KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Daimajin (1966)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a ghostwriter of personal memoirs for Story Terrace London and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Daimajin takes place in feudal-era Japan. It opens with a small village being overthrown by an evil overlord named Samanosuke (Yutaro Gomi.) He kills everyone in the royal family except the young Princess and Prince Tadafumi who go into hiding on the mountain where the statue of the ancient god Majin stands. Legend has it that Majin has the soul of a warrior trapped inside him and must not be angered lest there be grave consequences.

After ten years of repression and starvation, an attempt is made to restore the old regime but Samanosuke is simply too powerful. That is, until he decides to mock Majin. He instructs his cronies to pound a chisel into the head of the statue to try and destroy it. Majin wakes up in a really bad mood and goes on a wild rampage to set things straight.

Daimajin holds up very well after more than 55 years. It is different from most giant monster movies of the 1960s in its period-piece setting makes it timeless to modern audiences. It can just as easily be called a Samurai film as a giant monster movie. There’s also plenty of good acting and special effects to be had. Sadly, we don’t get to see Majin until the final reel of the film and the action ends just as abruptly as it began. The miniature sets are extremely well photographed with some of the shots eclipsing the bigger budget efforts of the time. The supernatural elements of the story are expertly interwoven with the human drama and Majin never comes off as a fun monster the way Gamera (Daiei’s other star of the period) did. Daimajin is a serious film with very little humor to be had but it is still very enjoyable. Adding to the moodiness of the piece is a brooding score by Akira Ifukube who composed the majority of the Godzilla films over at Toho Studios. The good news is, Daimajin has been released in the U.S. in the widescreen format with its original soundtrack with Japanese subtitles. For those with Region Free players, the entire Daimajin trilogy has been released in a pristine boxed set in Japan. I suspect Majin would be pleased.

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