Director: Kenji Musumi
Starring: Kjiro Hingo, Shiho Fujimura
First just to get it out of the way, this is actually the second in the Daimajin trilogy. The company that released them in America "A.D. Vision" had apparently swapped the second and third titles by mistake, titling this one "Wrath..." and the third one "Return" when it should be the other way around. Aargh! O.K. now on to our story...
In 1966, Daiei (Gamera's home studio) embarked on an expensive and ambitious trilogy of period films that were variations of The Golem legend. Each (free standing) film told the story of an evil Warlord suppressing his people only to have them avenged by a giant samurai statue that comes dramatically to life in the final twenty minutes.
Essentially it was three variations of the same story, with each film reinterpreting the legend. This second version was the one that impressed me the most. It has the strongest religious overtones as Majin is literally referred to as "God". At the climax, the High Priestess is tied up, Crucefix style and set ablaze while her followers are made to watch helplessly (like I said, the Warlord is a real S.O.B.). Then, the lake begins to stir (the statue had earlier been blown to pieces, it's head sent sailing into said lake). The once inanimate statue rises and comes to life by placing it's clenched hands over it's face, revealing a furious blue faced visage (this stern, cleft chinned face was reportedly modeled on actor Kirk Douglas!). The waters part around him ala The Ten Commandments and he proceeds to rescue the Priestess and lay waste of the Warlord and his samurai.
The film was directed by the venerable Kenji Misumi who lensed (among many, many others) four of the six Lone Wolf and Cub/Baby Cart features (all six of which are personal favorites) as well as a good many of the Zatoichi films. He brings his customary high style and grace to the proceedings always keeping the story moving at a good pace (no mean feet considering the convoluted nature of the story and the many characters that inhabit it).
The very impressive finale featured strong special effects work by Yoshiyuki Kuroda and was puncuated by what may be the most majestic score of master composer Akira Ifukube's career (and that's saying something). Incidentally, the actor in the Majin costume was Riki Hashimoto who would later play the main Japanese baddie in Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury.
For the clip below, I chose a still picture that ultizes maestro Ifukube's full, uninterrupted score. Even now, listening to this intense theme causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand.
***1/2 / ****