Monkey, Series 1 (BBC, 1979) With its beguiling opening and closing themes (by Japanese band Godiego) and mystic-synth incidental music (by keyboardist Mickie Yoshino), iconic costumes and fight scenes, moody landscapes, outrageously dubbed plot-lines and lashings of cod Buddhist philosophy, Monkey truly is a one-of-a-kind cult classic.
The New Legends of Monkey, Season 2 The plot this season is more coherent and engaging, though in an odd inversion of the 1970s production, Monkey’s vain, rather dim-witted character proves the weakest of the regulars. Josh Thomson is masterful as Pigsy, showcasing New Zealand’s distinct brand of humour.
The New Legends of Monkey, Season 1 (ABC, 2018) A well-judged reboot of the classic fantasy adventure serial. The revamped characters, setting and quest stay true to the original, upholding its sense of fun. The only let-down is the music, which is scored for epic cinematic effect rather than puckish chaos.
Monkey: Journey to the West by Wu Ch’êng-ên, trans. Arthur Waley (Allen & Unwin, 1942) For all its mischievousness and whimsy, this episodic sixteenth century Chinese fairy tale comes across as terribly belaboured in written form. When slogging through 350 pages it’s hard not to think that even Wu Ch’êng-ên would have preferred the cult television show.
Monkey Goes West dir. Ho Meng-Hua (Shaw Brothers, 1966) [released with three sequels under the umbrella title: Monkey – Journey to the West, Siren DVD, 2008] Based on Wu Cheng’en’s Buddhist quest novel Journey to the West, this meandering film-cum-musical seems almost entirely without point or consequence… except to establish prototypes of nearly all those iconic visual elements featured subsequently…