The Daimajin Trilogy (Arrow Video) (BLU-RAY REVIEW)

The Daimajin Trilogy (Arrow Video) (BLU-RAY REVIEW)
RATED: UR/REGION A/2:35/1080P/NUMBER OF DISCS 3
AVAILABLE FROM Arrow Video

In 1966, the Daiei Motion Picture Company – the studio behind Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMON and the Gamera series – released a trilogy of films that combined elements of the popular daikaiju (giant monster) and jidaigeki (period drama) genres. Set during Japan’s “Warring States” era, the Daimajin movies told the story of Majin, a giant statue of an angry god that would come to life in times of desperation to punish evildoers. But when Majin’s rage was unleashed, it could be directed at both the wicked and innocent, alike.Acclaimed for their serious tone and spectacular special effects, DAIMAJIN, RETURN OF DAIMAJIN and the rarely-seen DAIMAJIN STRIKES AGAIN present a unique take on a monster who is both savior and devil.

Daimajin (1966)
Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda

A samurai lord of a once peaceful village was murdered by one of his own men. The traitor then claims the throne, forcing the lord’s two small children to flee into the woods, where they conceal themselves near the huge stone statue of Daimajin, the god of their village. After 10 years, the new samurai lord was proven to be very brutal and merciless towards the villagers, showing off his authority to no limits. Therefore, the villagers pray for Daimajin to awaken and to use his powers and spirit to save them from the treachery.

You’ll have to look over my lack of a plot detail for these three films. Basically, it is the same plot of people being taken over by evildoers only for this giant monster to come in and clean house on the bad guys. Each film was made at the same time and released a year apart but here we have the original and it’s pretty cool for what it is. We have sword fighting and we have a giant monster that comes from stone. The end result is what you expect from monster movies from Japan. This isn’t Godzilla or even Gamera, but it isn’t bad for what it is. Sure it is corny and we’d like more blood, but it’s still fun in all its cheesy glory.

Extras

  • Audio commentary by Japanese film expert Stuart Galbraith IV
  • Introduction by critic Kim Newman
  • Bringing the Avenging God to Life, a video essay about the special effects of the Daimajin films by – Japanese film historian Ed Godziszewski
  • Alternate opening credits for the US release as Majin – The Monster of Terror
  • Trailers for the original Japanese and US releases
  • Image gallery


QUALITY OF TRANSFER: 93%

Return of Daimajin (1966)
Director: Kazuo Mori

After conquering a village, an evil warlord sets his sights on another by the lakeside. He kidnaps village local Katsushige Nakoshi (Kôichi Uenoyama) and offers an ultimatum to the villagers to hand over one of their protectors, Lord Juro (Kôjirô Hongô), in exchange for the release of Katsushige. But, Lord Juro and the brave people defy the evildoers and decide to fight for their freedom and their homeland themselves. When their sacrifices seem in vain, they pray to their stone god to awaken and fight for them.

What we have here is pretty much a wash and repeat of the plot before only with new people. In a few ways, it tops the original. I think the action and plot flows better and come across better. I still can’t say it’s better than the original since all it does is repeat the process before with new characters. Still, it’s solid in its own right and like each film in this set, it looks really good in HD. While overall on a level quality with the previous film, I do believe the film’s climax comes across much cooler this time around.

Extras

  • Audio commentary by Japanese film experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
  • My Summer Holidays with Daimajin, an interview with Professor Yoneo Ota, director of the Toy Film Museum, Kyoto Film Art Culture Research Institute, about the production of the Daimajin films at Daiei Kyoto
  • From Storyboard to Screen: Bringing Return of Daimajin to Life, a comparison of several key scenes in – Return of Daimajin with the original storyboards
  • Alternate opening credits for the US release as Return of the Giant Majin
  • Trailers for the original Japanese and US releases
  • Image gallery


QUALITY OF TRANSFER: 90%

Wraith of Daimajin (1966)
Director: Kenji Misumi

An evil warlord invades a peaceful lakeside village during one of their annual festivals. In the course of burning down buildings, executing helpless civilians, and generally looting and pillaging, the warlord’s men blow up the statue of the village god and sink the pieces deep in the lake. Everything looks hopeless for the people of the village until a strange force from beneath the water’s surface begins pulling enemy soldiers to their deaths. Has the local come back for its revenge?

I must admit that as much as I did enjoy these films, seeing three in a row that have almost the same plot does get a bit tiresome. The films aren’t the longest in the world but the trilogy didn’t go out of its way to change things up that much. It is still a cool monster and a cool idea. The look of the third film is a little soft in the transfer, but overall it’s a cool flick as well. I just wouldn’t recommend watching all three in a row like I did. Overall, it’s a set that is a must-own for any giant monster movie fan. And let us not forget that this third film while being the weakest is probably the rarest as well.

Extras

  • Audio commentary by Asian historian Jonathan Clements
  • Interview with cinematographer Fujio Morita discussing his career at Daiei and his work on the Daimajin Trilogy
  • Trailers for the original Japanese release
  • Image Gallery


QUALITY OF TRANSFER: 90%

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