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Articles & Reviews by Mike Bogue

(a.k.a. Return of the Giant Majin )

A Review by Mike Bogue

Japanese release: April 17, 1966

American release: (Released to television by AIP-TV in 1967)

Direction: Kimiyoshi Yasuda

Screenplay: Tetsuro Yoshida

Music: Akira Ifubuke

Special Effects: Daiei Special Effects Department

Producer: Masaichi Nagata

The phrase "more of the same" could have easily been coined for TheWrath of Daimajin. It resembles its predecessor Daimajin in almost every way. We have a benevolent ruler overthrown, an evil warlord who brutalizes the people, a stalwart heroine who never loses faith in the local god, and, of course, a finale in which Majin springs to vivid special effects life.

Now Wrath of Daimajin isn't exactly like Daimajin, of course. The characters and situations have been re-arranged. This evil tyrant seems even more sadistic than last time, wickedly chortling as he hopes to burn the heroine alive while he forces the bound heroes to watch. In addition, we actually see Majin's stone statue blown to bits early in the film. Now of course we know that it will still come to life by the end, though it's unclear whether the body materializes from the head cast into the waters or whether it magically pulls together all its scattered parts. Doesn't really matter, of course.

Majin's rampage is, once again, spectacular to the max. The hulking samurai statue causes the waters of the lake to split in two while it strides regally to shore. This effect is excellent, one of the best found in any 1960's kaiju eiga, and is easily as good or better than the parting of the Red Sea in 1956's big-budget The Ten Commandments.

Unlike last time, once Majin reaches the scene of the would-be crime -- the immolation of the heroine -- his wrath is solely reserved for the villains. He saves the heroine, then makes the evil tyrant and his minions wish they'd never chosen to subjugate the peaceful lake populace. Plenty of convincing eighteenth-century real estate topples as Majin routes the evildoers. Their attempts to literally blast the giant ambulatory warrior prove futile, and in a fitting touch, the tyrant finds himself tangled up in the mast of his would-be escape boat as Majin provides fire that sets the boat and the villain ablaze -- the bad guy suffers the same fate he had sadistically reserved for the heroine.

The Judeo-Christian religious symbolism -- the parting of the lake, the would-be crucifixion of the heroine who offers her life for her people, the villain's death in a controlled lake of fire, the pleas to a chosen people's god -- may be unconscious, perhaps even unintended. But it is nevertheless interesting. Indeed, the notion of a protective God who remains hidden except when He chooses to intervene at the last minute sounds curiously akin to the Old Testament's Yahweh.

Like most sequels, The Wrath of Daimajin lacks the freshness of its predecessor. Even Akira Ifubuke's music seems to be over-borrowing from his stock Toho monster movie themes. But this opulent fantasy is still well worth a look, especially in the widescreen format. Majin would live to reappear in Return of Daimajin, the third and last entry in the series.

TRIVIA: For a while, word had it that Kevin Costner (!) was interested in producing a remake of Daimajin. In addition, once Daiei started its Gamera series anew in the 1990's, the studio apparently considered reviving Majin for a cinematic comeback as well. Too bad it didn't happen. Of course, imagine if they'd put the two newly refurbished monsters in one movie -- Gamera Meets Majin? But, of course, I'm only dreaming . . . zzzzzzzzz . . .


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