Mysterious Two (1982)

Mysterious Two (1982)‘People of tomorrow; it is the twilight of today!’

A strange couple claiming to be in touch with extraterrestrials bring their followers together outside a small town in the desert. The local sheriff’s department struggles to contain the crowds as everyone awaits salvation at the hands of an all-powerful alien race. But is the whole thing just an elaborate con?

Odd made for television project from writer-director Gary Sherman that was originally filmed in 1979 but not broadcast until the early summer of 1982. The story begins with our old friend; footage of a NASA rocket launch. Unfortunately, this one ends in a fireball. Next we meet our golden couple (John Forsythe and Priscilla Pointer) at some abandoned buildings in the desert. Talk with an incoherent vagrant tells us that this is an old missile base. Forsythe proclaims that it’s ‘perfect’ and, more importantly, that ‘It’s Time’! (pretty much all he says over the next 100 minutes). We are left to assume that this is the old NASA launchpad mothballed after the opening tragedy, but there’s no need to worry about it. That incident gets mentioned again.

From there, Forsythe and Pointer emerge from a bright light in a hole in the ground to bring their followers together. The acolytes become what amounts to a loose kind of hippy commune and the vast majority of the runtime is spent dealing with their riveting relationship problems and fascinating stories. There’s whiny James Stephens (our narrator) looking for his runaway girlfriend (the even whinier Karen McLarty), there’s a black couple who have sold their car and another woman who is pregnant and wants her baby to be the first human child born in outer space (or something? l don’t know, l was kind of zoning out by then). Anyway, it’s all completely fascinating. Forsythe and Pointer turn up every now and then in white robes and tell everyone to wait and that ‘It’s Time!’ ( I should really put that in capital letters). Eventually, the faithful are spirited away to the missile base in a fabulous alien craft (ok, it’s actually a School Bus!) where there’s a permanent dust storm and lots of bright lights that flash. And that’s about your lot.

Perhaps Sherman was attempting to make a serious film examining the nature of cults, and the people who follow them. It’s a subject worthy of examination, but one that requires a far more in-depth approach, rather than the series of soap drama vignettes that he provides. And there’s also the suspicion that he was unsure of his own point of view. Are Forsythe and Pointer on the level, or just charlatans? The film backs out of the question, and provides no real resolution. It is possible, given the closing narration, that this was actually the pilot for an intended series where Stephens would try to track Forsythe and Pointer down and rescue McLarty. If so, we can only be grateful that it never happened.

Mysterious Two (1982)

‘Is it ‘Time’ yet?’

Sherman’s subsequent career included zombie horror ‘Dead and Buried’ (1981) (hilariously banned during the trumped-up Video Nasty scare in the UK), ‘Wanted: Dead Or Alive’ (1987) with Rutger Hauer and ‘Poltergeist Ill’ (1988). Not a notable record, especially considering his debut had been gritty, subterranean horror ‘Death Line’ (1972) with Donald Pleasance.

There are some familiar faces in the supporting cast here; Noah Beery Jr plays the sheriff toward the end of a long career stretching back to the 1930s. He played  a jungle boy in ‘The Call of the Savage’ (1935), and supporting roles in more notable productions such as ‘Of Mice and Men’ (1939), ‘Sergeant York’ (1941), ‘Rocketship X-M’ (1950), ‘lnherit The Wind’ (1960) and the ‘7 Faces of Dr Lao’ (1964). By this point, he was famous as James Garner’s old dad on long-running detective show ‘The Rockford Files‘. His Deputy here is played by  a young Robert Englund, a few years before he pulled on the sweater and razor glove of Freddy Krueger for ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ (1984).

The story was loosely based on the real-life exploits of self-styled ‘UFO missionaries’ Marshall Applewhite and Barbara Nettles, who were famous enough to be the subject of national media scrutiny at the time. By all accounts, their group was financially well-off by the end of the 1970s so whether the fear of legal problems prompted the network’s decision to shelve Sherman’s film for 3 years is a possibility. It is true that the group were less active by the time it was broadcast. Somewhat ironically, that was in the same month that Forsythe began his 217 episode run as Blake Carrington on soap juggernaut ‘Dynasty.’

Tragically, real life proved to be far more dramatic than Sherman’s lifeless fiction. Applewhite rebranded his group a few years after Nettles died as ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and became fixated on the approach of Comet Hale-Bopp. When the local sheriff’s department broke into their mansion in the San Diego area in March 1997, they found all 38 members had committed suicide at Applewhite’s instruction, and that he had taken his own life as well.

As l say, there is an important film to be made on this subject, but Sherman’s effort is sadly lacking in depth or insight. And in any entertainment value whatsoever.


The Loreley’s Grasp/Las Garras De Lorelei (1973)

The Loreley's Grasp (1973)‘These pieces are anatomical. I get them from the hospital to carry out my experiments.’

A small town by the Rhine in Germany becomes the scene of a series of horrific murders. Fearing for their charges, the headmistress of a local finishing school for girls hires a hunter to kill the wild beast that everyone believes is responsible. However, he’s happier spending time with the strange, green-eyed woman who he meets down by the lake…

Rather messy, unsatisfying Euro-Horror from Spanish director Amando De Ossorio, who enjoyed his greatest success as creator of the ‘Blind Dead’ series. Those stylish horrors featured the murderous exploits of a band of Knight Templars coming back from beyond the grave in glorious slow motion. Here, he takes a crack at the myth of the Lorelei (spellings vary), a female beast who tore the hearts out of sailors and bossed a crew of sirens on the banks of the Rhine. Sadly, despite popular belief, the tale isn’t really a myth at all, having its origins in a ballad composed by Clemens Brentano as recently as 1801 and popularised by a Heinrich Heine poem just over twenty years later. So the character actually has no origin in folklore at all but that didn’t stop De Ossorio trying to tie it in with the epic tale of Siegfried, the legendary dragon-slayer.

At first, things develop along fairly predictable lines. A young bride-to-be is slaughtered when a strange creature smashes its way into her bedroom the night before the wedding. The killing is pretty gory as the victim has her heart torn out, and De Ossorio doesn’t skimp on the claret. As a result, hunter Tony Kendall gets the gig of guarding the local girl’s school, an appointment that doesn’t meet with the approval of uptight teacher Sylvia Tortosa. Just for once it would be nice to see a film where the roguish charmer and the stunning ice-maiden don’t end up making goo-goo eyes at each other before the final credits roll but, predictably enough, this isn’t it.

The course of true love doesn’t run smooth, though, as Kendall starts a thing with the mysterious Helga Liné, who favours a skimpy dark-green bikini with tassels and hanging around in damp places. Although we suspect this relationship is not going to end in a church wedding and Sunday morning trips to the garden centre. De Ossorio’s script also throws in a scientist researching cellular mutation, a torch bearing mob who give up after a couple of minutes, a blind violinist who seems to know more than he’s telling (he doesn’t), and the Lorelei getting all gnarly and eating hearts during a cycle of seven full moons (is she a werewolf then?)

‘Wanna go for a swim, babe?’

In puzzling developments, Kendall is the reincarnation of Siegfried (I think!) and a trio of sirens wrestle for his affections. The mayor admits they should ‘probably start an investigation’ after his town suffers the fourth brutal murder in as many days. Where are the police? I have no idea. Still, we can leave it all to Kendall who rocks a white suit, rifle and motorbike combo, following up with a bare chest and blue & white striped flared trousers that he stole from a fairground.

The girls at the school show some skin at the swimming pool, fawn over Kendall, and form an orderly queue to be the next victim while poor Liné freezes her bits off attempting to exhibit grace and poise gallivanting about half naked and barefoot on a muddy lakeshore. Toward the climax, the Lorelei (Loreley?) talks about spending eternity with Kendall in Valhalla (perish the thought!) but, hang on, isn’t that Norse mythology anyway? Finally, everything comes to a rather soggy and abrupt conclusion, courtesy of everyone wanting to get back inside in a hurry where it’s nice and warm.

It’s fair to say that De Ossorio’s strengths were in his visual style, rather than his scripts, but even that seems to have deserted him here. There are a few good shot compositions (particularly the landscape down by the lake) but, most of the film betrays little of his talent in that regard. Together with the hopelessly muddled storyline, there’s more than a little flavour of a project hurried into production before everything was ready. The tale had been tackled on the big screen before (a 1927 German silent) and it has potential, but sadly this is little more than a mash-up of old horror tropes and half-formed ideas.

The Loreley's Grasp (1973)

‘You do remember my ‘safe word’ right?’

De Ossorio returned to his ‘Blind Dead’ series, the second of which ‘Return of the Evil Dead’ (1973) also starred Kendall in the lead. In fact, several of the cast appear in both films and, as locations in and around Madrid are another common factor, it’s quite possible that the two projects were shot back to back. If so, it’s pretty obvious where De Ossorio’s heart lay (and even the attentions of the Lorelei couldn’t change his mind!)

Arguably, Kendall and Liné both left their best days behind them in the previous decade; Kendall as James Bond wannabe ‘Kommissar X’ and Liné in other Eurospy projects and two films featuring supervillain ‘Kriminal’. Having said that, the German-born actress remained very active in Spanish film and television until 2006. Although less regularly employed, it’s pleasing to report that Tortosa is still working, and is currently attached to a forthcoming project starring Alexander Siddig; familiar to ‘Star Trek’ fans for his regular role on ‘Deep Space Nine.’ And who can forget that she took a ride on the stylish ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and a wildly overacting Telly Savalas?

Not a terrible film by any means, but one that squanders a potentially interesting idea and delivers instead an occasionally entertaining but rather generic experience.

Manhunt In Space (1956)

Manhunt In Space (1956)‘When this lamp is switched on, the rays sent out by the terrifically cold light will make the Orbit Jet invisible.’

Rocky Jones and his crew are assigned to investigate the disappearances of space craft in the region of outpost Casa 7. Meanwhile his navigator Vena is already in the area, en route to visit her brother. Suddenly her rocket begins to lose power, and the pilot can do nothing about it…

Handsome hunk Richard Crane spent most of 1954 patrolling the space ways in his cardboard Orbit Jet on behalf of Secretary Drake and the United Worlds of the Solar System; dispensing justice with a ready grin and a twinkle in his eye. He fought the good fight against aliens wearing uniforms decorated with lightning bolts and dastardly space pirates. But, most importantly, he locked horns with alien potentate Cleolanta, played by Patsy Parsons in evening gown, dangly earrings and tiara. Yes, it was science fiction’s first steps into your living room, courtesy of syndicated TV show ‘Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.’ Hooray! Most of the time, stories played out over three 25 minute episodes, which were then combined into ‘features’ and re-broadcast later on under a different title. Hooray again!

In this early entry in the series (episodes 12-14 out of a run of 39!), Crane finds himself initially earth-side, enjoying some downtime with ‘zany’ sidekick Winky (Scotty Beckett) and junior ranger Bobby (Robert Lyden). But it doesn’t last long, of course, with news coming through of yet another spacecraft gone missing in the vicinity of Casa 7. This time the missing include his usual navigator Vena (cute blondie Sally Mansfield) so it’s not long before he’s on the case.

You won’t be too surprised to learn that there’s not really a lot of mystery in the whole affair. Mansfield’s ship has been hijacked, plundered and cast adrift by Henry Brandon and gang of his rent-a-goons. Mansfield and her pilot do put up a fight, though, and it’s nice to see that the blaggard’s ultimate victory isn’t down to a rookie mistake on her part. You see, she’s only a woman and, apart from that, all she manages to do in the whole 75 minute running time is stand around looking helpless and go off to make lunch a couple of times. And no, I’m not joking.

Manhunt In Space (1956)

‘I may let you get lucky later, Mister, but I’ll be thinking of Rocky…’

Of course, all these tiresome shenanigans are down to the machinations of the lovely Parsons who, as ever, is the only thing really worth watching. It’s surprising that it takes lunkhead Crane so long to work this out, as she’s always responsible for every nefarious plot he uncovers! As per usual, the subtle ‘cold war’ subtext means that the radio operator back at base is nothing but a damned Commie fifth columnist, intent on murder and mayhem. Really, Secretary Drake needs to stop pacing about his office worrying about Rocky and sort out his screening procedures!

Unfortunately, all these developments are seriously mundane and the only action on offer is a half-hearted climactic bout of fisticuffs. On the bright side, Professor Newton has invented a ‘cold light’ lamp thingy that turns the Orbit Jet invisible (cough; ‘cloaking device’; cough) and has put it at the disposal of the United Worlds of the Solar System (cough; ‘The Federation’; cough). Predictably enough, the standout scene features Parsons, who reacts with a wonderful hissy fit when she learns that Brandon has tried to kill Crane against her specific orders. Lieutenant Harry Lauter makes a crack about her fixation with our muscle-bound hero and gets a book thrown at his head!

Brandon has a typically one-note role as the villainous space pirate, but enjoyed a level of success as a supporting actor that the rest of the cast never came close to attaining. He began with unbilled bits in the early 1930s and worked his way up to minor supporting roles in pictures like the early Humphrey Bogart vehicle ‘Black Legion’ (1937) and hit serial ‘Buck Rogers’ (1939). After tangling with Rocky and his deadly smirk, he turned up in John Ford’s classic ‘The Searchers’ (1956), John Carpenter’s ‘Assault On Precinct 13’ (1976) and rounded off his career with the considerably less celebrated ‘Wizards of the Lost Kingdom ll’ (1989).

This was subtitled ‘An Adventure of Tomorrow’ on its re-broadcast but quite probably looked dated even back in the 1950s. After all, things didn’t seem to have moved on in any way from the movie serials that were popular two decades earlier.

It’s mighty poor stuff. Even in comparison with the other exploits of Rocky Jones and his crew.


The Mask of Diijon (1946)

The Mask of Diijon (1946)‘If l could concentrate my mind above the usual ordinary thoughts, I would be in touch with the infinite!’

An embittered magician retires from the stage to concentrate on his studies into the power of the mind. When financial considerations force him into a disastrous comeback, he uses the power of hypnotism to revenge himself on his enemies…

Flat, half-baked kind of horror from notorious low-budget studio PRC. Occasionally, their output did transcend the limited resources available, but this certainly wasn’t one of them. lt’s most remarkable feature is undoubtedly the presence of Erich Von Stroheim as the title character. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing of interest. Von Stroheim had been a world-famous director back in the silent days but disputes with studio executives over production costs and running times reached a head with ‘Greed’ (1927), when he went massively over budget and delivered a final cut of 7 hours! Subsequent disputes worsened his already profligate reputation and the industry needed little excuse to kick him to the curb as a filmmaker. After that, he plied his trade as a character actor until his death, most famously opposite ‘his’ former leading lady Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s classic ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950).

This is a somewhat less distinguished project (to put it mildly!) with Von Stroheim playing the grumpy mesmerist Diijon, who has retired at the top of the game as a stage magician and spends his days studying mystical texts whilst young wife Jeanne Bates frets over their mounting debts. When her ex-beau William Wright turns up with a job offer at a seedy nightclub, she persuades Von Stroheim to come out of retirement. Of course, there’s still unresolved feelings between the young couple and it doesn’t take anyone with extra-sensory perception to see where the story is headed next. Especially as Von Stroheim is the kind of nasty, miserable asshole that makes you wonder what Bates could possibly have seen in him in the first place.

What sinks these proceedings is the relentlessly unimaginative script by Arthur St Clare. Every story beat is thoroughly predictable, although to be fair, the final scene is brilliantly ridiculous and should raise a laugh even in the most jaded viewer. Director Lew Landers was responsible for 175 pictures in la long career, including (as Louis Friedlander) the wonderful gothic shocker ‘The Raven’ (1935) with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Later pictures in the same genre included ‘The Boogie Man Will Get You’ (1942) with Karloff and Peter Lorre, and the stylish ‘Return of the Vampire’ (1943) with Lugosi. Here, he tries to wring a little life out of proceedings with some weird camera angles and shadowy visuals that take the picture into the neighbourhood of Film Noir. Unfortunately, he seems to be the only person making any kind of an effort at all.

The Mask of Diijon (1946)

‘Give me my own movie or you’ll end up like this!’

Von Stroheim stalks about with a face like a wet weekend in February, giving a relentlessly one-note performance, but, in fairness to him, it must have been depressing to be a hired hand in such a pedestrian production given his experience, talent and history. He’d even played a very similar role a year earlier, in a far superior picture called ‘The Great Flamarion’ (1945). He does manage to look sad at one point, but was probably just thinking about his career.

The rest of the cast are utterly colourless with the exception of Edward Van Sloan, who plays a designer of magic props and tricks. He’d been unable to capitalise on his success as Dr Van Helsing in Lugosi’s ‘Dracula’ (1931) or his subsequent featured role in the classic ‘Frankenstein’ (1931). On the bright side, he gets the chance to show off his conjuring skills, and seems to be enjoying himself.

Despite some talent both behind and in front of the camera, this is an entirely disposable b-picture, likely only to be remembered for its very final moments, which come courtesy of a household cat who’s immunity to tear gas is only the beginning of his superpowers. Mess with this moggy at your peril!


Chloe, Love Is Calling You (1934)

Chloe Love Is Calling You (1934)‘Reckon most of ’em been up all night voodooing down in the swamp’

A voodoo priestess returns to Louisiana after 15 years to revenge herself on the plantation owner who she believes killed her husband. Unfortunately, her plans go awry when her mixed race daughter falls for a visiting white man…

1930’s romantic drama dressed up with a climactic voodoo ceremony that just about pushes the project into the borderlands of the horror arena. Nothing supernatural actually happens (and we never think it will for a moment!) but there is a little business with fetishes and pins in dolls before all the dark figures dancing in the smoke and the sacrificial knife is upraised.

This small studio, independent production sets its tale in the bayou around the property of Col Joyner (Frank Gordon) who lost his only child to a drowning accident many years before. His plantation distills resin from trees to produce turpentine, although we see nothing of its manufacture or workforce, aside from a couple of shifty members who star in a fairly pointless subplot. Enter Mandy (Georgette Harvey) who has brought daughter Chloe (Olive Borden) and family friend Jim (Philip Ober) back to her cabin after more than a decade away. She blames Gordon for the death of her husband who was lynched after the two indulged in a bout of fisticuffs. We later learn that Gordon was still unconscious when the murder was done, which I guess makes him completely innocent.

The problem for Harvey is that Borden meets handsome Reed Howes, who is helping Gordon and his niece Molly O’Day at the old homestead, and the two fall in love. In about thirty seconds flat. This is all completely fine because he thinks she’s white (and so do we for that matter). From there, the story development is so blatantly telegraphed that we can see everything coming from miles away. In fact, there’s really not much reason to watch the second half of the film! You know exactly how everything’s going to come out!

Obviously, the question of race is on a modern day audience’s mind when looking at a project like this. How does it look in today’s more enlightened times? Well, there are problems, certainly, but we are spared the eye-popping comedy schtick that was prevalent in Hollywood at the time. Yes, the Colonel and his white guests lounge around while the black folks fetch them mint juleps, but at least the servants are treated kindly and with respect. The main issue is with Borden’s character, who throws over her black family the first chance she gets for a shot at the wealth and privilege of the white world.

But it’s Jim who is the film’s main arguing point and question mark. It’s never established exactly who he is supposed to be (apart from a love rival for Howes), but he lives at the cabin with Mandy and Chloe. However, Ober was a white actor and, although prints of the film are in very poor condition, it doesn’t appear that any makeup was applied to darken his skin tone (and why not hire a mixed race/black actor for the role if that was what was required?) On the other hand, Borden rejects his romantic advances as if repelled by him, despite the fact that he’s a stand up guy who has even saved her life! Is it because she instinctively suspects they are off a different race? Obviously, you’d hope not but it is curious…and a puzzle that will probably never be solved.

Chloe Love Is Calling You (1934)

‘We’ve got to stop meeting like this.’

Overall, this melodrama plays out a fair bit like a film from the silent era and that’s not much of a surprise considering the talent that was involved. Director Marshall Neilan wielded the megaphone on more than half a dozen of Mary Pickford’s big hits before drinking and a vicious dispute with major mogul Sam Goldwyn over the final cut of ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ (1924) derailed his career.

The cast had mixed fortunes in later life with Ober becoming a respected character actor with a featured supporting role in Oscar winner ‘From Here To Eternity’ (1953) and many other appearances. O’Day was a teenage star in the 1920s, whose later career suffered due to alleged weight gain, although there’s absolutely no evidence of that here. She retired from the business in 1935, and lived to the age of 87. Howes also failed to make a successful transition into talkies, ending up as a heavy on a many a b-Western.

But the real story here is Borden. She was a bona fide star at Fox during the silent era, but the advent of talkies was the perfect opportunity for many studios to renegotiate contracts with their major names. Borden refused to take a pay cut and left. It proved to be an error of judgement with tragic consequences. She made only half a dozen more features, of which this was the last. In 1946, she was found scrubbing floors for a living and died in a home for destitute women on L.A.’s skid row barely a year later. She was 41 years old.

A relic of its time. Interesting from a historical perspective but not as entertainment.



Supermen Against The Orient/Crash! Che Botte…Strippo Strappo Stroppio (1973)

Supermen Against The Orient (1973)‘Don’t worry, I have a wonderful ointment made out of donkey fat.’

An incompetent FBI agent is sent to the Far East to investigate the disappearance of half a dozen of his colleagues. To solve the mystery, he must team up with two criminal ex-partners and members of a martial arts school in Hong Kong.

Curious hybrid of infantile comedy and chop socky action that formed part of a loose series of movies began by director Gianfranco Parolini with ‘The Three Fantastic Supermen’ (1967). The original starred Tony Kendall and Brad Harris from his ‘Kommissar X’ series, and was a cheerful amalgamation of Bond knock-off and caper film with nods to comic book and superhero genres. It was humorous without being an out and out comedy, an approach that was discarded when Parolini passed the baton to writer-director Bitto Albertini, the man behind the somewhat underwhelming ‘Goldface and The Fantastic Superman’ (1967).

So what’s new? Well, for a start, Kendall and Harris have been replaced by Robert Malcolm and Antonio Cantafora in the leads. And Kendall’s suave efficiency has apparently given way to complete incompetence. You see, according to the higher echelons at the bureau, Malcolm is a total disaster as an agent but always gets the job done (somehow?) So he’s hijacked from his wedding and packed off to Bangkok to begin this important mission. After ensuring he’s pointlessly strolled around plenty of nice-looking tourist board landmarks, he’s sent off to Hong Kong by mysterious femme fatale Shih Szu where he meets jovial crooks (and old friends) Cantafora and Sal Borgese. Borgese had replaced Aldo Canti from the original movie in the series as Canti’s film career was somewhat limited due to his links with organised crime, consequent time spent in jail and eventual murder in 1990. Borgese was actually the series’ only constant in front of the camera, having played a bit part in the original Parolini film.

The most interesting thing about the film are the circumstances of its production and how that influenced the finished product. This was an Italian-Hong Kong co-production, involving the world famous martial arts studio of the Shaw Brothers. They were looking to send their films overseas due to new censorship issues in local markets like Singapore. Similarly, Thailand had introduced a quota system to protect their local film industry, which probably explains the diversion to Bangkok. The result of this is that we get lots of tiresome knockabout comedy (the Italian element) periodically relieved by some well-choreographed scenes of hand to hand combat, particularly those involving local stars Lo Lieh and Lin Tung. Their climactic confrontation, although far too short, is quite easily the best sequence on offer. Szu was also a rising star in the genre so she gets to show off some of her moves, and that really is a young and unbilled Jackie Chan in one of the mass brawls…and he was involved in staging the fights.

Unfortunately, aside from the Kung Fu action, what we get is a truly painful trawl through lots and lots of dumb gags and painfully laboured attempts at humour. There’s a pointless and excruciating subplot about Cantafora and Borgese robbing the safe at the U.S. embassy (an idea actually lifted from the first film). What makes this much, much worse, is that this development means extended exposure to the comedy stylings of Jacques Dufilho as the American Consul, who mugs and flaps his way through proceedings as if begging the audience for laughs. The entire plot is sketchy at best, Albertni seemingly assembling random elements almost like he was putting together skits for a TV show.

Supermen Against The Orient (1973)

‘I thought there was only supposed to be 3 of us and, hang on, but aren’t you a girl?’

In the plus column, there’s possibly the most over-sung film theme of all time as Ernesto Brancucci squawks, growls and yelps through a demented number that almost defies description. There’s also a curious bit in a nightclub where traditional dancers wave their scarves on a dancefloor that looks strangely reminiscent of the one stalked by John Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever’ (1977) four years later.

Albertini was still on board with the series in the mid-1980s, and other entries include the trio heading back to the Wild West in a time machine! One curious note here; star Malcolm appeared in only three films; this one, ‘Sinbad and the Caliph of Baghdad’ (1973) and ‘Charity and the Strange Smell of Money’ (1973). He was the lead in all three, but has no other credits whatsoever. lt’s also highly likely that Robert Malcolm was an alias to help sell the film to U.S. distributors. I wonder who he really was?

Fast forward through the film and stop every once in a while for the martial arts action. And be sure to check out the theme song. If you dare.


Daimajin Strikes Again/Wrath of Daimajin/Daimajin Gyakushu (1966)

Daimajin Strikes Again (1966)‘Sulphur springs in Hell’s Valley send up yellow steam.’

Men from a remote mountain village are kidnapped and forced to work as slave labour by a tyrannical warlord. When news gets back to their home, four young kids mount a secret rescue mission. Unfortunately, they need to pass across the mountain that’s home to their fearsome god…

The third and final entry in Daiei Studio’s ‘Daimajin’ trilogy, focusing on an ancient god who manifests in times of trouble as a giant (and rather aggressive!) statue. The films are directly connected only by that concept, although all tell the same basic story. In fact, the first two movies are very similar indeed; with this one differing principally due to its focus on our pre-teen protagonists. Unfortunately, as it turns out, that probably wasn’t the greatest creative decision that the  filmmakers could have made.

We begin in a remote mountain village where the women and children are awaiting the return of their menfolk who have gone out on a hunting expedition. The younger members of the population include Tsurukichi (Hideki Ninomiya), best friend Kinta (Mosahide lizuka) and big boned Daisaku (Shinji Hori). When only one dying man makes it back with tales of mass kidnap by the evil forces of Toru Abe, the trio decide to take matters into their own hands. Despite being saddled with youngster Sugi (Muneyuki Nagatomo), their rescue mission makes it across the mountain, stopping to pay the appropriate homage to old stone face. Unfortunately, they are soon on Abe’s radar and he sends out a trio of samurai to deal with them…

What follows is a very mixed bag indeed. At times, it feels a little like a comedy as our heroes outwit both their pursuers (not very feasible) and an old woman who tries to warn them off. However, this is followed by some far more serious developments, such as almost freezing to death in a heavy snowfall and drowning in a racing river. Pleasingly, director Kazuo Mori doesn’t sugar coat this action, and not everything is hearts and flowers when the dust settles and the final credits roll. Unfortunately, there’s very little opportunity for character development so audiences aren’t particularly invested in the outcome, and it’s more than an hour into the film before the stone god gets his game face on. By then, we’ve spent far too much time pottering about in the woods.

Daimajin Strikes Again (1966)

It was a bit taters out…







And that’s a shame because the climactic scenes where the statue attacks the warlord’s fortress during a heavy snow storm are probably the best in the entire series. Skilful cutting means that some of the clumsier SFX shots of the other films are avoided, and the miniatures and mayhem are actually quite impressive. Unfortunately, they follow an hour’s worth of scenes that were probably the worst in the series.

All three of the films were actually shot at the same time, but released several months apart during 1966. It’s interesting that Daiei chose to ground their giant ‘monster’ in ancient folklore, rather than the science fiction world of Godzilla and his monster squad, but weren’t above hiring Toho veteran Akira lfukube to provide another of his impressive musical scores. None of the kids acted in anything significant again, although Abe had already appeared in Yasusiro Ozu’s classic ‘Tokyo Story’ (1953).

There’s been some confusion in recent years about the order of the films due to an early 1990’s DVD release where the titles of the 2nd and 3rd films were switched in error. This was the last of the stone god’s appearances for Daiei, although there was a,TV show in 2010 that seems to have used the character.

Worth seeking out for the last 20 minutes, but it’s a bit of a long trudge to get there.