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Issue #178a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES September 22nd, 2003

Dragonball: The Magic Begins
(1992; Filmswell International/My Way Film Company)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: San chat lung ju
Mandarin: Xin qi long zhu
English: New Seven Dragon Pearls

A Taiwan/Philippines co-production shot in Thailand, this is a very low-budget live action version of the popular DRAGONBALL anime series (several episodes of which have been released domestically by Pioneer). The monstrous King Horn (who resembles a rubbery version of Tim Curry's devil from LEGEND) has arrived on Earth in search of the seven Dragon Pearls, which possess great powers when combined. The alien acquires one by annihilating a village and sends his minions off in search of the rest. One of the gems (which look like cheap snowglobes) is in the possession of young martial artist Monkey Boy and his equally agile grandfather, Sparkle. When Horn's minions attack, Sparkle disappears and Monkey Boy sets out to find him, collecting a group of followers (including a pig man with a multi-colored mohawk who can alter his shape, gunslinger/swordsman Westwood and his obnoxious cockatoo sidekick, and a sex-crazed turtleman who can summon a magic cloud) who all have a connection to the remaining stones. However, Horn is able to get his claws on six of the gems and is poised to take the seventh as well, leaving him free to conquer the universe.

I am not in a position to say how this compares to the anime but, even when stacked up with other efforts from Filmswell International and My Way Film Company, DRAGONBALL: THE MAGIC BEGINS is an incredibly threadbare enterprise. A number of the special effects are rendered with animation (not computer animation -- good old fashioned drawing table animation), while Horn's goons carry out their attacks with Vietnam-era artillery. Additionally, there is a multitude of sexual humor that will give Western parents pause (before he turns over his pearl, Turtleman demands to see one of the teenage heroines' breasts -- and gets to, sort of) and the predictably wretched English dialogue and dubbing consists almost exclusively of things no human being would ever actually say:

Girl: Oh dear, where do ya come from, ya Jerkball!

Boy: Hey, I'm not called Jerkball! I'm Monkey Boy!

There is an abundance of comic wirework and plenty of pyrotechnics but no imagination or excitement. Coupled with the production's numerous technical deficiencies, it is likely that the juvenile target audience will lose interest well before the final fade and the minor novelty value isn't likely to keep trash fans entertained for very long either. The source print lists Joe Chan as director, while Tai Seng's packaging credits direction to veteran schlockmeister Godfrey Ho Chi-keung (NINJA TERMINATOR, SCORPION THUNDERBOLT, and about 1000 others). The soundtrack includes cues lifted from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE.

Cover art courtesy Tai Seng.

Image courtesy Tai Seng.

Image courtesy Tai Seng.
Tai Seng #75094 (U.S. label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Dubbed in English

8 Chapters Illustrated in the Menu With Grabs

Fullscreen (cropped from either 1.66 or 1.85)

Coded for ALL Regions

Macrovision Encoded

NTSC Format

86 Minutes

Contains mild violence and mild language

DVD menu courtesy Tai Seng.

Great Britain: 12

Tai Seng has released the film on DVD in English-dubbed form only. The mildly cropped image is drab and grainy, with weak contrasts; the sound is adequate. The DVD (authored and compressed by VDI Multimedia) includes video promo spots for DRAGON FROM SHAOLIN and TAI CHI II. There is no time coding.

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