Movies From the Black Lagoon: Return of Daimajin

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Return of Daimajin - 1966, Rated PG
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

This month we salute the films of Japan and suggest that all readers who are enjoying a 'stay-cation" this summer avail themselves to the wealth of excellent genre release from this mighty country.
We kick things off with this variation on monster movies. Japanese cinema went international with the success of 'Godzilla." Pretty soon there were a whole host of giant nuclear spawned monsters crushing Tokyo while vertically challenged stuntmen sweated off the pounds under bulky rubber suits. This effort is a seldom seen variation on that theme in which the monster is a hero (in this case a stone statue that is worshipped by villagers) who comes back to life to right wrongs by stomping the bad guys into so much road paste.
The story begins with an introduction to the destructive powers of Damajin. We witness his wrath in a well-crafted montage that sees fleeting glimpses of his limbs while floods, avalanches, and tremors destroy scenic landscapes. The camera settles on a remote village and we learn that most of the woodsmen who live there have been captured by a warlord and are now slave labor being worked to death in a sulfur pit in the well named 'Hell valley."
The villagers have no one to turn to for help so four children decide to sneak away and rescue their dads. Their journey is a rugged one and they encounter all sorts of peril. They discover the statue of Damajin and stop to worship it before snow and a band of scouts for the warlord slow them up. They manage to actually outwit the samurais and even steal their food but a snowstorm dead-ends their celebration. Soon only one is conscience and he is not much of a threat to the bad guys who stalk them with muskets.
Luckily their prayers have awakened the sleeping giant, Damajin. He comes to life and immediately proceeds to stomp on the three samurai before heading to Hell's Valley for some righteous vengeance on the evil warlord. What follows is vintage destruction and terror as the giant wrecks the bad guy's fort and then smashes, stabs, tosses, and crunches every last evildoer.
This one is a keeper and deserves a spot next to "Godzilla" in your video library. This effort, and the other two in this series, is well rendered revenge yarns that also work in scenes of mass destruction by an enraged giant. Damajin is a cool visual as he sports ancient armor, a variety of enormous blades, and a squat green face that makes him resemble 'The Incredible Hulk." The photography and effects is top notch as is the story, which spends plenty of time (about an hour) setting up the circumstances so that you find yourself cheering for the giant's rampage.
Great stuff but only the tip of the genre iceberg for this country. More to follow next week.
Best Line: "We had to do it to save the "Village People."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.