CREATURE FEATURE HISTORY
Thunder of Gigantic Serpent
There are plenty of articles online reviewing Thunder of Gigantic Serpent and analysing its bizarre Frankenstein existence. Whilst they’re not wrong to marvel at the alien editing and laugh at the appalling English dubbing, few actually try to explain the complex history of how something this bizarre comes into being. But I’m a glutton for punishment and Thunder of Gigantic Serpent has inspired me to start a new column: Creature Feature History.
In each CFH article, I’m going to find the most bizarre and interesting stories from the creature feature world and present them to you in the simplest fashion possible. Today’s article will focus on the history of TOGS and its equally grammatically-challenged ancestor King of Snake.
King of Snake is a Taiwanese monster movie released in 1984 under the Taiwanese title Daai Se Wong. The only notable cast and crew members are Danny Lee as Dr Li who started as Ultraman in the titular series and Tarcy Su as Ting Ting who would go on to have a successful pop career. My copy of KOS in Taiwanese Mandarin Chinese with no subtitles and I have been unable to find any other versions.
To say nothing else, KOS is impressively unique and despite my complete lack of knowledge of Taiwanese Mandarin Chinese, here’s what I could figure is going on:
“When Ting Ting, a lonely little girl, finds a box that magnifies anything placed inside it to gigantic proportions, she accidentally causes her hyper-intelligent pet snake, Mosler, to grow to an enormous size. Ting Ting and Mosler form a close and intimate friendship until Ting Ting is kidnapped by the creators of the box. After being electrocuted and subsequently growing to humongous stature, Mosler lets nothing stand in the way of saving his beloved Ting Ting.”
Despite its tremendous creativity, KOS is by no means a perfect film suffering from enormous plot holes (why bother the little girl for the box, just have the scientists make another one), fluctuating tone (one scene Ting Ting plays volleyball with Mosler, the next Mobsters are beating up her family and kidnapping her), outstandingly cheap production values (the Mosler puppet is horrendous), incomprehensible morality (so its okay for Mosler to kill thousands of innocent by-standers because he’s doing it all to save Ting Ting) and having an ending that rather than fixing the schizophrenic tone simply emphasises it (Ting Ting gets scolded for ruining the ‘Mosler is dead’ celebrations by mourning that Mosler is dead).
KOS was eventually purchased by the Hong Kong production company, IFD, when it landed in the hands of cut-and-paste extraordinaire Godfrey Ho.
Ho started his career working in continuity for action director for Chang Cheh at Shaw Brothers (even working alongside John Woo) before eventually meeting his long term producing partner Joseph Lai at the production company IFD.
The IFD production model was to purchase cheap or unfinished Asian movies (Chinese, Taiwanese and Filipino mainly) then shoot a bunch of new footage using western actors and edit the two together with a fresh dub (one in Chinese, the other English), creating an all-new or at least enhanced storyline for the film to take. So you cut one movie into chunks and paste the new footage in the gaps, with some ‘clever’ editing to make it appear that a character in movie A is having a phone conversation with a character in movie B.
KOS went through this process and was eventually released in 1988 as Thunder of Gigantic Serpent, see if you can notice the differences:
“When Ting Ting, a lonely little girl, finds a box that magnifies anything placed inside it to gigantic proportions, she accidentally causes her hyper-intelligent pet snake, Mosler, to grow to an enormous size. Ting Ting and Mosler form a close and intimate friendship until Ting Ting is kidnapped BY THE CREATOR OF THE BOX, SOLOMON. After being electrocuted and subsequently growing to humongous stature, Mosler lets nothing stand in the way of saving his beloved Ting Ting WHILST FREELANCE COMMANDO TED FAST GOES AFTER SOLOMON.”
Yep, that’s all the difference that the extra footage makes. To put it numerically, KOS is 78 minutes long whilst TOGS is 86 minutes long. That’s only 8 minutes of extra footage! All this effort for 8 minutes? Why not just re-dub the movie as it was, KOS is extremely flawed but it still works?
As you can probably guess, TOGS is not much of an improvement but at the very least, the english dub features some hilariously stupid lines (Goon #1 – “His name is Ted Fast and he always works alone”, Solomon – “So he must be pretty good then”) and does manage to make a semi-coherent storyline out of the two sets of completely different footage. However, it resolves none of the plot holes instead making new ones (Solomon plans to use the box to control the food supply market – what?!) and they constantly refer to the box as ‘The Formula’ (a formula is a scientific concept, if all they need is the concept, why go to all that trouble to get the box?!).
Regardless, there is some confusion over who actually directed the Thunder inserts. Godfrey Ho was known for using multiple pseudonyms when crediting his work and different sources have differing opinions of whether or not Charles Lee is a pseudonym or a separate person. In an interview with a French website, Ho himself did not list Charles Lee as a pseudonym but he did Benny Ho, so we can presume that although Ho didn’t direct the foreign segments, he did write them.
Ho and IFD would put several movies through this process over the years (Scorpion Thunderbolt being one of them) of which most focused on the ninja or kickboxer motif that was popular in the 80’s and 90’s. In recent years, TOGS has developed a mild cult following thanks to influx of interest in Ho’s unique film-making approach and has since been reviewed by several big websites (none of which seem to understand the correct spelling of ‘Mosler’).
I highly recommend finding these little gems of interest as both can be easily found on youtube (although the copy of TOGS with Greek subtitles is seemingly the only digital copy in the world) and because how often are you going to see a giant snake puppet chirp like a chicken and play volleyball with a little girl?