Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu [Eight-Headed Giant Serpent’s Counterattack] (1985)

Now those of you familiar with Japanese mythology (or who are obsessive Toho monster fans) may have heard of Yamata no Orochi.

This was the monstrous, eight-headed dragon god the legendary hero, Susano-o fought to save a girl who was about to be sacrificed to it.  This story appears in the classic 1959 Toho epic, The Three Treasures (with Toshiro Mifune as Susano-o), and in the 1994 Heisei era Kaiju Eiga version of the story, Orochi, The Eight-Headed Dragon.   He even makes a blink-and-you’ll miss it appearance in their demon hunting film, Onmyoji 2.

And, of course, Orochi was one of the main inspirations for the creation of King Ghidorah.

So it isn’t exactly a surprise that a group of amateur Japanese filmmakers would choose Orochi as the subject of their Kaiju Eiga parody, Eight-Headed Giant Serpent’s Counterattack.

But it is a bit of a surprise that the group that made this was Daicon.

That name might not mean a lot to many of you, but they later renamed themselves Gainax.

And I’ll bet a lot of you have heard of them.  After all, they were responsible for a lot of highly regarded anime series and movies, from their debut film, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, to such fan favorites as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagaan.

In fact, Daicon made quite a few Tokusatsu fan films in the Eighties, although this was their only feature length film, and the one they promoted more than any of the others.  In fact, there was even a DVD Release of the film in Asia, even if it appears to have been rather rare.

And you can’t say that about too many fan films.

A pair of comic scientists bring a highly respected female colleague to town to show her their research into a mysterious tablet they found which portrays the legendary Orochi.

However, when they go to visit their dig, their crew has just found a niche in the rock that is just the right size and shape to fit the tablet.  Only when the girl sets it into place, there’s a huge burst of effects and she vanishes.

She wakes up in a control chair with wires hanging off her, with a room full of frog-like aliens watching.  When she tries to get up, everything shakes: she’s in control of the aliens Kaiju-sized robot monster, Orochi.

And when she moves, it does.

Mind you, she can’t really control the thing, so it rampages across the city, while the army tries to destroy it.

Now I’ve had no luck finding subtitles for this one, but did find a version with Japanese autosubs which I could auto-translate.   Auto-translate tends to work best on films which were already subbed, as the autosub process can be very spotty.

That certainly was true here!

While the combination sometimes works, at least to give you a rough idea of what’s going on, this time it was very random I could only catch odd snatches here and there.  The computer either ignored a lot of dialogue, or tried to interpret the music and background noises.  However, even though I can’t understand Japanese, it is fairly obvious that the sound quality isn’t great, and I suspect some of the dialog may have been dubbed.  Nor does the acting appear to be much above passable.  At times, particularly in some of the comedy bits, you get the impression that they were trying just a bit too hard.

But what stands out are the Kaiju scenes.  They might not be as good as Toho’s, but they aren’t much worse than those in the Showa Gamera films, or the original Yongary.  Like the legendary beast, when Orochi bursts out of the mountain it’s been parked beneath, it still has trees and vegetation clinging to its back. Nor does it have legs, but it is basically a big, slug like body with eight long necks sticking out of the front.  As it is a robot — or perhaps a cyborg, it isn’t clear — its heads have a very mechanical look to them.  It crawls, rather than flies or stomps through the city, and the buildings it crashes through look surprisingly good.  I think some of the shots have been recycled, and it looks like they shot the same buildings being destroyed from several angles to get more footage out of each set up.  But it’s obvious that they knew what they were doing and put a lot of effort into getting it all to work.

After all, the effects director, Shinji Higuchi, would end up working on the Heisei Gamera trilogy.

I’ll confess that I love a lot of the goofy little details, like the alien frogs, which are actually little hand puppets with silly hats — and, of course, the girl scientist trapped in the machinery wakes up in the chair wearing one of these hats!  Or the quick shot of the TV film crew making phony monster prints for the documentary they’re filming at the archaeologists’ dig site.

Despite all the technical flaws and limitations, what really stands out here is the energy and enthusiasm they brought to the project.  It is silly fun, made with a great deal of affection for Kaiju Eiga films.  The creature design is surprisingly good, they skillfully combined a lot of stock footage with their handful of extras to create an impressively large army, and, while their motorized tanks look a bit toylike, they are used well.

It seems a shame that they’ve never done a proper Region One release of the film, complete with subtitles.  I’m sure there are a lot of us fans of Kaiju films who would adore this film.

Oh, well.  I just hope someone at Arrow Films, Code Red or SRS Cinema is listening.  You won’t have any trouble selling this one. After all, it’s way better than War of the God Monsters.

And it was made by Gainax…

(Former member of Mark’s Wish List)



Check out our new Feature (Updated January 4, 2022):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



Which this time focuses on…Mike Nesmith???

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