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Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Revenge of Godfrey Ho Month - Thunder of Gigantic Serpent (1988)

Thunder of Gigantic Serpent (1988)

When you sit and think about it, Thunder of Gigantic Serpent makes perfect sense.  Since the late 60’s the genre called Kaiju has been a popular choice for sci-fi filmmakers.  The genre, commonly referred to in the U.S. as “Giant Monster” is a huge cult movement, sparked by the release of the 1954 film Godzilla (or Gojira of you want to be pretentious about it).  The King of the Monsters has been everywhere, appearing in dozens of his own Kaiju films, as well as becoming a mainstay in the world’s pop culture lexicon.

The 1980’s saw a sort of a dry spell for this sub-genre, as it would be several years until Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah would see its release.  It is likely that Ho wanted to bring this back into popularity with his 1988 film Thunder of Gigantic Serpent.  I don’t think it really worked, but I will admit that this movie is entertaining as all Hell!

This is one of several Ho films starring actor Pierre Kirby, a mysterious action star who went as quickly as he came.  He appeared in several movies in the late 80’s, all under Ho’s direction, then just vanished.  No, seriously, there is mass-speculation among films fans as to what actually happened to Pierre Kirby, because few people actually know for sure.  It was confirmed by Brad Jones of that Kirby did, in fact, die at sea, as stated by the actor’s sister. This fuels a widely-accepted conspiracy theory that pirates were involved.  

So, with that bit of back-story out of the way, what is up with Thunder of Gigantic Serpent?  The film follows a young girl who has a secret pet snake.  I have not been able to really find out what she’s calling the snake in the movie.  I want to say it’s something like Mazla, or Mozra or something like that.  She hides the snake from her parents and when it is discovered, they refuse to let her keep it, but she defies them.  

Meanwhile we get plot #2 involving a formula that could save the world from starvation.  It is a super-growth serum that can cause things to grow more than three times their original size.  The experiments are a success but the military confiscates the good doctors’ research for their own ends.  At the same time, an evil Terrorist named Solomon wants to take over the world’s food supply, and he believes obtaining this formula with give him that power.  He stages a siege on the lab to steal the scientific wonder and begin... taking.. over the world.... (ho, boy).

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Things go wrong, however, as an assistant takes the formula in a clear case and flees, throwing it out of the car into an embankment right before driving off of a cliff.  She survives, however, and the terrorists fail to catch her.  The young girl, her pet snake in mind, finds the container and brings it home, using it as a sort of terrarium.  Upon putting Mazla (?) in the case, it grows to a huge size.  The snake appears to have consumed the formula.

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Solomon discovers the girl has the case and assumes, as he finds the case empty, that she has the formula too.  Sending his goons after her angers Mazla and the ensuing entanglement leads Mazla trapped in an electric fence, but the snake doesn't die.  No!  It grows!  To a massive size.  From here the girl attempts to protect her pet while the gangsters subdue her, holding her hostage as ransom for the formula.  It all comes to a head as Mazla is destroyed by the military and the young girl mourns the loss of her pet and friend.  The end..?  Nope.  We still have one scene left.

Pierre Kirby in Thunder of Gigantic Serpent
So, I bet you were wondering where Pierre Kirby comes into play in all of this.  Well, the Solomon character was cut into the existing movie as the villain, and Kirby is as well.  Kirby plays... are you ready for this?  Fast.  Ted Fast.  A super-agent who “always works alone” (Yes, that’s actually a line from the movie).  He cuts in and sort of comments on events in the movie, but is rarely given anything until the end of the film, and really has less than five minutes of screen time.  After Mazla dies Kirby tracks down and takes on Solomon in a brief, but entertaining Kung Fu battle.  Then the abrupt credits roll and the film comes to a close.

Thunder of Gigantic Serpent is comedy gold.  It is filled to the brim with 80’s cheese action clichés and goofy dialogue.  The dubbing can, however, become a little insufferable as the young girl (I never was able to fully decipher her name but I think her parents are calling her Ting Ting) spends the last act just shouting her pet snake’s name ad nauseum in her whiny dub voice.  The thing that really makes Thunder of Gigantic Serpent a must-watch is the effects work.

The original film used as a starting point for Ho’s cut is a strange movie on its own.  Obviously a Kaiju send-up, this movie has one of the most hilarious puppets I have ever seen in a movie.  Mazla, the snake, is not a real snake.  It is an inanimate foam form of a snake that is obscured in poor-lighting in earlier scenes and revealed in all of its comic majesty in later ones, after growing to a large size.  The first act has Mazla nodding and shaking its head “yes” and “no” in response to the girl’s prompts.  That’s funny enough, but later on, after growing, the snake appears to fly out of a window and then it takes out a bridge as a giant. These moments just kept me in stitches.

This is a great dumbass movie and if you want to watch a film that will keep you laughing (for numerous reasons) this one should do it.  The only downside, as I mentioned, is occasionally-annoying dub work and some poor lighting that gives the film a muddy, grayish look, typical of straight to video movies of the 80’s, I know, but it seems a little worse here than usual.  As of the time of this post, this one is watchable in its entirety on YouTube.  Check it out for a good time.

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