The Complete Daimajin: (Daimajin / Wrath of Daimajin / Return of Daimajin)
DVD | Box Set
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Decked out in stone gray with a scowling jade-green war face, Majin is one of the most impressive of giant Japanese monster movie threats. This 60-foot statue come to life is an irresistible force, relentlessly driving ahead with the thundering echoes of his earthshaking steps. This unusual mix of the fantasy and samurai genres is found in these three monumental adventures set in the feudal past. In the first of the trilogy, this massive statue rising up out of the mountains contains the trapped spirit of a destructive god, or so goes the legend. An ambitious chamberlain plays on the peasants' fears to overthrow the peaceful lord and enforces an iron fist on his nation, but 10 years later he sends his soldiers to destroy the stone monolith. When Majin is finally roused by prayer and righteous anger, it proves to be an impressive figure, leaving the chamberlain's massive fort splinters and rubble in its wake while relentlessly hunting down the villain to deliver his poetic justice. Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda brings a stoic seriousness to these scenes, never once allowing them to slip into camp. If only his handling of the human drama were equally bold. The story of the royal heirs growing up in the shadow of Majin and planning their return to power is serviceable if conventional, but once Majin stirs at the 60-minute mark, the film roars to life for a destructive, ruthlessly satisfying conclusion. The title, Daimajin, roughly translates to "Giant" or "Monster" Majin; the film is also known as Giant Majin and Majin: Monster of Terror.
Return of Daimajin
The second of the Majin films is as much a loose remake as a sequel. Four kids from a peaceful mountain village trek over the forbidden Majin Mountain to reach the land of the tyrant king who has kidnapped and enslaved the men of their village, including their own fathers. This adventure takes the film out of the studio environs of the first film and into impressive mountain locations, but once again the meandering human adventure is merely a prelude to the wrath of Majin and his unstoppable march of vengeance. Despite the addition of these cute kids, director Issei Mori maintains the serious tone set in the first film; this really isn't kid stuff, despite a few moments of juvenile humor. After almost a decade of Godzilla films the Japanese film industry had perfected the use of scale and camera speed to turn the man in a monster suit into a towering threat on a grand scale. With the addition of the thundering echoes of his earthshaking steps and composer Akira Ifubuke's booming theme, Mori creates a truly impressive figure of Majin, the green-faced god who rises to administer his own brand of grim justice.
Wrath of Daimajin
A brutal warlord tries to stop the flow of refugees fleeing his kingdom by conquering his neighbors, but when he chases an escaped prince into the peaceful lakeside refuge of the worshippers of Majin (located on the island in the center of the lake), he is cursed by the prince's dying father. Taking no chances, the warlord sends his men to destroy the icon with explosives and succeeds in turning the stone monolith to rubble, but it takes more than gunpowder to destroy a god. Director Kenji Misume, easily the most accomplished of the three Daimajin directors, sets the exciting adventure of avenging young Prince Jaro and loyal Lady Suyori (keeper of Majin) at a rapid pace, building to a peak for the inevitable entrance of Majin, who dramatically parts the waters. With obviously limited resources, Misume gives a near-epic look to the film with impressive set pieces (a boat of soldiers is sucked under the churning waters of the lake, a courtyard is transformed into the site of a mass public execution) without slighting his human characters--the sacrifices of Majin's followers become unexpectedly poignant moments and receive their cinematic mourning in Lady Suyori's tears. Every element comes together to create the peak of the series, an exciting and involving tale on a grand scale. --Sean Axmaker
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These films were produced by Daiei Motion pictures (the home of Gamera)and were all released in 1966 several months apart. The versions put out by ADV in this set are beautiful and probably the best versions outside of Japan at this time. Unfortunatly ADV no longer exists and this set is out of print. Most of the listings for this on Amazon and ebay will be presented by people who will exploit that and the fact that there are people who would enjoy owning these films. My reccomendation is don't pay over $50.00 for this set unless you are crazy in need of some Daimajin like wrath.
Simply, among the most beautiful films of the Sixties, bar none, with an almost art-film quality. This was clearly "A" list film-making for the time and is, in many respects, far better than non-Japanese product of that era. As I've written elsewhere, Japanese fantasy film of this era may be about the best anywhere. I think we in the west were and still are) patronizing to this work and I think the Japanese still don't understand what they did right long ago--they were suffering from a massive inferiority complex in the Fifties and Sixties and today seem to prefer to ignore things they did well back then when they were less able to reproduce Hollywood quality rubbish.
Not to be insulting, but I'd like to see much of this stuff out of the hands of companies like Rubbersuit and Tokyo Shock--the whole sci-fi geek crowd--and into the hands of Criterion. Crazy talk perhaps but I know once this was marketed to a very different crowd a whole new realm of appreciation of these films might emerge. I was just viewing a "Yokai Monster" film of this vintage and from this distributor, while browsing through a book of paintings by Max Ernst, and frankly the juxtaposition worked remarkably well.
A beatiful young maiden prays to the god for his help offering her own life for the life of the villagers. When the tears of her sorrow drop onto the majin's stone body, the rage of the god is awakened and his wrath unleased on the evil ones in true Japanese samurai fasion. Unlike a western superhero however, majin keeps on killing ,now the inocent as well as the guilty, until the girl pleads with him to stop and again her tears touch him.
If you like samurai and Godzilla movies then this is a real must have.
These three films are nothing that can be classified as typical Japanese monster films. Each is an outstanding feature in its own right, though my favorite is the first. Wonderfully written and acted, the films go even further to present excellent special effects that are impressive even today. There are heavy religious overtones, even Christian elements, that build the story. I did not remember what serious storytelling was embodied in Daimajin but now will never forget! These are not "Godzilla-class" movies at all!
I must add that it is a surprisingly refreshing treat to view these films WITHOUT horrible English dubbing. The original sound, acting, and effects come through unfettered and the subtitles are clear and very easy to follow. A worthwhile addition to my collection.