BluRay/DVD Reviews

DAIMAJIN

By • Oct 22nd, 2002 •

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BOX SET Produced by AD Vision, Inc
Three Disc Set: 270 Minutes
MAJIN (1966) / WRATH OF DAIMAJIN (1966) / RETURN OF DAIMAJIN (1966)

It’s fun to test film-buffs, asking them if they know of DAIMAJIN. Generally, they’ll say no. Show them the last ten minutes of DAIMAJIN. They’ll gasp, get so drawn in, they’ll want to go out and buy the entire DVD box set of all three DAIMAJIN films.

DAIMAJIN is a visually and emotionally stunning cross of rampaging giant monster films, and samurai epics. The first DAIMAJIN film was produced by Japan’s Daiei Studio in 1966. Daiei was the rival studio to Toho, who ruled the Japanese film industry with their Godzilla series, Akira Kurosawa films, and middle-class “salary-man” comedies.

At first, DAIMAJIN feels like a conventional Japanese period movie. A small village is taken over by the cruel, warlike Samanosuke (Ryutaro Gomi). He has killed the former lord of the village, and is hunting down the heirs, who hide for years near a large, peaceful looking statue in the distant mountains. Samanosuke enslaves the villagers, and mocks all warnings that he will answer to Majin, the warrior God trapped in the statue. He sends his soldiers to demolish the statue. The soldiers start hacking away at the statue and the stone idol bleeds. Now this is where the film goes wonderfully berserk!

Like FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, another great, visually brilliant monster film, patience sitting out a slow opening hour pays off. The statue turns from a passive looking idol to a mean and distorted giant wordless samurai who advances onto the village, seeking Samanosuke. The sky turns blood red, and the giant Majin crushes samurai, smashes fortresses, and at one point flattens one of Samanosuke’s screaming flunkies against a stone wall like a tomato! It’s one eye-popping, show-stopping giant monster moment after another. What Majin finally does to Samanosuke I’m not going to tell you. You have to see it for yourself!

The special effects at times top the work done by Godzilla’s effects man, Eiji Tsuburaya. It seems, in some shots, Daiei actually built an enormous Majin with moveable arms, legs and head. How else did director Kimiyoshi Yasuda achieve the giant moving Majin fending off advancing samurai in a hand-held shot?

DAIMAJIN (“Dai” being a Japanese word for “great” or “giant”) was successful enough to create two sequels within the same year. American International Pictures released the film here as MAJIN; MONSTER OF TERROR, in a flat, pan-and-scan, dubbed version for American television. Luckily, AD Vision, Inc, under the banner of Rubbersuit Pictures, released an affordable three disc set in widescreen, with English subtitles and Dolby Digital Sound (Akira Ifakube, who did the music for the Godzilla films, created a fantastic pounding score for all three DAIMAJIN films)

As with most movie sequels, we are treated to the crowd-pleasing highlights of the first film. RETURN OF DAIMAJIN (Disc #3) is such a repeat, and rather run of the mill. Again, a village is taken over, and this time, the soldiers succeed in destroying the statue. Majin comes back, rising from a lake. RETURN becomes wacky when Majin parts the lake and walks across it, much like Mr. Heston in a certain Cecil B. DeMille film. The same DeMille camera angles and effects are copied. Majin later pulls a crucified maiden from a cross, carries the cross a bit, and gently puts it aside before making hash out of this new set of warlords.

The third and last sequel, WRATH OF DAIMAJIN (Disc #2) has the same plot, but we follow a trio of fugitive children hunted by soldiers, trying to survive in the snow. This time, Majin has a helper, a beautiful yellow-eyed hawk. The scenes with the boys and the hawk are rather touching, and add a warm fairy-tale feel to the film. Majin’s attack on the bad guys is during a raging blizzard. Oh, to have seen that on a big screen.

According to one article, Kevin Costner considered doing an American remake. AD Vision also released Toho’s all star monster treat DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. We are hoping we can see more classic Japanese monster thrills from them in the near future.


MAJIN
Producer: Masaichi Nagata
Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Written by Tetsuro Yoshida
Cast: Miwi Takada, Ryutar Gomi, Ryuzo Kuroda
1966. Daiei

WRATH OF DAIMAJIN
Producer: Masaichi Nagata
Directed by Kenji Misumi
Written by Tetsuro Yoshida
Cast: Kojiro Hongo, Taro Marui, Asao Uchida
1966. Daiei

RETURN OF DAIMAJIN
Producer: Masaichi Nagata
Directed by Kazuo Mori
Written by Tetsuro Yoshida
Cast: Hideki Ninomiya, Shinji Horii, Masahide Iizuka
1966. Daiei

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