Daimajin (Japan 1966)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/11/13
Music: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Miwa Takada, Jun Fujimaki

An interesting attempt to combine samurai drama with giant monster action, but honestly, the main reason I watched it was for the lovely Miwa Takeda. To my surprise, it turned out to be much better than I expected. A cruel and ambitious retainer overthrows his lord and takes over his castle. He makes the villagers suffer while he indulges in power and makes plans for conquering neighboring kingdoms. He also has the audacity to destroy a sacred statue of the wild mountain god (Daimajin) that protects the people and punishes evildoers. Daimajin doesn't take kindly to the insult, and the statue comes alive to rain death and destruction on the villain's castle. Only Miwa Takada's tears can calm Daimajin's rage before he turns his blind wrath against the villagers as well.

High production values, fantastic scenery, beautiful cinematography, superb visual effects, and a thoughtful script make this a highly enjoyable fantasy outing. The pacing is a bit sluggish and Daimajin only shows up in the last fifteen minutes, but the cast is delightful and the material is strong enough to keep it dramatically interesting throughout. The scenes of destruction as Daimajin descends upon the bad guy's lair are wonderful, and he's quite menacing despite his ridiculous looks. Miwa Takada is lovely as always, but she spends most of her time in sadness and despair, which robs the audience of her enchanting smile. Akira Ifukube's music score is full of dread and doom, and very reminiscent of his numerous "Godzilla" scores. The visual effects are particularly noteworthy due to the ingenious use of color and lighting, and Daimajin's arrival has a surreal quality that bends reality, as if the door to Hell itself were opening. Good stuff.