Also known as: Majin (France, US), Majin the Monster of Terror, The Devil Got Angry, Majin the Hideous Idol, Majin the Stone Samurai, The Vengeance of the Monster (US alternative titles) Release Date: April 17th, 1966 (Japan) Directed by: Kimiyoshi Yasuda Written by: Tetsuro Yoshida Music by: Akira Ifukube Cast: Miwa Takada, Yoshihiko Aoyama, Jun Fujimaki, Ryutaro Gomi
Toho Co. Ltd., Daiei Studios, 84 Minutes
The Daimajin trilogy is mostly forgotten today. Many fans of kaiju and tokusatsu flicks haven’t even seen or heard of the movie. There are several kaiju film friends I’ve met online over the years that were actually introduced to these movies by yours truly. However, I didn’t know about them either until I came across some photos of the movie’s monster online in the late ’00s.
I bought the American Blu-ray set when it came out around 2012 or so and since then, I’ve developed a really deep appreciation for these movies due to their uniqueness and coolness.
They’re not traditional kaiju movies and I guess you could even debate whether or not they even fit the kaiju genre, as they play more like a jidaigeki with heavy fantasy elements. Plus, the monster is just a giant stone statue that occasionally comes to life to crush tyrants and their minions.
My brain categorizes it as a kaiju flick, though, as ever since seeing this, I’ve always thought about how this film’s big stone demon would fare against Godzilla, Gamera and other well-known giant monsters if he were scaled up to a similar size.
The story here is simple and it’s pretty much the same for all three movies despite the smaller details. A tyrant in feudal Japan does bad shit and draws the ire of this angry god, who feasts on the sounds of the crunching bones of a tyrannical army.
Daimajin doesn’t say anything but his presence is greatly feared as he is simply a force of nature in the form of a stone man, cleansing the Japanese countryside of scumbags. He’s unrelenting and will not stop until small corrupt empires are flattened and crushed.
The story that leads up to the monster coming to life in this movie is pretty good. It filled in the blanks nicely and made you have an emotional connection to the people being victimized by the evil bastards that deserved their fate.
I love this movie, the film series and the monster. This is one of the coolest kaiju film series of all-time and frankly, it deserves a lot more recognition than it gets. These are much better movies than what’s typical in the kaiju genre.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: the other two films in the series, as well as other ’60s kaiju flicks.
Also known as: Uchu kaijû Gamera (original Japanese title), Phoenix Dominator (Belgium), Space Monster Gamera, Gamera 80 (alternative titles) Release Date: March 20th, 1980 (Japan) Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa Written by: Niisan Takahashi Music by: Shunsuke Kikuchi Cast: Mach Fumiake, Yaeko Kojima, Yoko Komatsu, Keiko Kudo, Koichi Maeda, Toshie Takada
Daiei Film, 92 Minutes
“Space ship Zanon is about to attack. Even Gamera is not powerful enough to stop it. You must find some way. You must!” – Giruge, “Sister, you’ll be all right!” – Keiichi, “Thank you, boy. If it’s true we are reincarnated after we die, then I should be born here again. Goodbye.” – Giruge
This seems to be the one Gamera film that people vehemently hate. I don’t, however. But I’ll explain why that hatred exists and why I don’t feel the same.
One has to understand that this did come out when Daiei was in financial peril. Because of that, they revisited a plan that bailed them out once before. This plan saw them create a new movie in their successful Gamera franchise but in an effort to make it as cheaply as possible and to maximize profits, they reused monster fight footage from previous films and wrote the story around that in an effort to make it work, narratively.
So we’re essentially stuck with the second “best of” Gamera movie just a few years after the first one.
However, this one is better than the previous attempt and that has to do with how ridiculous and cool the story was that tied this great mess together.
To start, it recycled elements of the previous “best of” and had an alien threat summon all the monsters of Gamera’s past to do battle with the giant turtle. With that, Gamera has suspiciously familiar battles with foes we’ve seen before and they all go suspiciously the same way. I do like the alien warship in this, though, as it is a deliberate ripoff of the Imperial Star Destroyers from the first Star Wars movie. In fact, this film even replicates the opening shot of A New Hope.
The grand finale, after all villain monsters are destroyed, sees Gamera take on the faux Star Destroyer.
Additionally, the film has a wacky plot about these three alien sisters that have a van that transforms into some spaceship thing that looks like a glowing yellow ball. They do weird dance movies, terrible karate and try to help this film’s annoying little kid, who is really only there to scream encouragement at Gamera.
The weirdness doesn’t end there, however. This film strangely splices in footage from to legendary Leiji Matsumoto animes Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a Star Blazers and Galaxy Express 999. Why this was done, I have no f’n idea but these two animated shows were immensely popular at the time.
It’s all this batshit craziness that makes me love this movie, though. I can’t help myself. This, to me, is just so damn bonkers I can’t not love it. And man, it just feels like pure, cheesy tokusatsu of the greatest caliber, especially for its time.
In my heart and in my head, I know that Gamera: Super Monster is a terrible film. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a smorgasbord of wonderful, entertaining shit.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: the other classic era Gamera films.
Original Run: September 14th, 1978 – March 26th, 1981 Created by: Leiji Matsumoto Directed by: Nobutaka Nishizawa Written by: Hiroyasu Yamaura, Keisuke Fujikawa, Yoshiaki Yoshida Based on:Galaxy Express 999 by Leiji Matsumoto Music by: Nozomi Aoki Cast: Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Kaneta Kimotsuki
Out of Leiji Matsumoto’s big three series, this is my least favorite. One of them has to be the odd one out, I guess, but it never appealed to me in the same way as the Captain Harlock stuff or Star Blazers a.k.a. Space Battleship Yamato.
This is a much smaller story and even though it has some action and adventure, it isn’t on the same epic scale as the other two franchises. But they all do exist in the same universe and crossover and because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this series, as well.
I also hadn’t seen anything Galaxy Express 999 related in decades, so it was kind of cool revisiting it. A lot of Matsumoto’s stuff is actually free to watch on Tubi for those interested.
Overall, I’d say that I actually like this even less now. I’d check it out when I had access to it in my younger days because it was pretty imaginative and was full of a lot of cool visuals and ideas.
However, the animation doesn’t hold up very well. I guess it’s fine for the time but it just doesn’t feel like it is in the same ballpark as Star Blazers or Harlock. I recently revisited both of those series too and I didn’t seem to really notice any glaring problems with the animation like I do with this. Mostly, it just feels kind of choppy and not as fluid.
The story is interesting enough but I was only able to watch about a dozen episodes and couldn’t commit to the entire run, which I did with the other series. Still, I will probably review the film versions that came out in the same era and see how I feel about those.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other Galaxy Express 999 films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Captain Harlock and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.
Also known as: Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu (original Japanese title), Gamera vs. Bairus (alternative spelling), Destroy All Planets, Gamera vs. Outer Space Monster Viras (US alternative titles) Release Date: March 20th, 1968 (Japan) Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa Written by: Niisan Takahashi Music by: Kenjiro Hirose Cast: Kojiro Hongo, Toru Takatsuka, Carl Craig
“Attention all spaceship crew members. Attention all spaceship crew members. Gamera has been located. He’s at the bottom of the ocean. Prepare to attack at once. Activate the super catch ray.” – Doctor A
This Gamera film is really a mixed bag but due to the behind the scenes troubles that Toei was dealing with at the time, their shortcuts in this film are somewhat excusable and the new stuff is pretty enjoyable for a Gamera picture.
What I’m referring to is that the studio was in financial trouble and they needed to make some money to stay afloat. The biggest money maker for them was the Gamera film series but since money was tight, this picture reuses footage from previous ones.
So on one hand, this plays like a Gamera’s Greatest Battles compilation while also providing a new, cool alien threat and an awesome kaiju creature for Gamera to fight in the final act.
From my youth, this was the Gamera movie that always stuck out in my memories, as the set design of the alien ship was just f’n cool. It’s pretty simplistic and just uses triangular screens and flashing light panels but it’s surrealness just burned into my brain. Plus, the outside design of the alien ship is cool and I always wanted a toy of it.
I also liked the monster Viras, who was essentially just a space squid with a sharp, pointed head and the ability to fly.
The plot is wonky as shit and the overall production is cheap and noticeable, even for a Gamera picture.
Still, this isn’t a bad way to waste some time, especially if you’re a kaiju fan and haven’t seen this one.
Rating: 5/10 Pairs well with: the other classic era Gamera films.
Also known as: Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (original script title) Release Date: May 28th, 1993 Directed by: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel Written by: Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, Ed Solomon Based on:Mario by Nintendo Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Fiona Shaw, Richard Edson, Mojo Nixon, Dana Kaminski, Lance Henriksen, Frank Welker (voice), Dan Castellaneta (narrator)
“[bathing in mud] Do you know what I love about mud? It’s clean and it’s dirty at the same time.” – King Koopa
Super Mario Bros. was one film in a string of a few that helped to build the reputation that video game movies suck. Looking at the picture in comparison to the video game series it’s based on, I get it. And frankly, it irked the shit out of me when I saw it in 1993.
However, seeing it with pretty fresh eyes nearly three decades later, I have a very different view of the film now. Especially, when I just look at it as its own weird body of work apart from the video game franchise.
Removing the source material from the equation, I can still see why this would be viewed as a bad film by most but for me, a lover of really weird shit, everyone in this cast and late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk shit, this is kind of a feast of awesomeness!
Additionally, the Alan Silvestri score is great, lively, playful and boisterous. It reminds me of his score to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which was, honestly, what really set the magnificent tone for that movie. Here, Silvestri’s work is just as effective and man, I miss scores like this.
This movie also feels like a time capsule into the heart of the ’90s. It embraces the wonky tropes of the decade and it completely misses the mark it should’ve been aiming for. Although, in retrospect, I really like that this just did whatever the hell it wanted to and provided the world with something so damn bizarre and zany.
I really liked the bond between Mario and Luigi, even if trying believe that Hoskins and Leguizamo are supposed to be real brothers is maybe the most unbelievable thing in the film. That kind of doesn’t matter, though, as nothing in this needs to make any sort of logical sense. It’s actually cooler that it doesn’t. Now that’s something I’d typically be highly critical of but this movie with its flaws is still so much fun and overly ridiculous that it adds to its charm.
I guess Dennis Hopper was miserable working on this due to behind the scenes clusterfucks and severe delays but honestly, it probably worked to the movie’s benefit, as he truly comes off as an insufferable prick and it just makes his character that much more sinister and entertaining to watch.
Additionally, I really liked Samantha Mathis in this, as she played Princess Daisy, the apple of Luigi’s eye. Her and Leguizamo had nice, believable chemistry and she really was a highpoint of the picture. In fact, her final scene where she returns as a gun toting badass really made me wish a sequel had been made.
That being said, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to having more things made from this version of the Super Mario IP. I get it, it was a bomb and most people hated it but it’s also unique and kind of special in its own odd way. Plus, it’s developed a good cult following over the years and I think many people are like me, where seeing this decades later really allows you to separate from what it should of been and wasn’t to seeing it as its own cool thing.
Rating: 5.75/10 Pairs well with: the other few ’90s movies based on video games, as well as other early ’90s cyberpunk films.
Also known as: Hyappatsu hyakuchu (original Japanese title), 100 Shot, 100 Killed (literal English title) Release Date: December 5th, 1965 Directed by: Jun Fukuda Written by: Michio Tsuzuki, Kihachi Okamoto Music by: Masaru Sato Cast: Akira Takarada, Mie Hama, Ichiro Arishima, Jun Tatara, Akihiko Hirata, Sachio Sakai, Susumu Kurobe, Toru Ibuki, Chotaro Togin, Naoya Kusakawa, Koji Iwamoto, Mike Daneen, Haruo Nakajima
Toho Co. Ltd., 93 Minutes
Jun Fukuda is most famous for being the second best Godzilla director after the legendary Ishiro Honda. However, being number two behind a legend like that, a guy who gave us the first Godzilla film, is still a hell of an achievement. Plus, many other directors have come and gone but Fukuda’s films have still stuck out in the people’s conscious.
However, Fukuda didn’t just do big monster movies. He did some spy comedy parody films for Toho when they weren’t looking at him to pump out more Godzilla sequels.
This is the first of those movies and I have never seen it, so I was kind of excited to check it out. Especially, since I also love the spy genre, as well as ’60s Japanese crime cinema and noir-esque visuals.
This also has Mie Hama in it, so that’s a massive plus, as I was crushing hard on her back in the day from her appearances in Godzilla films, as well as her most famous role as a Bond Girl in 1967’s You Only Live Twice.
The film’s story is similar to a ’90s American teen comedy I recently reviewed, If Looks Could Kill, which saw a high school student on a class trip to France get mistaken for a secret agent. Funny hijinks ensued and the inexperienced regular Joe had to find a way to save the day. While the main character in this film isn’t a high school student, he’s just as inexperienced and a bit of a goof.
The lead, played by Toho regular Akira Takarada was energetic and pretty hilarious. It was hard not to like the guy and to cheer for him to beat the baddies and impress the girl.
Ironfinger is a funny, stylish picture that was lighthearted and endearing. It was neat seeing what else Fukuda did for Toho that wasn’t sci-fi related. It also got me excited and motivated to check out its sequel, Golden Eyes.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: it’s sequel Golden Eyes and other Japanese crime films of the ’60s.
Also known as: Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga (original Japanese title), Gamera vs. Monster X (US TV title), Monsters Invade Expo ’70, War of the Monsters, Gamera vs. Giger (alternate worldwide English titles) Release Date: March 21st, 1970 (Japan) Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa Written by: Nisan Takahashi Music by: Shunsuke Kikuchi Cast: Tsutomu Takakuwa, Kelly Varis, Katherine Murphy
Daiei Motion Picture Company, 82 Minutes
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a Gamera movie but I do have a few left from the original run of films that I haven’t yet reviewed. I already did all the movies that were featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 but there are still three left that never made it on that show.
This one is mostly more of the same but it does have an interesting bit where Gamera, after a defeat, is essentially dead with a pale head. His body is left half submerged in the bay near the World Expo ’70 site, a world’s fair type of festival that takes centerstage in this movie.
With Gamera out of commission, two kids use a small submarine to enter his mouth and try to resuscitate him. While in there, they have to survive the heroic mission while outwitting killer parasites in the giant creature’s body. It’s weird, it’s neat and it’s pretty cool if you’re a fan of this sort of awesome cheese.
Other than that, there’s not much more to say. Everything is on par with the other sequels but this at least stays afloat and has an edge over some of the other chapters because of the sequence with the kids inside of Gamera’s body.
All in all, a decent flick for Gamera fans but if you’re not a diehard kaiju or tokusatsu viewer, you’ll probably be scratching your head for eighty-two minutes.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: the other classic era Gamera films.
Also known as: Centralia (fake working title), Terror en Silent Hill (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela) Release Date: April 20th, 2006 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: Christophe Gans Written by: Roger Avery, Christophe Gans, Nicolas Boukhrief Based on:Silent Hill by Konami Music by: Akira Yamaoka, Jeff Danna Cast: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland
“When you’re hurt and scared for so long, the fear and pain turn to hate and the hate starts to change the world.” – Dark Alessa
When this came out, it was the film that seemed like it bucked the trend of video game movies being shit, as far as adaptations and overall quality goes.
The Resident Evil films were their own thing and before them we had the Street Fighter movie, Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon. I would say that the film that actually bucked the trend first, though, was 1995’s Mortal Kombat. However, Silent Hill is a much better film than that one and it works without having knowledge or appreciation of its video game series before seeing it.
In fact, I know several people that saw this film first, which then served as a gateway into the games due to the effect this movie had on them.
I used to watch this quite a bit after I bought it on DVD when it was first released that way. It’s probably been a dozen years since I’ve seen it but my fondness for it was still really strong and I wanted to revisit it. I also want to playthrough some of the earlier games too, which I might in the very near future.
Seeing this now was kind of cool because I was separated enough from it to see it with somewhat fresh eyes. I definitely see the flaws in it more than I did in 2006 but that could also be due to me not being as obsessed with the franchise as I was back then. Subpar sequels in both video games and film took the wind out of this once great property’s sails.
The film adapts elements of the stories from the first two games and sort of merges them while also doing its own thing. So it’s familiar enough for fans to immediately recognize but also takes some interesting turns that allow it to breathe and evolve in a different way.
I like the film’s story quite a lot, even if it does change some key things. Those things don’t break the film as its own body of work, though.
My biggest gripe about the film is the dialogue. It’s not terrible but there are some weird lines and some weird delivery, here and there. I’m not sure if that’s due to a language barrier due to the director, who also co-wrote the film, being French. I don’t know enough about him outside of his finished films that I’ve seen, which aren’t many.
However, the child actress delivers some lines with weird inflections on certain syllables that sound unnatural and a bit off. I don’t necessarily blame her, I blame the direction and the takes that were chosen to be used in the final film.
Overall, she did well essentially playing two different characters that were polar opposites of each other: one being good and innocent and the other being the absolute embodiment of evil. The requirements of her role aren’t easy for most adult actors and she did rather well considering her age and experience.
Moving on, some of the CGI effects look a little dated but for the most part, the film still looks great. There are just a few shots that look kind of weird.
The film as a whole looks incredible, however. Gans has a stupendous eye and from a visual standpoint, he captured the tone and aesthetic of the video game series phenomenally well. I am still really impressed by the scenes where the purgatory world dissolves into the Hell world.
Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of the ending but it fits well within the framework of what Silent Hill is. I guess there is a part of me that wanted something more optimistic but the ambiguous and strange ending leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Also, that’s not a bad thing, some of my favorite movies do that but after the literal hell that the characters went through, it felt like more of a reward was needed.
I liked the cult aspect of the story and I definitely loved their end. As violent and incredibly fucked up as the climax was, it was also satisfying as hell after learning who these people really were. This movie doesn’t simply provide you with sympathy for the Devil, it makes you root for him… or in this case, her.
The last thing I want to mention is the music. The film recycles the score and iconic songs from the video game series. That might not work in the case of most film adaptations but it really amplified the effect of the film and its brooding, disturbing atmosphere. I think that I appreciated it even more now, as I kind of forgot how good the games’ music was.
Silent Hill is, hands down, one of the best horror movies in its decade, which was unfortunately a terrible decade for horror. But I think it would’ve been just as great in earlier decades, regardless of the higher quality of the genre.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: it’s absolutely shitty sequel, I guess. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.
Also known as: X (poster title) Release Date: November 18th, 1992 Directed by: Spike Lee Written by: Arnold Perl, Spike Lee Based on:The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X, Alex Haley Music by: Terence Blanchard Cast: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Christopher Plummer, Lonette McKee, Giancarlo Esposito, Wendell Pierce, Roger Guenveur Smith, Debi Mazar, Karen Allen, Peter Boyle, David Patrick Kelly, Mary Alice, Nicholas Turturro, Michael Imperioli, John David Washington, Ossie Davis
Largo International, JVC Entertainment Networks, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Warner Bros., 202 Minutes
“[Witnessing Malcolm’s control over a mob] That’s too much power for one man to have.” – Captain Green
Every great director has their magnum opus and this is Spike Lee’s.
Malcolm X is pretty perfect from top-to-bottom and for a film that is nearly three and a half hours, it mostly moves at a really good pace. I thought that the first act was too drawn out but it takes up less than an hour of running time and the film really finds its groove once Malcolm goes to prison and first encounters the lessons and ideas around The Nation of Islam.
From that point forward, this is a truly exceptional motion picture that is bolstered by the legendary performance of Denzel Washington. In fact, despite him winning the Academy Award for Training Day, I would say that this is the best performance of his career.
Beyond Washington, everyone else in this film is superb from the smallest parts to the largest. There really isn’t a weak link in the entire cast and Lee did a phenomenal job in picking who he did for each role.
This also boasts the best cinematography out of all of Spike Lee’s movies. Sure, he has a stupendous eye and employs wonderful visuals in every film but this felt so genuine and rich. It was like a true time capsule back to the 1940s through 1960s and nothing about it felt staged or inauthentic.
Having read the book, years ago, I’ve always seen this as the most perfect interpretation of it. In fact, if anyone were to try and attempt a Malcolm X biopic in the future, I don’t know how they could really make anything better or even as close to great as this is. As far as I know, it’s never been attempted and frankly, it shouldn’t be.
Watching this, it was hard not having my mind try to compare the incidents and the social climate in the 1960s to today. A lot of people love quoting Malcom X and for good reason. However, I think that a lot of people who cite him don’t fully grasp the context and cherry pick what fits their narrative. I think it’s important to understand the man’s full journey and to see what he went through, what he learned and how he applied all of that to his actions and his message.
Unfortunately, Malcolm was gunned down in the prime of his life and we never got to see how he would’ve continue to evolve and how he would’ve worked together with other black leaders and leaders of all races in the following decades.
Malcolm’s death was an absolute tragedy but his life is certainly worth knowing and celebrating. With that, this film is really special in how it captured the man, his personal struggles and growth. Spike Lee and Denzel Washington made a biographical picture that is as good as they get.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: Spike Lee’s other films of the late ’80s and into the ’90s.
Release Date: February 4th, 1967 (Japan) Directed by: Takashi Nomura Written by: Shūichi Nagahara, Nobuo Yamada Based on: a novel by Shinji Fujiwara Music by: Harumi Ibe Cast: Joe Shishido, Jerry Fujio, Chitose Kobayashi, Ryōtarō Sugi
Nikkatsu, 84 Minutes
Japan really made some visually stellar and interesting motion pictures in the 1960s. This one takes its inspiration from classic film noir, French New Wave and the spaghetti westerns of its time.
In fact, despite being a simple Yakuza crime flick, this has a score very similar to the ones you’d hear in Sergio Leone’s western movies.
Beyond that, this feels similar to Seijun Suzuki’s crime movies from the same decade. Although, this one is less stylized and surreal.
Director Takashi Nomura’s work here is incredible and since I’ve never seen any of his work before this, I kind of want to check out what else he’s done based off of how enjoyable, artistic and technically savvy this film is.
It’s also pretty well acted from top-to-bottom and features characters you’ll like and despise.
One thing that really stands out about this movie is the energy of it. The big finale is absolutely incredible and way ahead of its time in how it was shot, executed and presented.
Additionally, the cinematography is beautiful and it truly embraces the best parts of the classic film-noir aesthetic with a high contrast visual style and the clever use of shadow and light.
While I hold the Seijun Suzuki and Akira Kurosawa Yakuza films in very high regard, this lesser known film by the uber talented Takashi Nomura deserves to be in the same circle as those other amazing and game changing pictures.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: other neo-noir styled Yakuza movies, such as some of the ’60s films of Seijun Suzuki.