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.



The Road to Mandalay (1926)

Article 2458 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-25-2007
Posting Date: 5-5-2008
Directed by Tod Browning
Featuring Lon Chaney, Lois Moran, Owen Moore

A criminal with a deformed eye leaves his only daughter in the care of his brother, a priest. He comes to visit her, but she doesn’t know he’s her father, and he doesn’t tell her. He decides if he can make enough money at his criminal activities, he can fix his eye with an operation, reveal himself to her as her father and then perform his fatherly duties. However, he discovers that a criminal associate has decided to marry her, and he sets out to stop it…

This movie no longer exists in complete form, but, from the looks of it, this 35 minute condensation does a decent job of telling the story. There are certain jumps in the narrative, but the basic story is intact, and its similarity to other extant Chaney/Browning films means that you can probably fill in the missing sections without much trouble. The fantastic content is pretty slight; other than the deformity of Chaney’s character and that sleaziness of setting that is the mark of the Chaney/Browning collaborations, this is straightforward melodrama. I found it a fairly entertaining movie, even in this condensed form.


The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Article 2410 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-1-2007
Posting Date: 3-18-2008
Directed by Jim Sharman
Featuring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick

Two young people engaged to be married find themselves stranded at the castle of Fr. Frank-N-Furter, who has created a creature named Rocky Horror.

I’ve heard tell that the best way to see this movie is at one of the repertory theaters where it plays weekly to an audience of dedicated fans who turn the movie into an interactive audience experience unlike anything else. I’m willing to believe that; the movie certainly lends itself to that sort of treatment; in fact, if I remember my reading correctly, the movie was intended to be watched in this fashion, as the same sort of thing happened during the stage presentations of the show. However, I watched it at home without the benefit of any of those dedicated fans, and have never seen it any other way, so I can only judge it on that level. And, watched in this environment, I’m afraid I found this compendium of horror, science fiction, rock music, sex, campy costumes and campy makeup less than fascinating; it starts out mildly interesting, but gets progressively more tedious as the movie progresses, no matter how many classic horror and science fiction movies it references along the way. Maybe it’s because I was left the impression that it really doesn’t add up to much of anything; if the movie really seems to be about anything, it’s about being campy, and I don’t find that a great attention holder. Still, a movie in which Meatloaf’s character dies a horrible death can’t be all bad. And I’m willing to bet that the presence of the aforementioned audience is what it really needs.


Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980)

Article 2407 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-29-2007
Posting Date: 3-15-2008
Directed by Robert Fuest
Featuring Sharon Gless, Julie Kavner, Audra Lindley

A female reporter comes to the town of Stepford to find out why the crime and divorce rate is so low there. She finds that most of the women in the town act like vapid housewives. She begins to discover the town’s dreadful secret…

I never warmed up to the original movie , and one of the major reasons why is that I could never believe that the vapid housework-obsessed frilly-clothes-dressed women of the town actually passed for the ideal woman; I’d be crawling the walls after ten minutes dealing with one of them. This sequel, which spends half of its time recycling the original and the other half of its time undermining the original (by dint of coming up with a different explanation of how the wives are created), does nothing to make it more convincing. It’s hard to believe this dull, lifeless movie was directed by Robert Fuest, whose movies usually have at least some stylistic pizazz to them. The reason they change the Stepford mythology around is simple; it’s to set up the final scenes of the movie, which you can anticipate if you take the time to read the title of the movie. Still, there are at least a couple things I found of interest here; one is the Mason Adams character, who demonstrates that having a Stepford Wife is not all it’s cracked up to be. The other is that the villain of the piece does get a fitting comeuppance, especially if you consider that he is the one who probably decided that all the Stepford women needed to wear those uncomfortable-looking high heels all the time. The cast also features a pre-“Miami Vice” Don Johnson.


Raw Meat (1972)

RAW MEAT (1972)
aka Death Line
Article 2373 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-24-2007
Posting Date: 2-10-2008
Directed by Gary Sherman
Featuring Donald Pleasence, Norman Rossington, David Ladd

Police investigate disappearances in the London subway system. It is learned that a group of diggers from the nineteenth century managed to survive to modern times by resorting to cannibalism. Now the only survivor has run out of food, and he’s coming out of the tunnels to search for more.

I vividly remember seeing the trailer for this at a local drive-in theater when I was a teenager, and there was something about it that really gave me the creeps even then. I never got a chance to see it; the drive-in never got the movie for some reason, but I always found myself wondering what this movie was like. So, here I am, finally watching it some three decades later.

The movie is a bit of a mishmash. The uneven pacing, problematic plot, and odd characters detract somewhat from the movie building up much in the way of suspense. But when it works, it works quite well; the use of sound is very effective at times, there’s an extended tracking shot that introduces us to the underground dwelling of the ‘man’ (as he’s called in the final credits) that is simply stunning, there’s a great jump-out-of-your seat moment when the girlfriend gets kidnapped, and the sense of degeneracy, filth, decay and sickness in the underground lair is as strong as anything you might find in the home of the family in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Hugh Armstrong manages to make the ‘man’ equally sympathetic and repulsive, and this adds a real ambivalence to the horror. The movie also features excellent performances from Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee, though the latter appears in only one scene and is really only connected to a side issue in the storyline; his character could have been eliminated altogether. Despite any flaws it may have, it is worth catching, and it makes for an interesting comparison with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which it predates. And here’s a bit of trivia; THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’s Tobe Hooper would go on to direct POLTERGEIST, while this movie’s Gary Sherman would direct POLTERGEIST III.


The Reincarnation of Karma (1912)

Article 2330 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2007
Posting Date: 12-29-2007
Directed by Van Dyke Brooke
Featuring Rosemary Theby, Courtenay Foote, Lillian Walker

In ancient times, a priest in India finds himself tempted by a woman named Qunitreea. He has her transformed into a snake as a punishment. In modern times, a man and a woman engaged to be married visit the ruins of the temple of the priest, and find a snake which returns to her original form every 100 years. The man sees the transformation, and…

If you’ve read the title of the movie, you should know what one of the final revelations will be. And since the title cards reveal that vengeance is part of the story, you won’t be surprised by how it turns out. All in all, it’s a middlingly entertaining early silent. Rosemary Theby is probably the most memorable character as the temptress; she dances with a certain snaky charm. Nowadays, she’s most remembered for playing W.C. Fields’ wife in his classic short, THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER; she also played a cave woman in ONE MILLION B.C .


Return of Daimajin (1966)

aka Daimajin ikaru
Article 2290 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-2-2007
Posting Date: 11-19-2007
Directed by Kenji Misumi
Featuring Kojiro Hongo, Shiho Fujimura, Taro Marui

A warlord takes over a village, and four children escape to find the statue of Majin to help them drive off the invaders.

Is my head swimming! After watching this movie, I became convinced that I actually watched the wrong movie on my hunt list. Now I’m convinced that I have watched the right movie on my hunt list, but that there’s a bit of confusion out there as to which of the two sequels to DAIMAJIN is the first and which is the second. At any rate, it may make little difference; from what I’ve heard, all three of the Daimajin movies tell virtually the same story with only the details different. Me, I’m throwing up my hands and just saying “This is the one I saw!” If you’ve seen one Daimajin movie, you’ve seen them all.

Nonetheless, having seen two of them, I’m quite willing and eager to see the third, because Daimajin is such an impressive monster. I was somewhat hampered by the fact that my copy of this was in unsubtitled Japanese, but once I got the gist of what was going on, it was quite easy to follow. For the most part, the movie plays like an epic fantasy, with four children on the run from three hunters, who they manage to outwit almost till the end. Daimajin seems to have some spiritual relationship with a hawk in this one, but his rampage doesn’t come until the last fifteen minutes of the movie. And, like the first movie, it’s breathtaking; Daimajin may be the most terrifying of the kaiju; he is implacable and merciless, and one feels the tension and the fear with each earth-shaking step he makes. The special effects are excellent, but I’m sure discerning fans will note that Akira Ifukube’s score here bears more than a passing resemblance to his work for the Godzilla films, especially in the similarity between the themes for Daimajin and Godzilla. Still, it’s very effective, and this chapter in the Daimajin saga is definitely worth catching.