'Dragon Ball's Bonkers, Forgotten (And Illegal) Live-Action Adaptations
With a new Dragon Ball Super movie debuting in the US this week and the recent revelation that Goku has regrettably gotten into Fortnite at age 38, it's time to look back at the franchise's first forays into live action territory. No, we're not talking about the infamously terrible Dragonball: Evolution movie, which SHOULD have been illegal, but the earlier adaptations that actually were.
The first one was released in Taiwan in 1991 and, even though it was made 100% without the authorization of Dragon Ball's legitimate owners and creator, it actually had a VHS release in the US. The English dubbers did make some changes to throw the lawyers off their scent: the Dragon Balls are now called "Dragon Pearls" (despite the fact that the words "Dragon Ball" are still right there on the cover) and Goku is now "Monkey Boy." Here's Monkey Boy kicking his ghost grandpa's ass:
Also, Goku's wise old Master Roshi is now named "Turtle Man." At least the movie remained faithful to the character's personality in the source material, in that he still lusts after teenage girls (or shape-shifting pig men impersonating teenage girls).
On the other hand, Roshi's disturbing horniness was toned down in another unauthorized movie, Korea's Dragon Ball: Son Goku Fights, Son Goku Wins (also known as Fight, Son Goku! Win, Son Goku!). This time, Roshi merely demands a kiss in exchange for letting young Bulma grab his ball.
This movie was made using leftover costumes from an unrelated film called Sparkman, hence the moment at 6:12 in the clip above where Goku fights a Power Rangers-esque robot (which turns out to be another disguise for the pig man, Ulon). Another scene confusingly shows Goku watching his own cartoon self in the Dragon Ball anime show on TV (2:55 below). But at least this is less confusing than if he'd been watching another show that kid actor went on to do as an adult in Korea: Squid Game.
Finally, it would be negligent of us to talk about unauthorized Dragon Ball adaptations and not mention 1995's Super Mario vs. Son Goku, made in the Philippines -- although that title seems to be inaccurate since, according to the clip below (and IMDb), Goku and Mario are actually the same person. This would qualify as the best live action Mario movie so far if it wasn't for that porn parody starring Ron Jeremy, which looked like it had a much bigger budget and more coherent script than whatever's going on here:
Despite all of this, every movie we just mentioned has a higher IMDb rating than Evolution, which likely cost more than all combined and multiplied by 10. Pay attention, Hollywood. This is how it's done.
Top image: Tai Seng Video Marketing, Toei Company