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.

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