The ‘kaiju’ film – the Japanese giant monster movie – includes such classic screen icons as mutated sea monster Godzilla, flying caterpillar deity Mothra and towering turtle Gamera. Among the multitude of magnificent monsters was Daimajin, inspired by the ancient Golem story where a large stone-carved being comes to life. The Daimajin Trilogy has been brought back to life by Arrow Video in a Limited Edition 3-disc collection that comes with postcards, a 100-page book, and beautiful restorations of the three classic 1960’s kaiju films. To celebrate the release, here’s a look at the magnificent seven key players on the monster movie scene.
1. King Kong
The success of the 1931 Hollywood epic King Kong would not only kickstart the ‘creature feature’ genre, but also became a staple part of Japanese kaiju film. RKO, who owned the rights, licensed Kong to the famous Toho film studio in Japan – resulting in King Kong Vs Godzilla in 1962 and King Kong Escapes in 1967. The massive ape might have looked a bit flea-bitten in the Toho films, but you’d never say it to his face.
Toho had come up with their very own giant monster in 1954, in the form of a sea creature disturbed by underwater hydrogen bomb testing who goes on the rampage. The original film, Godzilla, features not only fantastic effects and a lovable monster, but provided a pertinent commentary on man’s fraught and neglectful relationship with his environment. In the subsequent thirty plus Godzilla films, he went up against the likes of Astro-Monster, Mechagodzilla, King Kong and Mothra – and, of course, has been the subject of several big budget Hollywood remakes.
Following roughly the same outline as the King Kong and Godzilla films that preceded it, Mothra (1961) featured the title character, an island deity in the form of a flying caterpillar, setting off to rescue two fairies who have been kidnapped by a greedy businessman. Mothra became the second most popular kaiju character after Godzilla, and appears in 11 films alongside him.
4. Mighty Peking Man
Let’s take a brief foray to Hong Kong, for Ho Meng Hua’s King Kong-inspired Mighty Peking Man, one of the most unmissable insane monster movies ever made. A restored version of the film will be available later this year as part of Arrow Video’s Shaw Brothers’ classics, the box-set Shawscope Volume One.
This kaiju superhero burst onto the small screen with his own series in 1966. Ultraman is an alien being who ends up on Earth, chasing after an alien… and gives a human the power to turn himself into a giant superhero – just in time to stop a series of attacks on the planet by giant monsters! As well as the TV series, there was a film in 1967, followed by a whole series of Ultraman adventures – and this year sees the release of a reimagining of the character in Shin Ultraman.
The titanic terrapin Gamera appeared in a host of films, from 1965’s Gamera the Giant Monster to 2006’s Gamera the Brave (all recently restored and re-issued by Arrow Video). Gamera, a giant prehistoric turtle, is awoken by the accidental detonation of an atomic bomb. He was, in his earlier films, more light-hearted and kid-friendly, developing into the ‘Guardian of the Universe’ in the groundbreaking 1990s reboot series, The Heisei Trilogy, often hailed as three of the best kaiju films ever made.
The Daimajin Trilogy is a unique kaiju series that transplanted the ancient Golem legend to Japan’s Warring States period of the late-16th century. It features three thrilling tales (Daimajin, Return of Daimajin and Wrath of Daimajin) of feudal oppression and divine retribution meted out by the iconic stone warrior of the title, combining lavish period detail with jaw-dropping special effects. What chance do mere mortals have against the crushing stone fists and stamping stone feet of the mighty Daimajin? Clue: not much of one.