Review: Daimajin Strikes Again (aka Wrath of Daimajin) (1966)

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The third Daimajin picture is the weakest of the three.  It isn’t terrible, especially if you get to see a good transfer that shows just how great the visual effects can look, but the child leads really hurt it.

The story is much like the first two films.  This isn’t a sequel despite its title, which is problematic as well.  These films have be released and rereleased so many times over the years that they’ve had a variety of titles in English.  Some video releases have even mixed them up since the titles have little to do with the onscreen action.  Even IMDB has it wrong.  I reviewed Daimajin HERE and Return of Daimajin HERE if you’d like to know more about those.

This film’s plot centers around a small village of loggers who are kidnapped and forced to work in an evil samurai’s prison camp.  When one man escapes to tell the village what has happened to them, some goofball kids think it’d be a good idea to run off and rescue their dads.  The only trouble is, the only way they can get there before the snows set in and seal off the path is to cross the Maijin’s mountain.  When they find the Maijin statue, they at least have enough sense to pay their respects and ask for forgiveness for their trespassing.  This saves them from his wrath when he comes down off the mountain one last time to teach that wicked samurai a thing or two.

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The plot of this movie is very similar to the other films with a couple of notable exceptions.  I particularly liked the presence of a hawk “avatar” for the mountain spirit.  The hawk adds another element of danger to the boys as well as a direct link to the natural world.  He’s said to report back to the giant statue so whenever he’s around, we know Daimajin will know what’s happening.

Another big difference is the setting.  I usually refer to this Daimajin movie as “the snow one” since the big battle at the end takes place in the snow.

But the biggest change is the use of children in the lead roles.  Now, I have no problem with child actors if we don’t see them acting, but very few kids can pull that off.  These kids are the worst of the worst.  They recite their lines while standing in a row with big pauses and overly earnest deliveries.  It’s like sitting in on auditions for a community theatre production of Annie.  Nails on a chalkboard, people.  I blame director Kazuo Mori, not the children.  Mori should have shot the film in such a way that he could have cut around these terrible, terrible performances.  With 64 credits listed on IMDB, including a number of Zatoichi films, it’s hard to imagine that Mori thought this was passable fare, but the evidence is there before us.  By the time I got to the ass-kicking scenes, I really didn’t care.  I’d already had to hear a child yell “Suki-bo” (little Suki) a thousand times and my mind was mush.

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The same score from the other films by the brilliant Akira Ifukube is recycled here and, once again, it works.  Too bad it doesn’t obscure the kids’ dialogue.

The real treat on display for the first time on the Mill Creek blu ray is the incredible effects work done on the picture.  The matte paintings are fantastic as is the miniature work.  The only weird FX choice was that the Daimajin statue seems to have gotten smaller this time around.  He looks to be close to twenty feet tall which would put him in a different scale than in the other two movies.  Even the practical hand used on set looks smaller.  It’s strange.

Overall, if there’s one Daimajin feature to miss, it’s this one.  Only recommended for those who love the other two and absolutely have to see the third.