Yongary, Monster From the Deep (1967) – By Duane L. Martin

 

You know, the film industry in South Korea is pumping out the finest films in the Asian film market today, hands down.  The quality of South Korean films is second to none.  That said, the South Korean films from the 60s are a different story entirely.  This film in particular is their attempt at making a daikaiju film, and while it has its charm, it really comes off looking like one of the cheapo Gamera films that were made to appeal to children back in the day.  Modern Gamera is a total bad ass who could easily challenge Godzilla for the title King of the Monsters, but the kiddie versions from back in the 60s and 70s were just horrible.  The stories were bad, the effects were weak and the costumes were less than appealing in many cases.

Yongary as a monster is about as tall as a skyscraper, and not overly menacing looking.  He doesn’t exude the badassitude of Godzilla, but rather he’s more cartoonish like the early Gamera was.  He was brought up to the surface by a nuclear test that was supposedly happened in the Middle East, which I couldn’t really figure out.  Why would a nuclear test in the Middle East have anything to do with a giant monster coming above ground to attack South Korea?  Maybe I missed something there, but it just didn’t make sense to me.

Another deficiency of this particular monster is that while Godzilla and many of the other daikaiju monsters breathe radiation or shoot lightning or whatever, Yongary breathes fire, but he only does it a few times, and when he does actually do it he opens his mouth wide and his tongue is replaced by a very obvious nozzle coming out of his throat that’s quite big around.  At some point he started slicing stuff in half too, like jets and what not, but I never really did understand how he was doing that.  Maybe I just missed something.

Aside from the numerous problems with this film, the one that I found particularly doofy was that people seemed to be able to teleport.  For example, one minute this little kid in the film is at one location, and the next minute he’s at an oil refinery.  That’s a hell of a long walk for a little kid.  He didn’t even have a bike or anything, so the only conclusion I can come to is that he teleported there.  He wasn’t the only one either.  People seemed to randomly just sort of appear in different places that were quite far apart, while seemingly no time had passed.

Something else that’s wrong with this film is that I couldn’t even begin to tell you anyone’s name.  Not because I wasn’t paying attention, but because it never seemed like any of them were important enough for me to remember.  In a way, that’s how you can judge a film if you think about it.  How memorable or important are the characters?  Maybe they’d have been more memorable if the film was in its original language with subtitles instead of dubbed into English by mostly passionless voice actors.  It’s difficult to say though.  Speaking of that, there’s one scene in the film where a military guard literally repeats the same three lines twice, but he does so in a really awkward sounding manner.  I have no idea what the deal with that is, but I remember thinking how strange it was when I heard it.

One hilarious thing in this film had nothing to do with the main characters at all.  It involved all of the people who were evacuating and running away from Yongary.  You know how when people evacuate they take their clothes and stuff with them?  Well the people in this film were running around with the most random stuff you could possibly imagine.  Everything from globes, to kitchen chairs to book cases, and whatever other junk the producers could find to have them hold on too so that it gave the illusion they were actually evacuating.  I mean, there was some really ridiculous stuff.  For me, trying to pick out all the things they were carrying with them was by far the most fun I had watching this film.

Finally, the back of the case says this film got a PG rating, but for the life of me I can’t even begin to imagine why.  What’s so PG about a guy in a rubber monster suit destroying model buildings?  There’s more violence in G rated cartoons than there was in this movie.

This new blu-ray release from Kino Lorber includes audio commentary by film historian Steve Ryfle and writer / critic Kim Song-ho, and trailers for The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues and The Monster That Challenged the World.

Is this film worth watching?  Yes.  Is this film a great entry in the long line of daikaiju films that have come out over the years?  No.  I mean, there’s stuff in this film that I didn’t even mention here that just made no sense at all.  So if you like these sorts of films and you want to see South Korea’s contribution to the genre, pick yourself up a copy and check it out.  If not, then don’t.  You won’t be missing anything major.  It’s worth seeing definitely just for some of the goofy stuff in it, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of my must see list.

If you’d like to find out more about this new release from Kino Lorber, you can check out the film’s page on their website here: http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=2210