Saturday, December 19, 2009

Daimajin gyakushu (1966)

...aka: Majin Strikes Again
...aka: Return of Daimajin, The
...aka: Return of Majin, The
...aka: Return of the Giant Majin, The

Directed by:
Kazuo Mori

After the surprisingly successful MAJIN, MONSTER OF TERROR came this immediate follow-up, which was filmed back-to-back with the two other Majin titles and is more or less just a rehash of the original. Unfortunately for this viewer, lightning didn't quite strike twice. There's a new set of characters here, but they're less interesting and less defined than the ones in the previous film. Furthermore, while the first featured several child characters, this one makes the mistake of centering the entire film around four of them, resulting in an overabundance of the cutesy that's not going to sit well with the glucose intolerant. The script doesn't really bring anything all that new or interesting to the table either. There are a couple of new additions to the Majin mythos, but the film still has the same basic premise as the first. The pacing is identical, right down to how (Dai)majin doesn't spring to life until the last 15-20 minutes of the film.

The film centers around two basic locations; a peaceful village and a mining camp. Right smack in the middle of the two is the steep mountain home of the giant (Dai)majin stone idol. Anyone who tries to side step the rocky terrain is kidnapped by an evil warlord and his army and forced to mine sulfur at a slave camp. If the prisoners cause any trouble or try to escape, they face death by being tossed into the boiling hot sulfur springs. Winter is quickly approaching and back at the village four concerned little boys want their missing fathers (now amongst the enslaved workers) back, so they decide to sneak off and brave the treacherous mountain all on their own. They scale cliffs, take a raft down rapids, try to avoid getting smashed by rockslides and avalanches and eventually are caught in a bad blizzard while trying to (sometimes comically) outwit the evil guards sent out to apprehend them. The kids also have an ally in a magical hawk who guides them along on their perilous quest. Naturally, when all seems lost, prayer brings Daimajin to life and he heads down to the mining camp to smash the place up, pummel the baddies and liberate the prisoners.

Though not nearly as enjoyable as the first, many of the same aesthetic pleasures have carried over to at least keep this juvenile fantasy-adventure watchable. Nearly every scene takes place outdoors and the mixture of well-designed sets and picturesque outdoor locations is fantastic. The special effects are also very good, as is the cinematography and music score. Then again, if you've seen the first already, you won't be seeing much new here. It was followed by THE WRATH OF DAIMAJIN, the third and final film in the series. Again, the top quality DVD release from AD Vision Films is recommended.


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