“Paracinema” has finally arrived at Influx Magazine. Follow Rob Rector as he introduces the world to a treasure-trove of unknown brilliance.
For an inaugural installment, I debated whether to gently ease viewers into the dank corners of the cinematic cellar or to plunge headfirst into the abyss. The waters of exploitation are shallow and murky but wide, covering all continents and genres. They bear many names: B-movies, exploitation, grindhouse, low-budget, no-budget, midnight movies. But for the seasoned viewer, they offer a mental respite from films that break up the standard viewing of more prestigious pics.
And say what you will about them, even the best of the “worst” are far from the lazy filmmaking that can mark such stale dreck commonly found in Adam Sandler’s canon. Schizophrenic, chaotic and nonsensical, yes. But rarely lazy.
I enjoying shining a tiny light on these pictures from time to time, as they can often represent the “anything goes” attitude that realistically represents the true essence of “let’s-put-on-a-show” filmmaking
When I heard Pacific Rim was going to be released Oct. 15 2013 on DVD (a film you SHOULD-have seen in theaters!), I knew Thunder of Gigantic Serpent was to exact place to start. By selecting Thunder of Gigantic Serpent (or Daai Se Wong in its original Hong Kong home), starring the enigmatic Pierre Kirby and directed by B-movie legend Godfry Ho, I chose not to wade, but rather dive straight into the muck of exploitation.
Thunder of Gigantic Serpent stars Pierre Kirby, a name that is legendary in the kung-fu exploitation fans (the circle may be small, but passionate). Over the course of a year (1987-88), he managed to kick his way through nine of the director’s films. The strapping towheaded lead vanished as quickly as he arrived. Legends of his demise (?) abound on the internet. Most of them are second-hand stories (Yachting into a typhoon! Killed by pirates!) and have never been verified.
All the stories were given way more thought and backstory than an average film from director Godfry Ho (cinema’s sausage factory, churning out about 120-some-odd films in about 25 years). For a solid year, Kirby and Ho were like the DiCaprio and Scorsese, minus the budget, ability and skill.
Thunder of Gigantic Serpent may not have been the “best” of the bunch, but it certainly one of the most insane. Shot with obviously a micro-budget (they apparently couldn’t even afford an extra “the” in the title!), it is such a jumbled whirlwind of genres that it makes for endless viewability for the undiscerning junkie.
A young girl named TIng TIng (voiced by what was obviously an adult trying to emulate an annoying pipsqueak’s vocals) has a pet snake that was zapped by a super-secret ray that blows it up to Godzilla-sized proportions.This being a Godfrey Ho film, one can expect him to Scotch-tape together found footage from other films and merely fill in the gaps with new actors (enter Kirby). Our hero plays Ted Fast (yup!), a secret op who “always works alone” (“He must be pretty good then!” replies a character upon just hearing that important chunk of character development). Fast is a beret-wearing Ninja who is out to get back the ray that has fallen into the hands of terrorists (one whose name is Billy). Fast lives up to his name, rolling around the ground and coming up kicking. He’s also quick on the trigger, mowing away terrorists with automatic weapons like he was racking up points, Grand Theft Auto style.
The film braids its styles together like a preschooler learning to tie his shoes. There’s no rhyme or reason as scenes loop around one another, barely held together. None of that matters, though, because you merely await the transition to the next scene of madness, which Ho delivers like pizza. Whether you are seeking a tender child-and-pet tale, espionage thriller, or a giant monster movie, you merely have to wait a few minutes as one of them will materialize.
The reason for this is that Thunder of Gigantic Serpent was pieced together from “Da she wang (or King of Snake, a Taiwanese flick made four years earlier). So why watch this ungodly concoction of such disparate genres? First, it’s damn entertaining, especially with a group of MST3K or Rifftrax wannabes. Second, it would make for a great primer before viewing Pacific Rim to appreciate just how damn good the latter film was, as this is the nadir of the kaiju genre.
Director Ho’s entire filmography can fill a lifetime of columns dedicated to shitty cinema, and Thunder of Gigantic Serpent encapsulates just how certifiably insane his “style” is and how he’s a go-to name for those who enjoy picking at the scabs of cinema.
Review by Rob Rector, Contibuting Writer
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