The Magic Serpent

1966 | Color | 86 min.

Starring: Hiroki Matsukata, Tomoko Ogawa, Ryutaro Otomo, Bin Amatsu, and Nobuo Kaneko.

Directed by: Tetsuya Yamauchi

After his parents are murdered in a violent coup, the rightful heir to the throne, little Ikazuki-maru, is forced to flee his castle home. Raised and trained in secret by his new master, Dojin Hiki, a kindly hermit and powerful magician, the young man grows up completely oblivious to his royal heritage and the tragic deaths of his parents.

Poor little guy. His parents were killed, he was attacked by a dragon, AND he’s balding.

Ten years later, the brains behind the coup, Dojin Hiki’s former student, Yuki Daijo, sends a team of ninjas to kill Ikazuki to prevent him from reclaiming his throne. While his hit team is out tracking Ikazuki, Daijo, under the guise of making amends, returns to to his former master’s cabin. Initially defeated in a quick struggle, Daijo is able to mortally wound Master Hiki when the stolen scroll he returns to him transforms into an asp (because, of course it does) and injects him with a lethal dose of venom.

Giant frogs are really bad at hide-and-seek.

Utilizing the skills Dojin Hiki taught him, Ikazuki successfully fights off the assassins and returns home to find his master near death. With his last words, Master Hiki informs Ikazuki of his royal past and tells him he must avenge his parents and reclaim the throne from the usurper Oroki-maru and the nefarious Yuki Daijo. Together with Sunade, a girl on a quest to find her father—whom Ikazuki initially mistook for one of Daijo’s assassins—Ikazuki heads back to the home he fled a decade ago to avenge his parents and take back what is rightfully his.

No, Ikazuki! Bad touch!

The Magic Serpent is a lot of fun. There’s betrayal, a samurai battle, assassinations, a bloody coup, a giant eagle, and a freaking dragon—and that’s just the first five minutes! The other 81 minutes are filled with sorcery, shape-shifting wizards, sword fights, an “I am your father!” moment, and even more giant monsters. You can accuse this film of many things, but being boring is certainly not one of those things.

“Quickly… before I die…I must show you…my greatest magical feat…
Now, child…pull my finger.”

The effects are the typical low-tech, ’60s era cheese, but they work just fine. The monster battles and miniature effects are actually quite well done, but I think my favorite effects take place during the scene where Ikazuki is decapitated by a ninja, but instead of dying, he and his headless body capture and interrogate the unlucky, would be assassin (see clip below). As silly as that is, the scene manages to wrap up on an even sillier note, when poor Ikazuki has to readjust his head after initially putting in on backwards.

“I’ll swallow your soul! I’ll swallow your soul!”

The Magic Serpent is a great mashup of feudal Japan mixed with fantasy, sorcery, and even a little kaiju fun. And when it comes to this film, fun is the key word. If you are incapable of having a good time watching magic-infused ninja battles, headless interrogations, and a giant, fire-breathing frog doing battle with a dragon, then I really can’t help you. I loved every minute of goofy fun this movie provided me and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Reviewed by Derek “Giant Fire-breathing Frog” Miller
Posted on September 14, 2018

Video Clip – Ikazuki Loses His Head

Additional Screenshots (Click an image to view full-size)


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