When I was young, there was a show called simply enough, “The 4:00 Movie.” Five days a week they would show old movies to fill time before local news. Some even had a theme: Ape Week (“Planet of the Apes” films), Outer Space Week (“Fantastic Planet,” “Logan’s Run,”), and the king of them all, Godzilla Week. For five straight days I’d run home with the thrill of seeing some guy in a rubber monster suit kick some serious a*s to whatever city stood in it’s path. Now Toho studios, the same company who gave me these classic monster flicks has come out with, “Orochi, The Eight Headed Dragon.” Those cheap monster thrills I had as a child are now reborn, if only briefly. “Godzilla” this is not, nor will any film of this genre. This is a more along the lines of a half-baked homage to every fantasy film (Star Wars, “Hercules,” Lord of the Rings) while adding some monsters to spice things up for the kids.
The movie starts with our so called hero, Prince Yamato, killing his brother and is kicked out of his father’s kingdom until he can control his evil powers. During his travels with a couple of other warriors, he meets up with a Priestess named Oto who can shoot fireballs from her hands. Thinking that this might play in their favor when some evil monsters attack, they let her tag along. After a quick scuffle with a fire demon that can morph a bow and arrow out of his hands (you have to see it to believe it), they defeat the beast and return to his kingdom. While home, Yamato discovers that an evil God is returning in the form of an enormous hydra and must stop him. By the film’s conclusion, Yamato dies, is reborn, fights the evil God, and then morphs with a woman to turn into something best seen in, “Johnny Socko and His Flying Robot.”
Let’s be honest, the majority of the people who watch these movies aren’t sticking around for the deep plot and mythological mottos. They want to watch some good monster a*s kicking. The problem is that it takes us almost thirty minutes to get to some heart pounding monster action. That’s too long for any short-attention-span adult or child. The story is so filled with fantasy movies of the past that it tries too hard to please the audience. Less is more in this kind of genre. Once we finally get into some action, we do see some pretty cool beasts that resemble everything from a Power Ranger gargoyle to a Transformer, all entertaining, all in good taste. The film finally becomes what it’s truly meant to be… a good old-fashioned fantasy/monster movie.
Toho has been making movies of this kind for over 40 years, and like Roger Corman and Troma Films, they all have a certain stamp of quality that we’ve admired. When they start going out of their boundaries of style is when they fail. “Orochi, The Eight Headed Dragon” makes that leap and just barely succeeds.