Des kaijus plutôt méconnus du film "Les Monstres de l'Apocalypse". Based on the famous Japanese folktale "Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari" (The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya), the 1966 Toei Company film "Kairyu Daikessen" (The Mystic Dragons' Decisive Battle) retells the legend, but with added elements from the Daikaiju genre, which was going strong at the time. But even with that said, the film was very much a product of the equally popular 'Ninja Boom' from that same decade. And wasn't the only project to similarly combine 'ninja fantasy' with giant monster and superhero overtones.

 A child prince named Ikazuchi-Maru becomes the lost heir to The Oumi Kingdom, after it has been violently taken over by the corrupt general Daijo Yuki (Bin Amatsu), and his assistant Orochimaru (Ryutaro Otomo), who proves to be the more dangerous of the villains, as he is also a master ninja and sorcerer. And can assume the form of a giant water dragon (snake / serpent in the original legend), which he does so in a failed attempt on the fleeing prince's life.

 Thankfully, Ikazuchi-Maru is quickly saved from a giant eagle, who is either the trusted pet, or magical secondary form, of the wise hermit Dojin Hiki (Nobuo Kaneko). Dojin Hiki takes Ikazuchi-Maru under his care, and teaches him the ways of ninjutsu and toad magic; the latter of which later allows the prince to assume the form of a gigantic fire-breathing toad.

 Years later, the prince is now a young man, and assumes the identity of the heroic outlaw ninja Jiraiya (Matsukata Hiroki), in order to free The Oumi Kingdom from Daijo Yuki's tyrannical rule. He is joined on his mission by a beautiful young girl named Tsunade (Tomoko Ogawa), who is also Orochimaru's estranged daughter. But unlike her more sinister father, she also seeks freedom and justice for the land, even at the cost of betraying him.

 And under similar circumstances to Jiraiya, Tsunade was raised by an otherwise benevolent 'spider woman' (Sen Hara), who gives her a magical pin that can summon a Giant Spider if the need arises. But only once can Tsunade do so, or the Giant Spider will turn on her as well (in the original tale, Tsunade was a sorceress of snail-based magic, and could either summon or transform into such creatures).

The movie was later dubbed and imported to the United States by American International Pictures, under the new title of "The Magic Serpent". And in some American press releases from the time, the giant monster forms of Jiraiya and Orochimaru were named Froggo and Droggo respectively. Movie books and related articles during the 1980's would also mistakenly refer to Jiraiya's frog form as 'King Frog'.

 "The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya" has inspired many other Japanese films, television shows (animation and live action), and comic books (or Manga), either as straight adaptations, or as direct AND indirect homage. However, not all of these inspired works would embrace the Daikaiju angle as "Kairyu Daikessen" did.

Big thanks to the blog site Vintage Ninja for the majority of images. Text and additional images donated by Raf / Enshohma et Titou, thanks !