Daimajin Strikes Again borrows lightly from Daei’s then concurrent Gamera series, casting four children as leads in their attempt to rescue their enslaved fathers. Children and giant monsters would prove a box office success even as the studio sunk into bankruptcy, but oddly for Daimajin, this film declares itself as the most pervasively violent. Blood, obviously fake or not, is consistent with the body count.
Daimajin here takes the form of a hawk for the early acts, doubling as a guide and protector as the children make their journey across a forbidden land. Warring factions, forever the main plot device of this trilogy, are situated on opposing sides of a mountain owned by the gods, but for the film’s purposes, just Daimajin. Strikes Again languishes in its danger, using kids in peril to eek out whatever drama it can find. Most of the time, it’s letting the cinematographer lens gorgeous open lands and dramatically scaled sets.
The four kids will cause a ruckus with a trio of samurai who stumble upon the little ones, the antics spicing up the dry, time killing structure. Speaking generally, the camera pans back to reveal a landscape, the kids traverse it, and then push on. Variety is bland despite the beautiful locations, and the samurai have no narrative connection with the weapons building, slave driving types. The audience is left to assume.
All of this comes after a lavish storm to open the film, one caused by Daimajin in his wrath-mode for instant effects gratification. Strikes Again is the least patient of the three, before becoming the most for a second act that doesn’t want to end. Visual effects and grand scale lose none of their luster, whether in this smartly photographed opening scene or in the inevitable rampage that closes the piece. Despite the saggy middle, Strikes Again carries the grandest third act, with cannon fire, sprouting flames, enormous miniatures, blizzards, and a double death for an enslaving villain.
The sin here is a lack of perspective. Frail describes the script work adequately, nothing being done outside of a comfort zone despite casting the children. The enormity and wonder of Daimajin isn’t felt through the eyes of these characters despite their given heart plus perseverance. As the film shifts into pure assault mode, the kids are all but forgotten. Their story is complete as editing pushes for shots of worshiping slaves as their god kicks around the opposing village.
Scatterbrained as it can be, Strikes Again doesn’t leave an after taste, but it is a film that will probably find the player in the future for that stirring climax and not much else.
Despite closing on a blizzard with opportunity for this encode to close up shop, Daimajin Strikes Again forges ahead and doesn’t fall victim to noticeable compression. In all, there’s one shot where the grain structure fumbles because of encoding, that of a dust cloud kicked up when the kids first find the Daimajin statue. There are mild signs of reduction at work, although nothing that reveals glaring impact on the digital side.
This one has plenty to deal with and resolve, the forests, plant life, rock formations, and scenery producing nothing but opportunity for this disc to fail. It doesn’t. While the source doesn’t alleviate all problems (the anamorphic squeeze is obvious), the image has a vintage feel that is natural. There is enough information being gleaned from the source stock to produce reliable imagery.
Damage is limited to specks and minute scratches, elements that are acceptable. Major imperfections have either been removed without impact or never existed. Complexity doesn’t matter, and Strikes Again offers a lot maintain. Multi-pass effects with a glaze of snow are almost guaranteed to have aged poorly or be forever damaged during the process. This is the type of source that makes one wonder why other films can’t hold to these standards.
Saturation is spruced up when in comparison to the other two features thanks to the locales, although this still falls in the lower rung. Daimajin is faded lightly for a dramatic effect, and black levels will take the brunt of that hit. Thankfully, the majority of the piece falls under the helping hand of daylight.
Akira Ifukube’s score is the recipient of age degradation, highs and lows missing their peak fidelity as distortion sets in. In terms of Japanese special effect films from the era, it’s sadly par for the course. This DTS-HD 2.0 mono track isn’t going to fix the unfixable. Thankfully, the screechy scares and scale associated with these aging materials is intact… mostly.
Mill Creek touts their new English dub, but it’s not much to be proud of. Not only is there a massive gap in quality between the sound effects and studio-recorded dub, dialogue runs about 10 decibels too loud. It mirrors the distributors logo that introduces the disc in terms of over saturated volume. Balance was not a priority, and too much is lost in the translation process to even consider this material.
Fans this die-hard for Japanese giant monsters are more likely to reach for authenticity and original language, if a bit of made up fact spewing and typecasting can be allowed for a moment. That’s where the best of this disc lies anyway.
Extras! Daimajin Strikes Again is the third disc in the set, and the one with all of the bonuses. There are three interviews with Fujio Morita, cinematographer on the series. Median length is 28-minutes. Information is wonderfully technical as Morita delves into the problematic Vistavision technology, and admits to the mistake in shooting with that process. While the subtitles are hard to see against the Japanese text backgrounds that introduce new sections (and the video encode makes film clips flickering, unwatchable messes), the wealth of material on these obscure classics is awesome.
Each film receives a trailer as well.
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