|Copyright 1966 Daiei Co. Ltd.
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 16 June 2007
- Kogenta - Capable, good with children, and dedicated. Why is this guy single?
- Tadafumi - Idealistic and inexperienced, but I admire his noble character.
- Kozasa - Looks like she just volunteered for the position of Majin High Priestess.
- Aunt Shinobu - Old woman who vacated the position of Majin High Priestess "under duress."
- Lord Hanabasa - This guy needed a better personnel reliability program. Assassinated.
- The Majin - For all your vengeful stone statue deity needs.
- Gunjuro - Even his eyebrows look evil. Crushed.
- Samanosuke - He was Hanabasa's chamberlain, but used the position to seize power and continued to expand his ill-gotten domain from there. Eventually impaled upon a ruined wall.
|Mt. Okimadini is the home of a powerful deity that frightens the peasants of Lord Hanabasa's domain. At times, terrible sounds thunder down from the mountain and the people gather to pray and perform a ritual that soothes the Majin, lest it awaken and destroy the village.
Such is the scene one dark night. Heavy booms echo through the village and the earth shakes. Villagers, torches in hand, rush to a sacred place near the mountain and light a bonfire. Many pray and a few others dress in costumes to perform a dance that symbolizes some aspect of the Majin's history. Lord Hanabasa instructs Samanosuke to go to the ceremony as a show of support, but the chamberlain uses the confusion to stage a bloody coup. Ashigaru loyal to Samanosuke suddenly boil out of the night to overrun Castle Yamanaka.
To say that the battle for the castle is a short and vicious affair is a massive understatement. A katana or uchigatana is a fearsome weapon and they are among the most effective sword designs. You would not want to engage in a pitched melee involving several dozen opponents who are wielding katana and uchigatana if you were wearing a kimono. That is exactly what happens as Hanabasa and his samurai are beset by Samanosuke's troops.
The only ones to survive the massacre are Kogenta, Tadafumi, and Kozasa (the latter two are only children). They escape with help from some of the other loyal samurai, who stage a heroic last stand against overwhelming odds so that the children and their steward can get away. With Samanosuke's troops searching the village and surrounding areas, the only possible refuge is Mt. Okimadini. Shinobu leads them along a secret path to a cave near the ancient stone statue of the Majin.
Ten years pass. Both of the children become young adults, while Kogenta and Shinobu gain a few gray hairs (not that worrying about an evil samurai's troops discovering the children's hiding place and executing them would cause premature aging). Life is much worse for the peasants under Samanosuke's rule. The villagers are little more than slaves, forced to work on a new fortress complex until they drop dead of exhaustion. When they pause, even to help someone who has collapsed or speak with a crying child, the guards whip them mercilessly.
Tadafumi learns of the peasants' plight and immediately searches for a way that he can kill Samanosuke. The young lord's desire is notable, not because he understands slaying Samanosuke would be a suicide mission - young men gain revenge at the expense of their lives in many movies - but because he is compelled to act to save the innocent villagers. For Tadafumi, battle is not glory or power, it is the only way he can uphold his bloodline's dedication to the welfare of his people.
The gray old retainer knows that his young lord would be recognized right away, so Kogenta volunteers to go to the village and make contact with anyone still loyal to the Hanabasa line. Quite unfortunately, he crosses paths with Gunjuro and is captured after a short chase. Tadafumi attempts a rescue, but falls into a trap and is also taken prisoner. Now, what I want to know is why did Tadafumi try to crawl across the bare landscape when it was not pitch black? Maybe it was supposed to be the dead of night, but the lighting makes it look like just after sunset or a day with heavily overcast skies. When you see Tadafumi low crawling across the ground, you will understand what I am talking about. Imagine me trying to crawl across my neighbor's lawn in the broad daylight. Exactly. Pretty soon some old woman is going to come out of the house and start hitting me with a broom, calling for help and screaming that I need to get out of her yard.
After a warning from Shinobu, Samanosuke's sinful pride finally gets the best of him. He orders Gunjuro to take a bunch of men to the mountain and destroy the statue of the Majin. Wrong thing to do. Very wrong. Pounding a huge spike into the statue's head causes blood to drip from it and the earth to shake. Gunjuro and the others are sucked into scintillating crevices that open in the earth. Either the graboids discovered disco and vacuum cleaners or the Majin is done playing around.
The Majin is done playing around. It materializes at the castle and wreaks havoc. Samanosuke and all who try to stand with him are utterly destroyed. Then, as a reminder to the villagers that it despises being called upon to settle human problems, the statue continues its rampage. Kozasa's piety finally convinces it to return to the mountain and be angry no longer.
Man, that is great. "I will destroy the evil samurai, but I am going to punish everyone for disturbing my slumber. Handle your petty mortal problems yourselves the next time."
I love the depiction of the Majin. Dark clouds darken the sky and gale force winds accompany the angry god during its rampage. Also, and this is beautifully realized, nothing that Samanosuke's army does has the slightest effect on the enormous walking statue. In American films like this you will see the creature roaring and reacting as it is attacked. The Majin marches through the fortress, destroying everything in its path. When mortals have the audacity to try and harm it, the thing gazes down with a look that conveys affront ("How dare you strike out against your god.") before smiting them. Overall, the unstoppable nature of the god is realized in a nearly perfect manner.
"Daimajin" is an exceptional giant monster movie, which can be quite surprising to a viewer who goes into it with low expectations. The Majin is not a radioactive reptile or prehistoric beast. It is a fitting embodiment for a god; especially when placed into a movie set in feudal Japan. What you really have is a classic samurai movie (fairly well executed, too). However, instead of the people staging a successful revolt or a neighboring lord helping to overthrow the evil regime, the unstoppable Majin crushes Samanosuke and his puny army.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Gods tend to walk flatfooted.
- If you ever appear on a Japanese version of "Wheel of Fortune," the best vowel to buy is an "A".
- There are some benefits in having a terminally ill friend.
- Life is not good when the evil lord's torture chamber is co-located with the blacksmith's forge.
- Japan is haunted by the spirits of old linen.
- Killing a nun is bad luck.
- Even deities are grumpy when they first wake up.
- The average person cannot survive being pushed through a rock wall and will make a lot of noise during the process.
- Opening Credits - If the Majin goes flying across the screen, with fire coming out of his butt, I am going to laugh popcorn out of my nose.
- 5 mins - The evil god is an anthropomorphic American Holly tree; go figure.
- 16 mins - Quick search. I guess it speeds things up when you don't have to look under any beds.
- 21 mins - Your God lived in a cave? (Well, it is pious.)
- 40 mins - Was this scene in the "Star Wars Holiday Special?"
- 57 mins - Their uniforms should have "We are evil" painted on the front.
- 74 mins - Karate chop!
- 80 mins - I was wondering when he was going to pull that out.
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||This is what is sounds like when someone is pushed through a stone wall.
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|The Daimajin suddenly appears outside of Samanosuke's fortress. This signals the beginning of the end for the despot.
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