The Magic Serpent (1966) Poster

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Great Dragon Battle
dotdman5 April 2004
It's always sad to see how a film as fun as this was released once it was outside of Japan. The dubbing for the A.I.P. print is abysmal compared to some of their other treatments of similar titles of the time, and the pan and scan cropping of the film destroys much of the majesty of the film itself. If you'd like this version of the film, however, it's being released soon by Retromedia (if I'm not mistaken).

But, thankfully, all is not lost. Toei Co. Ltd., a studio known more for it's sentai than for anything else, saw to it that this title, along with several other films that are nearly impossible to find, was released to Laserdisc in 1993. While currently out of print, the laserdisc is not impossible to find. If you have a player and some extra cash (while not impossible to find, a copy runs anywhere from $45 to well over $100 these days) I highly recommend it.

Kairyu Daikessen tells the story of a prince who's kingdom is over-taken by an evil warlord sometime in medieval Japan. A hawk sent by a kind wizard saves the young prince from a group of ninjas and a giant dragon that has killed off the rest of the royal lineage. The boy grows up with the wizard as his surrogate father and mentor. Eventually the prince goes out on his own to take back the kingdom, facing ghosts, ninjas, and an evil wizard along the way. The conclusion is an all out battle between the good prince and the evil wizard, who have transformed themselves into (respectively) a giant frog and a dragon.

As the other two reviewers have noted, the influence of this film on Star Wars is fairly obvious, though the character genders are reversed (the Luke Skywalker of the story is female while the Princess Leia is male). The special effects sequences are very dated but were very well managed for the time. The action sequences are imaginative and plentiful. The monster suits for the ending of the film are based on traditional Japanese art renditions of dragons and frogs. Overall, this is a very fun film, though it is infinately more enjoyable if viewed in its original format. I'm still hoping for a fully restored Region 2 dvd of the title to be released.
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excellent story of magic and swords- very influential!
xenorama2 March 2001
What a great movie this is! Every time I watch it (and I have seen it several times since 1975 or so) I always enjoy it. Probably the first true introduction of ninja to America. Well dubbed, lots of cool magic and monsters, swordplay and palace intrigue. I wish some enterprising individual would think to release THIS film on DVD over in America. The influence on STAR WARS can't be denied, either. But find a copy and watch it!
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The Magic Dragon...has a moral?
kynoceph21 November 2004
Thoroughly enjoyable fantasy film. The special effects are par for the era and the budget, but watch it for the storyline, which is strong and consistently interesting all the way through. The heavy use of magic and surrealistic plot twists (the hero gets beheaded and then puts his head nonchalantly right back on again later!) sets this one apart from the usual "giant monster" movie. Plot, pacing, and characterization are above average for this type of movie, and elevate it from being just another kaiju film into a truly enjoyable fantasy.

One of the more interesting things about this movie is that it apparently has a moral. The hero values honor above all else, and honors his obligations to his family, his friends, and his kingdom. Of course, in this case, sometimes one's honor requires one to turn into a giant fire-breathing frog, but still!

There are some elements in this movie that do remind me of Star Wars: A New Hope, as others noted, but I am not sure whether this means that Lucas drew from this film or not. I suspect he didn't. The plot (young man with special powers avenges his parents and saves his kingdom by battling an evil sorcerer) is fairly common. But still and all, who knows? George Lucas drew on a lot of movies to create "Star Wars" and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if this movie had a little something to do with his work. However, "The Magic Serpent" deserves to be appreciated on its own.

I would love to see a better print of this movie with a better transfer to DVD, but from what I understand this movie is quite rare in the United States, and due to its lack of popularity, it's not likely to get the remastering/rerelease treatment. So get it when you can and enjoy.
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I loved it.
Horror Fan31 January 1999
A young prince is taught magic by his wizard father. The prince battles an evil sorcer. In the end, the prince becomes a giant frog (froggo), and the evil wizard becomes a big dragon (draggo), and they engage in a huge battle. Special effects were top notch and plot was remarkably similar to star wars.
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Great Fantasy
Brian Washington7 July 2004
This film used to come on one of the local stations here in Los Angeles at least once a year and it was a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy film. This film pretty much combines the elements of kaiju eiga along with another popular Japanese genre, the samurai film. As other viewers mentioned you pretty much can see that this film had an influence on the "Star Wars" saga especially when you look at the film early on as young Jiraiya (or Izakuchi-Maru) learns from his teacher, who obviously was an inspiration for Obi Won. The special effects are okay for a film not made by Toho and despite the swordplay, there is not that much blood. This film is defintely worth watching.

Also, a word of warning. This film has been released on DVD as part of a "double feature" with Gamera tai Gyaosu (aka. Return of the Giant Monsters). The quality of the film on DVD is not that great, but if you can get past that, I still recommend the film.
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Another defective DVD?
BijouBob8mm18 November 2004
Recently picked up the Retromedia DVD double feature of RETURN OF THE GIANT MONSTERS/THE MAGIC SERPENT, the third classic Japanese sci-fi volume from this company. As with the previous two DVDs, the transfers looked pretty decent, and for what you get the price is nice. However, like the two previous Retromedia Gamera releases, this one has the same playback problems that plagued the earlier DVDs--one of the features wants to freeze up while it plays. In this instance, THE MAGIC SERPENT freezes up about 10-15 minutes into the film. I have seen various reviews complain about this kind of problem on all 3 of Retromedia's Gamera titles (yet none of their other releases seem to suffer from this). After the problem was brought to their attention with their first Japanese sci-fi release, DESTROY ALL PLANETS/ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS, it would seem something could be done to correct/prevent any further such occurrence.
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Colourful, action-packed fantasy romp from Japan
Leofwine_draca6 July 2016
Although THE MAGIC SERPENT is clearly a film aimed at children, this Japanese fantasy epic really pushes the boat out in terms of production values. You have an adult sub-plot involving a traitor overthrowing a castle which is straight out of a samurai film; some impressively destructive kaiju monster fight scenes; and an action-adventure type narrative that no doubt inspired George Lucas when he made STAR WARS.

This production looks big budget with everything put up on screen and celebrated. The costumes and sets are quite fantastic and even the special effects don't disappoint, with a mix of men in monster costumes and scenes of flying heads and magic spells and the like. THE MAGIC SERPENT is an involved and involving fantasy film and one which really grabs the viewer's attention.

The story is about an evil usurper and the baby that escapes from a massacre. Years later, the baby has grown into an upstanding young hero under the tutelage of a wise old mystic, so he goes on an odyssey of revenge against the traitors. Along the way he teams up with a poor farming family and encounters various allies and enemies en route to the castle. There's plenty of action here and none of it disappoints, from the sword and gun battles to the hulking monster smash action. It's a colourful action romp, and highly satisfying with it.
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Kung fu schlock meets dungeons and dragons.
mark.waltz24 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Badly dubbed with stereotypical looks and voices for the heroes and villains, this has a great opening with the discovery of a hideous looking Dragon coming out of the sea, much of the film is more Samarai and less cheesy monster flick. This makes it difficult to sit through because of the cheap production values and annoying voices. Of course, there's the obligatory child to be cutesy and manipulate emotions, but while the film has a magic using hero out to avenge the murder of his magician father, the film itself is missing cinematic magic. Violent and predictable, this suffers from slow pacing and mostly cheap effects. This is best viewed with your finger on the fast forward button.
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Looks colorful, moves sluggishly
Wizard-85 December 2014
I can kind of understand why American-International Pictures picked up this movie for North American distribution. The movie has giant monsters, ninjas, samurai warriors, sword fights, magicians, and other colorful elements. However, I think that A.I.P. was wise to release this movie directly to television instead of trying to release it to theaters. The story is kind of confusing at times, though in fairness to the filmmakers, the A.I.P. print that I saw was cut by about ten minutes; so possibly some explanation for some murky elements got removed. Though at the same time, there are definitely some slow-moving scenes in the movie that will no doubt make the viewer impatient for some action to return to the movie. In the end, the movie probably has enough to attract die hard fans of Japanese fantasy movies, though other viewers may be squirming in their seats. By the way, I'm not sure why the movie is called "Magic Serpent", when there actually isn't that much footage of the title beast.
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