Thunder of Gigantic Serpent (1988)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:


Destroy All Monsters


Thunder of Gigantic Serpent

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

Never work with kids
or giant animal puppets.
Producer Joseph Lai of IFD Films carved out a niche in the low-budget action film market by buying the rights to innumerable cheap films from all over Asia. He would then edit them together with even cheaper action footage that he produced, and which usually featuring Caucasian actors and/or ninjas in brightly colored outfits. The results were deliriously uneven patchwork creations combining bad Asian action cinema with incompetent recreations of Western action cinema, usually scored with music lifted from Tangerine Dream albums or any soundtrack Joseph Lai happened to have lying around.

Thunder of Gigantic Serpent is one of those Frankenmovies, and it's probably the worst giant monster movie ever made in Asia. It's incredibly obscure -- we can't imagine that it ever saw the inside of a theater, and the only video release we could track down was from Greece, though there was a German release too, under the title Terror Serpent.

The main story (in this context that usually means the film that Lai purchased) is about a little girl named Ting Ting with a pet snake named Mozler. (Ting Ting's too-cute dubbing voice alternately pronounces it "Mose-lah" and "Mahz-ler.") Mozler is an intelligent snake, answering Ting Ting’s questions by bobbing or shaking its head. This effect is achieved with a real snake being jerked around by some fishing line around its neck.

Does Danny Lee have it written into
his contract that he'll grab
some guy's lapels?
Elsewhere, technicians in a military lab are perfecting “the formula,” a process that will make the world a better place by creating giant plants. The head of the project, Dr. Li, is disgusted that the military General in charge wants to go ahead and try the formula on animals. What kind of movie scientist is he, anyway? His highest calling should be to create horrible monsters for no good reason! And who is that playing Dr. Li? Why, it appears to be Li Hsu Hsien (a.k.a. Danny Lee), Inframan himself, behind a pair of silly glasses. The General refuses to tolerate Dr. Li’s unseemly scientific cowardice, so he leaves the project, thereby defusing the looming threat that the picture might contain any significant star power.

The first animal test, on a toad, is a success. But before the scientists can celebrate, a criminal gang attacks their lab. Dozens of people are gunned down, but Miss Lin, one of the scientists, makes her escape with the cheap plastic tank that contains the formula. After a frenetic car chase Lin throws the tank out by the side of the road, and then a little ways down jumps out of her car herself. The now empty car hits a small bump and explodes as if the chassis was made of C4.

Being a Joseph Lai film there has to be a cheesy subplot shot with no budget featuring white guys. In the case of Thunder of Gigantic Serpent that subplot is provided by Solomon, a super-terrorist with a surprisingly casual taste in clothes. He’s behind the Asian gangsters, or so we’re told, and he spends most of his time screaming at his henchmen about how the gangsters need to find the formula. He is opposed by super-agent Ted Fast. Solomon and a goon discuss the threat posed by Ted Fast:

"I will conquer the world --
right after I get a new outfit at Sears!"
Goon: He's a highly trained specialist. And he always works alone.

Solomon: He must be pretty good then.

Either that, or he has really bad body odor.

Ted Fast (related to Dirk Pitt!, perhaps?) shows up at various points in the movie, either to have badly edited gun- or martial arts fights with various generic goons, and to occasionally share information by phone with various characters in the real movie, even though there is no indication how he knows any of the information he’s passing on.

Ting Ting comes across the box that contains the formula and brings it home as a tank for Mozler. Needless to say, the formula plus some animated electrical effects cause Mozler to grow to giant proportions, about 20 feet long. Ting Ting manages to keep the snake a secret from her parents, but when she’s out one day playing ball with her snake, both are spotted by members of the gang looking for the formula. It occurs to the gang that little girl with an intelligent, twenty-foot long snake may know something about the formula, so they decide to keep an eye on her.

As all this is going on an Inspector Chiau is investigating the attack on the lab, much to the dismay of the General. Chiau interviews Miss Lin, who denies any knowledge of what’s going on. Later she’s visited by gangsters who want the formula. They’re about to kill her when Chiau bursts in with gun blazing, saving her life. In gratitude she explains that Solomon paid for her education at Harvard University. Huh.

Armed with this new and important information, Chiau confronts the General about the formula and the danger posed to the public by the gangsters when they try to get it back. Ting Ting overhears this conversation and decides to dispose of the tank…

Wait a minute. “Ting Ting overhears…”? That can’t be right. We’ll check the movie… Yup, Ting Ting overhears the conversation because for some reason it’s going on in her parents’ house.

"I love fast food!"
Moving along, Ting Ting disposes of the tank, but is spotted by the gangsters. They retrieve the tank but find the formula is missing. The gangsters kidnap Ting Ting, but Mozler sees them and tries to chase them down. In doing so he gets caught up in an electric fence the gang has set up for exactly this purpose. Rather than killing Mozler the electricity causes Mozler to grow to Godzilla size. Finally, some giant monster action! Mozler crush puny humans!

First Mozler has to deal with “the plane,” a single engine civilian craft the gangsters call in for cover. Though it has no apparent external guns it shoots at Mozler through the wonders of bad animation. Mozler knocks it out of the sky. Then the gangsters with Ting Ting cross a river, so Mozler destroys a couple of bridges, sending hundreds of people to a screaming doom. The gang decides to hide at the top of a tall building (where else?) so Mozler attacks the city. Inspector Chiau risks his life to enter the building to find Ting Ting just as Mozler entwines the building and the Air Force attacks.

Someone find a
giant mongoose, STAT!!!
The Mozler portion of the movie appears to have been shot in Hong Kong but never released until Joseph Lai got his hands on it, though at present we couldn't find any documentation of the project. We wouldn't be surprised to find out that it was actually shot in Taiwan or some other country. It also looks like it was shot in a fullscreen ratio, as if for TV. On the other hand the effects are bit more expensive than you usually see on TV at this time and some of them appear to be shot widescreen.. That's not to say the special effects are good -- they're actually quite bad -- but there is a full-sized puppet head of the largest version of Mozler, which implies some money was spent on the movie. Most of the rampaging Mozler footage is only slightly less embarrasing than the monster effects in Reptilicus.

One place absolutely no money was spent was on the script. Roughly half of the running time of Thunder of Gigantic Serpent is devoted to one person asking some other person where the formula is. Most of the other half features Ting Ting crying "Mozler! Mozler!" repeatedly. It is one of the strange quirks of scripting that Mozler the super-intelligent snake is matched up with a little girl who is as relatively stupid as he is smart. This works out pretty well for Mozler, who can rely on Ting Ting to provide him with food (there are two separate scenes in which Ting Ting goes fishing for Mozler's dinner) and comfort -- witness the enthralling scene in which Ting Ting gathers "beautiful grass" for Mozler's mattress. The relationship between the girl and her snake (please don't laugh) could almost be from a kids movie, but the rest of the film is full of violence and profanity. We realize we say this a lot, but we can't imagine what the intended audience of this movie was, unless you count cinematic masochists with a fetish for giant monsters. Thunder of Giagantic Serpent is a truly horrible movie.

To add insult to injury, we never do find out what happened to the stinking formula.

Own it!

Review date: 04/01/2005

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