Yongary, Monster From the Deep 1967 aka Taekoesu Yonggary
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A monstrous creature creates destruction throughout Korea... as scientists running against time create a refrigerant that maybe the only weapon to stop the monster before it destroys the whole country. This cult-classics was Korea's first entry into the kaiju movie genre, made famous by the Japanese with classics Godzilla and Gamera. After a nuclear test causes a massive earthquake, scientists realize that the quake is the least of their problems… the intense radiation has awoke the legendary reptilian monster, Yongary. Martial law is declared and cities are evacuated as the armed forces battle the fearsome creature with all the arsenal firearms available to them.
Special Features: Audio Commentary by Film Historian Steve Ryfle and Genre Journalist Kim Song-ho | Phantom From 10,000 Leagues "Trailers From Hell" with Joe Dante | Trailers
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Yongary, Monster from the Deep is a South Korean monster movie released about 15 years after the Korean War. At the time South Korea was still a poor country and the budget, while miniascule by today's standards, was quite big for the day in South Korea. It was meant to be a showcase for South Korean film making.
BLU-RAY: Yongary was previously released by MGM's Midnite Movies. What you get here is the blu-ray version of that print. The picture is nice and is worth the upgrade. I'm not an expert in film upgrades. I can only tell you what my eyes see. It looks as good as can be expected for a 1960's foreign film. This version is helped tremendously by a commentary track that is extremely informative and is where I got most of my information for this review. There is no Korea language version. All prints of the Korean language version have been lost. All that remains is 48 minutes of poor footage of the original. Fortunately the English dubbed versions have survived.
EXTRA'S: Most importantly, you get the aforementioned commentary track by Steve Ryfle and South Korean writer/critic Kim Song-ho. Song-Ho provides most of the interesting facts about this movie. He thoroughly researched it to provide us with all the information on the track. You also get two other trailers from Kino-Lorber recent releases, 'The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, and ,The Monster That Challenged the World.'
PLOT: The movie opens with a wedding. Somehow little Icho manages to steal an itching ray from the laboratory of his sister's boyfriend, Ilo. I have no idea who would invent an itching ray and how a little boy would get into a top secret laboratory without anybody knowing but let's just go with it. Icho somehow ends up far down the road, once again without anybody noticing him (perhaps he has Harry Potter's cloak) he points the ray at the bride and the groom with the potential for them to kill themselves but once they discover what is going on, it's all just a big joke.
Well, they never get to conssumate their wedding on the first night of their honeymoon because,the groom gets called away to be shot into space to observe a nuclear test in the middle east. Yes, I know, South Korean space program? 1967? Remember, this was supposed to be sort of a propaganda film intended to make South Korea look good. Also, keep in mind that Toho did a lot of this sort of stuff too, That's probably where they got the idea. Somehow this nuclear blast manages to send an earthquake ripple all the way to North Korea (where else?) where Yongary pops out.Yongary is a fire breathing lizard somewhat reminiscent of Godzilla but less fearsome looking. Gamera is the obvious other influence as he is fire breathing as opposed to Godizlla's atomic breath.
Yongary goes on a rampage and starts destroying everything in sight. Icho manages to slip away yet again and follow Yongary around.
Icho observes Yongary drinking oil, he also observes his reaction to a powdery white ammonia substance when he accidentally comes into contact with it. This allows Icho to become the hero. He tells Ilo of his discovery and Ilo goes to work on creating a weapon that will stop Yongary.
Meanwhile the army goes on the attack and they have the same success that the army always has has in Japanese 'kaiju' movies. NONE.
Icho manage to yet again slip away with the itching ray and tracks down Yongary. Yongary goes to sleep and Icho points the ray at him. Yongary gets up, and get this....starts dancing to beach music! Icho thinks it's all tremendous fun. I suppose in reality, that Yongary is really just trying to itch himself but it doesn't come across that way. Little Icho who does not want the military to kill Yongary and thinks he is just misunderstood (probably correct). However, he doesn't seem to have any problem torturing the monster with the itching ray (perhaps he just doesn't understand). Yongary unleashes a new weapon. It's a laser that shoots from his nose horn. It lights up...kind of the way Godzilla's back fins light up when he unleashes his atomic breath.
***MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD***
After the military fails, the prime minister allows Ilo to go ahead and use his weapon on Yongary. Instead of the military doing the job. Ilo, and his family members including women and children go directly into the line of fire. I don't know what this says for the South Korean military. Ilo couldn't have left them at home instead of risking their lives? Ilo drops the chemicals on Yongary from a helicopter. Yongary immediately goes into his death throes and falls into a river where he....almost unbelievably.....bleeds to death from his anus!!! I've always respected that Asian cinema doesn't have this Disney like attitude toward violence in kids movies like we do here in the United States. But I kind of think this is a bitch much unless you don't really believe this is a kid's movie.
Usually when the monster dies in a movie from this time period, the movie ends within seconds afterward, But in this case the movie stretches on for several minutes. Our hero, Icho, philosophically states that it's a shame that Yongary had to be destroyed just because he was in our way but that he understands why it had to be done.
***END OF SPOILER***
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: The miniature sets were very good looking in my opinion and there were lots of them. This must have taken a lot of time. Of course they had a lot of help from the Japanese. The Japanese were called in to assist on the special effects. That's kind of odd considering at the time there was deep mistrust among the two nations. For all I know there still might be some but this is not meant to be a political discussion and I don't know much about foreign politics.
I felt the dubbing was pretty good. I'm not a big critic of dubbing and am far less critical of the dubbing of Asian films than most. However there is one moment during the movie that had me rewinding because I thought there was a flaw in the video or my player somehow skipped. At the 50:50 mark a soldier tells Icho, Ilo and Suna "They'll be hitting Yongary any minute, they'll be using guided missiles, you better go." Then repeats the exact same lines a moment later. Upon second viewing, I noticed the soldier looking at his watch so I knew then that is wasn't a disc error.
The Yongary costume was acceptable. Some of the reviews I've read say that it is as good as anything the Japanese 'kaiju' movies have produced. I disagree. I think it's below quite a few of them. But It was as good as some of the lesser costumes. It is more comparable to one of Gamera's foes (Daiei) type of costume as opposed to a Godzilla (Toho) one. The nozzle that the fire comes out of in Yongary's mouth is large and embarrassingly easy to see. It's extremely obvious. I did not like the way the tail seemed to be chopped off at the end. It gives the impression that it was cut off by accident.
While not necessarily a kids movie, Yongary tends to go in that direction. During this time period, Godzilla was beginning to turn into a kid's hero after previously being a villain. Gamera essentially turned into a kid's movie after the first one (or second). Obviously these were influencing factors into making Icho the main hero.
It was never clear to me if the itching ray gave Yongary that laser weapon that came out of his nose horn. I didn't actually listen to the whole commentary track, only about half of it. So perhaps this was cleared up there.
Also from the commentary track, we learn that in South Korea, this movie has reached legendary status and has a large cult following. For many years it was unavailable in South Korea and could not be seen by anybody there (this includes our expert commentator, Kim Song-ho).
As always, I thank Kino Lorber for this excellent release.
Recommended for all 'kaiju' fans, if for nothing else but it's excellent commentary track.
THE STORY: Nuclear testing in the middle east awakens an ancient, mythical, slumbering, subterranean beast who immediately starts tunneling his way towards the center of South Korea(?) and begins a reign of destruction. The scaly monstrosity breaths fire, can shoot an energy beam from the glowing horn on his nose and stomps & smashes everything in his path. The military is powerless to halt the savage beast's advance thru the heart of Seoul, so it's up to a clever young inventor (with "assistance" from an annoying young boy) to devise a scientific method of stopping Yongary's wrath.
THOUGHTS: Korea's mid-60's entry in the giant monster boom surging through Japan at the time. Nothing particularly unique in either story or execution in this by-the-numbers man in a rubber suit rampage. On its own level it's kinda fun but has some boring stretches. YONGARY isn't as well-made as Toho's Godzilla movies of the same era nor as silly whacked-out fun as Daiei's Gamera films but is nonetheless a mildly entertaining romp 'em stomp 'em kaiju flick. The F/X were created by local Korean film technicians trying their hand at first-time miniature work with expert guidance from some pros from Toei studios who were brought over from Japan to advise the ambitious production. YONGARY has gained a legendary status of sorts in its home nation of South Korea due to its being the first big F/X-heavy film in that country's history, coupled with the fact that the original Korean language film elements were apparently "lost" somehow, and now this English-dubbed American version is the only surviving version left. *Approximately 48-minutes' worth of the original Korean language version of YONGARY surfaced some years ago. That badly damaged, heavily truncated footage is the only native language version known to exist. Sadly, it isn't included on the new Blu-ray edition from Kino Lorber. Speaking of which...
THE BLU-RAY: This new hi-def transfer utilizes the same work print as the remaster done for the old MGM Midnight Movie DVD from several years ago. The focus here is noticeably sharper but at the expense of making even more of the F/X work obvious. Whether that's bad or good is up to the viewer to decide. Colors & contrast are excellent. There is dirt, debris and film damage (scratches, etc.) evident throughout the movie. Video noise is also present throughout. I suspect this was from dialing up the sharpness in order to get maximum picture clarity. As I mentioned above, the original Korean language audio portion no longer exists so the English dub is your only option. Extras include 2 trailers: Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, (courtesy of Trailers From Hell), and the trailer for The Monster That Challenged The World. The other bonus is a full-length audio commentary lead by Steve Ryfle, with occasional input from South Korean blogger and Yongary super fan, Kim Song-Ho. It's an informative, if sort of dry track. It delves into the production from both a technical and historical perspective and is worth a listen for genre fans and those interested in Korea's murky film production history.