Return of the Giant Majin (1966)

aka Daimajin gyakkushu
Article 2525 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2008
Posting Date: 7-11-2008
Directed by Kazuo Mori
Featuring Riki Hashimoto, Shinji Hori, Shiei Iizuki
Country: Japan

A festival in a lakeside village is interrupted by an invading warlord, who blows up their god Majin. However, that doesn’t mean that Majin is dead…

There are moments during the first sixty minutes of this movie where I wondered why I was bothering; after all, I’ve seen the other two Majin movies, and all three of them follow the same plot. Basically, the first sixty minutes of the movie is an exercise at seeing how bad things can get for the villagers until Majin finally goes on his rampage. This is perhaps the weakest of the three movies in this regard; I found the story very confusing during this segment. But then, Majin rises and wreaks his vengeance, and you know why you bothered; Majin remains one of the most impressive giant monsters of all time, an invincible force of deliberate implacable vengeance, and his every reverberating footstep sends chills down your spine. Whatever flaws plague the first sixty minutes, the magnificent climax more than makes up for it. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that no one has bothered to resurrect Majin in recent years, though it may be because he is far less well known than Godzilla or Gamera. I still think Majin’s theme music has more than a passing resemblance to Godzilla’s theme, which is no doubt a deliberate move on Akira Ifukube’s part, as he composed both pieces of music. Still, if any monster has earned the right to cop the Godzilla theme, Majin has.



Inn of the Damned (1975)

Article 2524 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-2-2008
Posting Date: 7-10-2008
Directed by Terry Bourke
Featuring Judith Anderson, Alex Cord, Michael Craig
Country: Australia

A trooper tries to hunt down a wanted man, and then investigates an inn with which he was associated. The inn has a history of people going missing after they’ve stayed there; in truth, the owners of the inn have been murdering the guests for their money.

Here’s something you don’t see everyday; an Australian horror western. It’s a fairly interesting movie in its way, but it isn’t really successful. Part of the reason is that the movie never really settles down into what it wants to be, and ends up trying several approaches. The first half of the movie concentrates on the chase of a criminal and the second half of the movie concentrates on the goings-on at the inn, where a madwoman and her husband murder the guests in various ways. Individual moments work well enough, but at one time or another it aspires to be a western action thriller, a mystery, a horror movie and an exploitation movie (there’s a lot of gratuitous nudity and an unnecessary lesbian subplot during one twenty minute stretch of the film). For those watching it for its horror movie elements, you’ll find most of the first half of the movie a waste of time. It does build up a good amount of suspense during the final showdown between the trooper and the innkeepers, and this is the best part of the movie. Unfortunately, it tries to end the movie with one of the most protracted explanations of “why these mad people do what they do” since PSYCHO, and it tries way too hard to make us feel sorry for them. It’s worth catching if you’re interested in something different, even if it doesn’t hang together very well.


Santo vs Frankenstein’s Daughter (1972)

aka Santo vs. la hija de Frankestein
Article 2523 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2008
Posting Date: 7-9-2008
Directed by Miguel M. Delgado
Featuring Santo, Gina Romand, Anel
Country: Mexico

The daughter of Frankenstein kidnaps Santo’s girlfriend in the hopes of luring the wrestler to her lair. There she plans to use his blood to improve her serum for eternal youth.

Hey, this movie reveals that Santo actually has a superpower; his blood contains a chemical that causes super healing abilities. That explains why he can take a licking and keep on ticking in the wrestling ring. It also explains why the Daughter of Frankenstein, (who has a serum that can return youth to the old, a legion of minions (all old men kept loyal by the threat of having their serum withheld), and two monsters to help battle wrestlers that show up) wants to capture him; apparently, she’s becoming immune to her own serum and needs his blood to freshen things up a bit. What emerges is the type of plot I call the “Capture-Go-Round”; almost all of the movie is about people being captured, escaping, being recaptured, escaping again, etc. etc. Obviously, this is one Santo movie that doesn’t stint on the fantastic elements. It also has a bit of obsession with gouging out visual organs, for those keeping their eyes open for movies like this. One monster here looks a lot like the one from NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, the other is a variation on the basic Frankenstein monster. Lots of wrestling and Santo action, and it’s in color, too. You probably already know whether you’ll like this one or not.


Dark August (1976)

Article 2522 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-29-2008
Posting Date: 7-8-2008
Directed by Martin Goldman
Featuring J.J. Barry, Carole Shelyne, Kim Hunter
Country: USA

An artist accidentally kills a young girl while driving in his jeep. The girl’s grandfather places a curse on the artist, who is then haunted by a shadowy figure. The artist seeks a way out of the curse.

I think I can see what this movie was trying to do. It attempted to flesh out a fairly standard occult story by involving us in the lives and the personalities of our characters. This can be effective if the characters and their lives are strong enough to hold our interest, but, though this movie does make a valiant effort, it doesn’t happen here. After a while, the character scenes (the artist has a jokey western showdown with a friend, the artist gets an unpleasant call from his separated wife, to name just a couple) start to come across as filler, mere roadblocks in the way of getting on with the story. The movie also tries for subtlety and a certain visual poetry, but once again, it just falls a little short in accomplishing these tasks. The end result is a movie that just takes too long to get about its business. The last twenty minutes of the movie are the best, with the scene in which a local witch tries to lift the curse a highlight, but even this scene lacks the necessary energy to really make it gripping. As it is, it’s more of a nice try than a success.


Amazing World of Ghosts (1978)

Article 2521 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-28-2008
Posting Date: 7-7-2008
Directed by Wheeler Dixon
Narrated by Sidney Paul
Country: USA

Do you believe in ghosts? They’re out to scare us! They may come from outer space! See all mediums with ectoplasm coming out of their mouths – this doesn’t happen very often, but we have about a thousand pictures of it happening. Jupiter’s a big planet. What about Nessie, the Loch Ness monster? People also look for the Abominable Snowman, aka Bigfoot. This hypnotized guy can’t hear the drum music in the background! Because of the Gold Rush, many Ghost Towns were created. We’re all going to be invaded! Poltergeists throw things around and scare people. I’ll shut up now; play some electronic music to fill in the gap…

So far, I’ve seen several documentaries from the seventies about paranormal occurrences and/or extraterrestrial visitations. This one is the worst by far. Combine random stock footage with free-floating paranoia, stream of consciousness rambling and a short attention span and you end up with one of the most pointless explorations of… well, ostensibly it’s about ghosts, but with the way this thing wanders, who can tell? There are no interviews; it’s just Sidney Paul talking and the musicians filling in the gaps while photos and stock footage pass by. I’d say it’s unconvincing, except that for it to be unconvincing, it would have to at least approach coherent, and such is not the case. Really, I’m surprised it didn’t try to mix the Kennedy assassination in as well. One of my “favorite” moments; we see footage of a primitive town and its residents while the narrator intones about the town being infested by ghosts; we don’t see any, but we see plenty of goats, so maybe he was confused. Another: we see modern techniques for digging gold out of mountains, which proves that space aliens have vast underground cities on other planets just waiting for the chance to pounce on us all.


The Green Archer (1940)

Article 2520 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-27-2008
Posting Date: 7-6-2008
Directed by James W. Horne
Featuring Victor Jory, Iris Meredith, James Craven
Country: USA

Evil Abel Bellamy has framed and murdered his brother in order to get possession of a castle. He then uses the castle as a secret hideout to perform his criminal activities. However, insurance investigator Spike Holland is on hand to try to catch him. Abel Bellamy has one of his henchman disguise himself as the legendary Green Archer to help him with his plans. However, the real Green Archer shows up, and begins helping Spike Holland to catch the criminals.

For my money, this is one of the most enjoyable serials I’ve ever seen. The story is based on an Edgar Wallace novel, both the hero and villain are fun, it keeps the bail-out cliffhangers to a minimum (though it does have its own default cliffhanger resolution that you can set your clock by), and the secondary characters are well-defined. It also has a good sense of humor, and has one running gag in which one of the henchmen keeps getting confused between the real Green Archer and the bogus Green Archer, and keeps pummeling one of his own men. The mystery of the identity of the Green Archer is a no-brainer; despite the serial’s constant attempts to throw suspicion on a side character, I knew who he was by the end of episode one, and I saw nothing to contradict it; however, given that the Green Archer is exactly who he should be dramatically, this is no problem with me. Throw in some dumb cops, and plot elements that involve fountain pens and tiddlywinks, and you have one of the best of the genre. The Green Archer (who is supposed to be a ghost) adds some of the fantastic element, though there are some obligatory marginal science fiction elements as well.


Samson and the Mighty Challenge (1964)

aka Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili
Article 2519 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-26-2008
Posting Date: 7-5-2008
Directed by Giorgio Capitani
Featuring Sergio Ciani, Howard Ross, Nadir Moretti
Country: Spain, Italy, France

Hercules wishes to marry Omphale, the daughter of the Queen of Lydia. However, the daughter, who is in love with a man from one of the mountain tribes, does not wish to marry Hercules. A plot is hatched to convince Hercules that he can only marry Omphale if he defeats the mightiest man on Earth, Samson.

The opening scene of this movie has Zeus hurling thunderbolts at Hercules to warn him that he has two paths to choose from – virtue and pleasure. To Zeus’s disappointment, Hercules chooses pleasure, as it leads to the land of Lydia, which is reported to be full of beautiful women. Zeus tells him not call on him for help if he should get into trouble, and Hercules assures him that he will not need his father’s help with the women. This singularly unheroic Hercules is your first clue that this is not your ordinary sword-and-sandal flick (the first clue was that the theme over the titles is is decidedly eccentric). Yes, what we have here is that rarity; this movie, like COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZONS and HERCULES VS MACISTE IN THE VALE OF WOE, is a sword-and-sandal comedy. Hercules is a lady-killer who still fails to impress the princess even after saving her life and making sure she knows he’s a demigod. Samson is a henpecked husband, married to a jealous Delilah; when he decides to go off to Lydia without her, you won’t be surprised by her course of action. Ursus is an ill-tempered bully who beats up on everyone and won’t pay for his meals. That leaves Maciste as the only remotely heroic muscleman here, and he’s such a goody-two-shoes he not only saves a beleaguered family from Ursus, but he helps repair all their wrecked furniture as well. Throw in an evil queen that will remind you of Madeline Khan and a mischievous dwarf who pretends to be the voice of Zeus, and you have a fairly amusing spoof of the whole sword-and-sandal genre. It’s sitting with an extremely low rating on IMDB, but I’ll openly admit that I was highly entertained by this one, and, as far as comedies go, it’s certainly a lot better than the VALE OF WOE movie.