between Loletta Lee's character and Lucky Fruit, and some cheap moments where the 3 shadowing nuns got their clothes shredded and subsequently changed into swimsuits, characters who don't even deserve a decent send off in the film.
Fight scenes were extremely limited, and the stop motion, animatronics that were the highlights of the first film got severely reduced as well. There's not much of a story going on, and this is essentially a kids movie along the same veins as any Power Rangers episode, where the conniving villains send their lousy minions to do their dirty work, and when defeated come howling back to base only to get obliterated. The finale battle sees a new Peacock rising, which alas was extremely short and nothing more than an elaborate light show, and budget limitations meant some very cheesy and cheap methods employed to try and get the most bang out of the buck received.
It's a pity though for a film rich in content from its manga roots, cannot deliver something relatively decent, especially when compared with the first in the series where this made that look like a classic. As I have already mentioned before, this series would be ripe for a remake with today's advancement in technology. So as long as someone has a bright spark of an idea for a strong storyline to happen, combined with spruced up effects and a proper ensemble cast, who knows this could be wiped from memory when a remake done with all the right ingredients finally does get made. But until then, you can choose to watch this only for glimpses of how youthful looking some of the stars back then were, having signed a contract to make a film especially friendly for kids.
The Region Free DVD by Fortune Star under its Legendary Collection imprint presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen format. Unfortunately like Peacock King's transfer, it's also not digitally remastered, and the print quality is akin to that from a VHS quality with very obvious signs of pops, cackles and hiss from various wear and tear. Perhaps one day we can get something that's remastered properly back to a relatively pristine condition, but I guess this'll have to do for now. Audio is available in Cantonese or Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0, and given that this is a co-production that'll be significant portions of dubbing whichever audio option you choose from.
Subtitles are thankfully removable and not hard-coded with the print, available in English, Mandarin or Cantonese either in Simplified or Traditional scripts, and sad to say the English translation is riddled with typographical mistakes. Scene selection is available over 18 chapters, and there are no extras on the DVD, save for a Theatrical Trailer (3:25) done in really old-school 80s style, and a Photo Gallery containing 10 stills only.