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Daimajin (1966)
Not Rated

Starring: Miwa Takada, Yoshihiko Aoyama, and Jun Fujimaki

Rating:
*****
out of
*****

Giant monster movies -- especially those made in Japan during the 1960s -- are usually viewed as campy, kitschy, or children's entertainment. How seriously can a viewer take a movie that's essentially comprised of a man in a rubber suit destroying a model of Tokyo as toy planes and tanks fire bottle rockets at him? However, there are exceptions to every rule. Daimajin, made in Japan in 1966, is proof that, when done correctly, not all movies that feature a larger-than-life creature have to be silly.

Taking place in feudal Japan, Daimajin tells the story of a village who's peaceful ruler is overthrown by a vicious overlord. As the coup takes place, the rightful heirs, Princess Kozasa (Miwa Takada) and Prince Tadafumi (Yoshihiko Aoyama) escape the evil Samanosuke (Yotaro Gomi). With the help of Kogenta (Jun Fujimaki), the two children race off to hide in a forbidden area of the forest called Majin's Mountain. On the side of the mountain is a stone statue that is said to contain the spirit of the Majin, a vengeful god who watches over the village below.

As time passes, Samanosuke becomes more and more drunk with his power. Ten years after he began his rule, he forces the men of the village to build a fort that will allow him to rule without fear of being overthrown. News of his increasingly brutal treatment of the villagers gets back to Tadafumi, who is now 18 years old. Tadafumi decides that the time is right for him to return to the village and reclaim the position that is rightfully his own. But the plan goes horribly wrong. Kogenta and Tadafumi are captured and sentenced to be executed. Princess Kozasa appeals to the Majin to help free her brother and defeat the evil Samanosuke.

Not only is the story completely different than the usual monster movie, but the special effects on display during the movie's final moments are a testament that suitmation -- that is, the use of a man in a suit -- can be an effective way to film giant monster scenes. Aside from a just a few poorly matted blue screen shots and the use of an obviously rubber giant hand, the effects are nearly flawless.

Daimajin is a mostly forgotten kaiju (giant monster) movie and that's a terrible shame. It's got a compelling, if simple, story, a satisfying climax and it never ventures into camp territory. If you thought it was impossible to watch a Japanese monster movie with a straight face, hunt down Daimajin.

Trivia: Daimajin and its two sequels were filmed simultaneously and each released one year apart. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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