Still making their journey to the west to retrieve Buddha's sacred sutras, Sun Wu Kong the Monkey King (Chow Lung-Cheung), his master the Tang monk (Ho Fan) and companions Pigsy (Pang Pang) and Sandy (Tien Shun) arrive in the Land of Many Perfumes. A kingdom populated entirely by beautiful women unable to produce male offspring. To break the curse the Empress (Li Hsiang-Chun) schemes to marry her daughter off to the Tang monk, but the Princess (Fang Ying) mistakes him for portly Pigsy and rejects that offer. Smitten with the handsome monk the Empress offers her own hand in marriage which the monk surprisingly accepts. What?! The man so pious and chaste he makes the Dalai Lama look like Mick Jagger?! How did that happen? Well, turns out the travelers are actually a quartet of sexy, scantily-clad devil women in magical disguise bent on entrapping our holy heroes. Sure enough when the real Sun Wu Kong and company reach the scene they find themselves in a whole mess of female trouble.
Land of Many Perfumes was the final instalment of Shaw Brothers four film adaptation of Journey to the West; the landmark sixteenth century novel penned by Ming Dynasty poet and scholar Wu Cheng-En. By this point gritty kung fu actioners had usurped lavish musical fantasies as Shaw's bread and butter. Indeed series star Yueh Hua opted not to reprise his role as the Monkey King and headlined martial arts films Killer Darts, Black Butterfly and Death Valley instead. Nevertheless the production is every bit as lavish and visually stunning as its predecessors The Monkey Goes West (1964), Princess Iron Fan (1966) and Cave of the Silken Web (1967) with ornate sets, elaborate costumes and visual effects that, while undoubtedly primitive, if viewed with the right mindset are both charming and imaginative. Cartoon credits set the tone for plot rife with goofy comedy and jaunty opera tunes plus a theme that might as well be "girls... yuck!"
Almost every female character here is motivated by the single desire to bed the Tang monk who reacts as if this were a fate worse than death. Incidentally actor Ho Fan was likely more comfortable with being pawed at by gorgeous starlets than his onscreen alter-ego. He later parlayed his interest in erotic photography into side-career directing soft-core sex films at Shaw Brothers including Girl with the Long Hair (1975). While the Monkey King film series’ long-standing fear of feminine sexuality remains suspect the good-natured, farcical treatment renders the whole thing amiable and less misogynistic than one might expect. Riddled with zany subplots and rom-com style misunderstandings the story is convoluted in a surprisingly engaging way. Scenes with sex starved gals chasing our hapless heroes in Benny Hill style fast-motion alternate with visual effects sequences of psychedelic intensity, climaxing with one of cinemas strangest mystical Macguffins: a photographically enlarged giant killer chicken. I am not making this up.