Today I watched Kazuo Mori’s Wrath of Daimajin (1966)
This time around, the Daimajin has taken up residence on the top of a mountain. On one side of the mountain lie a number of small villages, but on the other side an evil warlord has opened a sulfur mine. Said warlord has kidnapped a good number of men from the villages and is now exploiting them as slaves, despite their villages not landing in his territory. The grand plan is to make a good deal of gunpowder and then use it to conquer the surrounding territory. But a number of young boys have decided to brave Daimajin’s mountain, crossing into the sulfurous territory known as Hell’s Valley to save their fathers from slavery and abuse.
Wrath of Daimajin takes the genre blend of giant monster and samurai movies that defines the series and adds another source of influence, that of boyhood adventures. These types of film seem to be less common these days, they focus on child, most often male, protagonists who are forced into the kinds of adventures usually reserved for pulp heroes. That being said this film still approaches that subject matter in a relatively unique way as boyish flights of fancy are replaced by a stark and meditative atmosphere. There is a quiet sadness the permeates this film as if time were frozen in the moment before tragedy strikes.
Along with this the film refines the political subtext behind Daimajin’s actions. Social oppression has always been a trigger that activates Daimajin, but previously it had always been at the behest of good and just lords in the face of villainous and evil lords. Here, finally, we see Daimajin acting for the common man and the common man alone, destroying everything else that stand in it’s path. So really it’s a historical, samurai, giant monster, boyhood adventure, Marxist movie, that sounds pretty cool to me. Of course is the giant monster part good? Yes, absolutely, the finale of this film is the best of the series in my opinion. When it gets time for things to be smashed and destroyed, this film delivers, but all the theme and character that is also going on makes it great by putting the action into an understandable and entertaining context. 5/5