ADV Films presents
Daimajin: Complete (1966)
"This is sacred ground. You will anger our god."- Aunt Shinobu (Otome Tsukimiya)
Stars: Takada Miwa, Aoyama Yoshihiko, Fujimaki Jun, Gomi Ryuutarou, Shimada Ryuuzou, Hongou Koujirou, Fujimura Shiho, Marui Tarou, Uchida Asao, Houjou Jutarou, Ninomiya Hideki, Horii Shinji, Iiduka Masahide, Nagatomo Muneyuki, Yamashita Jun'ichirou
Other Stars: Endou Tatsuo, Date Saburou, Deguchi Shizuhiro, Ninomiya Hideki, Hashimoto Isao, Tsukimiya Otome, Kayama Keiko, Onoe Eigorou, Fujiyama Kouji, Uenoyama Kouichi, Kanda Takashi, Hashimoto Isao, Hiraizumi Sei, Mizuhara Kouichi, Nakamura Takashi, Abe Tooru, Nawa Hiroshi, Kitabayashi Tanie, Hayakawa Yuuzou, Horikita Yukio
Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda, Kenji Misumi, Kazuo Mori
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (12+ for violence)
Run Time: 04h:10m:10s
Release Date: 2002-10-22
DVD ReviewAfter Toho's domination of the Kaiju (giant monster) flick since the release of the 1954 Gojira (aka Godzilla), rival studio Daei launched their first entry into the genre in 1965 with the first of the Gamera movies. While Gamera was definitely aimed at kids, in 1966 the studio would simultaneously produce a collection of three films with a darker and more mature tone, with the Daimajin series. Based on the legend of Haniwa from feudal-era Japan, the Majin was a stone statue who came to life to save the people of the village that worshipped him. ADV has compiled the trilogy into this reasonably priced set, with each film getting its own disc.
Where many of the Kaiju films are renowned for their cheesiness, the Daimajin trilogy has its own distinct style, and is more graphically violent, with its central character trampling people to death, flinging them onto rocks, or impaling them. The special effects are actually pretty good for their time, and the acting is reasonably well done, without being to overly dramatic or corny. Shot in glorious Daeiscope, all three films follow a basic premise: the great stone sentinel peacefully guards the nearby village, but when the people are beset by evil forces, the god comes to life as a 50-foot samurai, delivering his wrathful vengeance on those who would do wrong. The scripts are pretty similar in theme, as are the structures of the films, with the real action packed into the final twenty minutes.
The Majin is not a kind and gentle god, and once he is angered his wrath is unstoppable. The villagers who live nearby have a healthy respect for his power, and do what they can to keep him silent, but when he is awakes from his sleep, those who offend him will be shown no mercy.
In the first film of the trilogy, the stone god, Majin, oversees a peaceful village, ruled by Hanabasa, a noble feudal lord. Betrayed by his chamberlain, Samonoske, who seeks to take command of the royal throne, Hanabasa and his wife are murdered, but his two children, Tadafumi and Kozasa, escape with their warrior guardian, Kogenta. They find refuge in a cave near the silent statue of Majin, directed to the sanctuary by their aunt and shinto priestess, Shinobu, and are able to avoid being discovered by Samonoske's men who are out to kill them.
Ten years passes, and the children are now out to claim vengeance for their parent's deaths. While Samonoske has enslaved the villagers, Hanabasa's vassals remain in hiding, but when Kogenta is captured trying to contact them, Tadafumi attempts a rescue, and is also captured. With the two men set to be crucified, Kozasa prays to Majin, offering herself in sacrifice if the god will spare her brother, but it is when Samonoske sends his men to destroy the stone icon that Majin comes to life to teach the mortals a thing or two about messing with the gods.
Daimajin serves as a good introduction to the style of the trilogy, with a protracted build up before the god comes to life for the final act.
Wrath of Daimajin (Daimajin gyakushu)
The second film, released in August of 1966, begins with a number of villagers fleeing the evil tyranny of the warlord Mikoshiba Danjou to the neighboring region of Chigusa, ruled by prince Juurou, and where the stone statue of Majin keeps watch from his island home. Returning from a memorial celebration hosted by the prince, his beloved, the princess Sajuri of Nagoshi stops to pay tribute to the god on her way home, and witnesses the statue's face turning a fiery red, which legend has it is a portend to disaster. Danjou, tired of losing his countrymen, decides to conquer his neighbors, and leads an army against Chigusa, his assassins infiltrating the castle through trickery. When Juurou escapes, Danjou suspects Katsushige, the warlord of Nagoshi, is harboring him, and sets out to kill Juurou once and for all. Warned of the coming attack, Sajuri secrets away to the island with her servant to pray for his protection for her lover, but before she is able to return home, Danjou's henchmen arrive to destroy the statue...
Like the first film, the action doesn't really heat up until the final third of the film. The special effects here are a notch above the original, and the level of intrigue is also a bit more developed. Despite being a man-in-a-rubber-suit movie, the more serious tone and merciless Majin make for entertaining viewing for more than just giant monster fans.
Return of Daimajin (Daimajin ikaru)
The final installment (erroneously included here in the middle of the trilogy) does aim itself at a younger audience, casting a group of young boys as the heros. After a reprise of the god's vengeful nature sets the tone, we learn that an evil warlord, Lord Arakawa, is kidnapping villagers to use as slave labor in his sulfur mines. He plans to attack the village's overlord, but when one of the slaves manages to escape and warn his neighbors, three boys, Tsurukichi, Kinta, and Daisaku, decide to set out across the sacred mountain of the Majin to seek help for their families. Defiant after being told to stay home, Tsurukichi's little brother, Sugimatsu, also follows along, but Arakawa's warriors are soon on their heels. The journey is perilous, as one youngster drowns, and two more fall off a cliff. The only remaining boy, Tsurukichi, as seems the tradition, offers to sacrifice himself to save his village, which awakens the sleeping giant to wreak havoc on the bad guys.
This is easily the weakest of the three films, with the child actors being pretty lame in their parts, often staring at the camera, or smiling for no apparent reason. The plot is pretty pointless as well, as an army of bad guys ineptly chase the boys across the mountainside, unable to catch up with them. The payoff is the rise of the stone Samurai, as he returns to deal with the evil warlord, in his typically violent fashion.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The image quality is pretty respectable for all three films, though not quite as nice as an anamorphic treatment could have been. Colors and black levels are surprisingly good throughout, although white levels do blow out in places. The source prints are in reasonable shape, and while not pristine, hold up well except for around the reel changes, where scratches and blemishes are more prominent. There is some moire artifacting on all three films, showing up on occasion, and the look isn't entirely at full resolution, exaggerating lines. Still, they are easily watchable, just not as clean as one could hope for.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is similar to the video—easily passable, but not of the highest presentation quality, due primarily to source elements, which is understandable. There is mild distortion in places, some pops and hiss, and frequency coverage is somewhat limited. At least ADV left the original Japanese dialogue intact.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Destroy All Monsters, The Hypnotist, Parasite Eve, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.
Extras Review: There is not much in the way of extras. Each film has eight chapter stops. The first disc contains a trailer for Daimajin, while the second disc has trailers for Destroy All Monsters, The Hypnotist, Parasite Eve and Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsThe Daimajin trilogy offers some solid entertainment value for giant monster fans, and this collection is a bargain with the complete set. The films aren't as corny as others in the genre, which may appeal to a wider audience.
Jeff Ulmer 2003-05-22