Plot: What’s it about?
The lack of kaiju releases on DVD has been a let down, but now that ADV Films has issued all three films in the Daimajin series, genre fans have some good news for a change. These three films were all made at the same time and feature the same massive stone warrior, but this is not a typical franchise. The sequels do not continue the storyline of the original and instead, simply offer different takes on the rock creature’s potential. In a move that is sure to delight fans, ADV Films has thrown all three movies together for a rock bottom price, all in widescreen transfers and in the original Japanese language format. In other words, this is a great chance to nab the original versions of these fun movies for a minimal amount of cash. I do wish this set had some extras and featured anamorphic widescreen transfers instead of letterbox, but when you compare the price versus the 16:9 enhanced imports, you can see how much of a bargain this set is. If you’re into samurai movies, kaiju cinema, or you just love Japanese filmmaking, then The Complete Daimajin is highly recommended and I commend ADV Films for their work here. I have included a brief plot synopsis of each film below, in case you’ll want the scoop on the storylines.
1. Daimajin- When an evil warlord named Samanosuke begins a reign of terror in a small village, it seems as if the locals have no hope at all. Samanosuke was able to stage a hostile takeover of power when the villagers were busy praying to keep Maijin, a giant stone warrior, imprisoned in his rock tomb. Once he assumes power, Samanosuke forbids the villagers to visit the Maijin location and this means no prayers for continued imprisonment, which the local priestess warns him of, but he ignores her pleas. A decade later, the children of the village have become adults and are battling hard times, to say the least. With hope dwindling and the need for heroes at an all time high, will help arrive in a most unexpected fashion?
2. Wrath of Daimajin- A peaceful village on a lake has been tranquil for years, until an evil warlord storms in and starts to terrorize the locals. The village’s leaders are taken down by stealth assassins and no stone is left unturned in conquering the villagers, to the point where homes are wrecked and innocent lives are lost. In the nearby lake, the large stone warrior Maijin rests and watches over the locals, which makes them feel safer, even in such violent times. But when the warlord has the Maijin demolished, it drains any remaining hope from the villagers. Soon however, some of the warlord’s minions begin to be pulled down into the lake never to resurface again. Is this simple coincidence, or has the Maijin seen enough injustice?
3. Return of Daimajin- As the huge stone warrior Maijin looks down from the top of a mountain, a peaceful village below goes through its daily motions. But this serene backdrop is soon torn to shreds, thanks to an invading warlord and his sidekicks. This warlord seeks to take control of the village and use it for his own personal gains, which happen to include the enslavement of the locals, including women and children. When resistance is put up, the warlord simply slaughters those who stand against him, which leaves minimal hope for the surviving villagers. But the Maijin still looks down on his people and when some of the locals escape to ask for assistance, the might stone warrior could rise and exact some vengeance of his own…
Video: How does it look?
All three of these movies have been presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, though none have been enhanced for widescreen televisions. I have to admit this was a disappointment, as the Japanese import discs have anamorphic transfers, but you can purchase this entire set for half the cost of one of the import releases, so I can’t complain too much. The image isn’t as clean and sharp as the import editions either, but aside from some marginal print defects, these movies all look solid and fans should be pleased. The films were made in the 1960s and time has worn them somewhat, with marks and debris present, but grain isn’t too frequent and that’s good, as black levels remain stable and softness isn’t too bad at all. As I said, I wish the same transfers were ported over from the imports, but even as it stands, the movies have been given nice treatments here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio is more than acceptable, but we’re talking about soundtracks from the 1960s, so don’t expect miracles here. The original Japanese soundtracks have been preserved, which is excellent news, since no one like dubs, of course. The dialogue is clean and never seems muffled, while the music comes across in terrific form, as expansive and rich as mono allows. I found the sound effects to be stable and consistent, but this is a 1960s assortment of mono soundtracks, so keep your expectations realistic. In case you don’t speak Japanese, ADV Films has also included English subtitles with this fine collection.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release includes a promotional trailer for the Daimajin series.