Saturday Afternoon Kaiju: Daimajin (1966)
This week, while looking for what to film to highlight, my husband (without whom I might not have rediscovered my love for Kaiju) suggested we go away from our two big green friends and look at something a little different. Sure, Daimajin is big guy but he’s also made of stone. Don’t get him mad, though. You wouldn’t like him when he’s mad.
Daimajin means “great demon god” and the villagers are scared to death of his return. They see him every day because he’s is a huge stone figure whose spirit has been trapped inside of the mountain. They can see “Majin” from the waist up if they go into the forbidden area of the forest. These villagers believe in this vengeful god so they do not try to provoke him.
There are some shenanigans happening at Lord Hanabasa’s place. One of his underlings, Samanosuke, decides he wants to take over the area so he and others decided to kill Hanabasa and his family. Once the blood starts to shed, huge tremors hit the area and the villagers (who don’t know what’s happening at Hanabasa’s place) sound the alarm. They all gather at the local shrine to pray to Majin to spare them. Samanosuke isn’t worried about the shaking, he’s still trying to catch and kill Hanabasa’s two young children. Loyal to Hanabasa, the samurai Kogenta manages to escape with the children and they go on the run.
Samanosuke is determined to kill the prince and princess. He knows Kogenta has taken them and searches the entire village. He and his men go door to door trying to find them, killing and destroying anything in their way. The three runaways hide in the old priestess Shinobu’s house. She has already been warned by Samanosuke that she and the villagers are forbidden to gather at the shrine anymore. Shinobu decides to take the three up to a secret temple; up on the mountain top where Majin is located.
Time passes and we see Samanosuke has enslaved all of the villagers. He has them working day and night in some sort of rock quarry. They are starving and people are dying of exhaustion. We find that the prince, Tadafumi, and the princess, Kozasa, are now in their teens. Tadafumi is itching for revenge but Kogenta tells him it is not time yet. Eventually, Kogenta relents and says he’ll sneak down into the village to see what’s up. Naturally, he gets captured. When he fails to return, Tadafumi takes it upon himself to go rescue Kogenta and kill Samanosuke.
Samanosuke knows the Hanabasa children are alive even though Kogenta, under torture, refuses to tell him where they are. Samanosuke also knows that Tadafumi will come after Kogenta so he’s ready for him. With both scheduled to die, hope seems lost. Samanosuke though, not satisfied with having both Kogenta and Tadafumi decides it would be a good idea to smash Majin. He’s drunk and he’s tired of everyone praying to the god. He sends his men up the mountain and they drive a huge metal stake into Majin’s forehead. Of course blood pours from the wound. Majin isn’t having any of it and the earth opens up and they fall in. Kozasa prays to Majin and asks him to save her brother. In return, she will throw herself down the waterfall. Majin comes to life at the idea of her potential sacrifice. She begs the god to save her brothers and kill Samanosuke. Majin pulls the stake out of his forehead and puts on his game face. By that I mean his stone face turns into that of a samurai demon. He starts his lumbering journey down the mountain. When a stone statue starts walking, you know shit is about to go down.
Majin is slowly making his way down to the pit, destroying things as he goes. Now, although he isn’t as destructive as say, Godzilla, who breaths fire and razes Toyko or as cool as Gamera, who can spin around, fly, and is a friend to all children, Majin is still pretty awesome. He’s a giant stone samurai warrior come to life walking around Japan. Like all Kaiju creatures, although the people treat him like the enemy, he really is a hero.
Kozasa runs down the mountain to find her brother and Kogenta. She beats Majin down the mountain because, you know, he’s a slow moving stone statue. He isn’t really adroit so he can’t move quickly. Kozasa finds the two men. They are both about to be crucified. Majin shows up and destroys the entire place. He isn’t messing around. He makes one of the best kills in all of Kaiju films. You’ll know it when you see it. Do the two men get rescued? I think you know the drill here. It doesn’t matter that we know what’s going to happen, it’s the journey in getting there.
Daimajin is put out by Daiei who also put out the Gamera films. This production of looks great. It’s a period piece so everyone is mainly in tradition costumes of the time. Yeah, yeah, it’s obvious the facial hair is glued on, that doesn’t take me out of it. The director here is Kimiyoshi Yasuda, who also worked on the Zatoichi and Yokai Monsters films. Majin’s suit looks awesome, too. The movie is available to stream for free on Popcornflix.com. I had to deal with commercials (the same Hacksaw Ridge trailer four times in a row) about every 20 minutes or so. Still though, the copy, once it pops into HD (after the ads) was pretty pristine. This version is the English dub of the movie. When you’re in the mood for some Kaiju and want something a little different, give Daimajin a try. You’ll be glad you did.