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Purchase Yongary, Monster From the Deep (1967) [Blu-ray] from Amazon

Do A Little Dance, Make A Little Death

Recently released to Blu-ray by Kino Lorber, Yongary was South Korea’s attempt to cash-in on the popularity of Japan’s Godzilla series. Produced on less of a budget than most of those films, Yongary still manages to provide the same flame-spitting, building-smashing, rubber-suited fun delivered by the majority of the “King of Monsters” misadventures.

Korean astronaut Yoo and his new bride are leaving their wedding reception, driving off to their honeymoon vacation. It would seem as though the reception was held at the same space center that launches the rockets that the groom pilots. Seems romantic. It may also seem as there is a little touch of foreshadowing going on here, but really it’s just an excuse to have all the characters in one spot for the film’s first few minutes of introductions. As the couple drives off, their family members begin to converse. It’s mentioned that the bride’s younger sister is dating Ilo, a scientist that also works at the space center.

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After driving a very short distance, the newlyweds are forced to pull off the road after what appears to be a flashlight beam shines on them. The light makes them both begin to itch terribly. The light is being emitted by a bizarre device held by a young boy hiding in the bushes near the roadside. This is Icho, the bride’s younger brother. This prank is his idea of a wedding gift. Little bastard was too cheap to buy a card.

Ilo is driving behind them and notices their distress. They explain what has happened to them and Ilo chuckles. He knows that this is an experimental device from his lab. He also knows that Icho must be behind this. It’s just so damn cute when kids play with random things that they find at rocket facilities. He calls the boy out of hiding and takes him back to the base, leaving the new couple to depart for their honeymoon.

The groom is soon called back from his honeymoon in order to man a reconnaissance mission to observe a nuclear bombing test somewhere in the Middle East. Why wasn’t this planned in advance? Was South Korea’s space program so small at the time that they only had the one astronaut? As his boss just so happens to be his new father-in-law, I would not be surprised if this were just a ploy by the old man to keep Yoo from nailing his daughter. The bride tries to dissuade her father, but to no avail.

The launch is a success. The Estes model rocket that is used to accomplish the effect? Not so much. As Yoo’s space capsule separates from the boosters, his wife and her father casually sip tea in the control room. Hey, her husband may be floating in orbit instead of floating in a sea of nuptial bliss, but everyone deserves a chance to relax. Except for Yoo. He has to work today.

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The detonation of the bomb causes the command center to lose communications with the space capsule. The detonation also rips a large trench in the ground, which in turn starts a series of earthquakes that are now moving towards South Korea. “Earthquake” is the keyword here because even though we see a toy plane drop a toy bomb, the nuclear testing in not mentioned again. The consequent series of events in continuously attributed to the earthquakes.

As is commonplace in Korea, and more so Japan, a large reptilian monster emerges from the cracks in the earth. Martial law is soon declared. The citizens are told not to panic, but I think we all know just how well that approach works. As giant roaming monsters tend to do, it sets to destroying the city. This only serves to escalate the level of panic among the public. A few businessmen gather in a restaurant to gorge themselves on food and drink as they wait for their impending demise. Some take to the nightclubs to get wasted and dance away their remaining moments. Give the film some credit for doing an excellent job of portraying these damned souls as believably drunk and/or high off their asses. A toy car bursts into flames as it tumbles down the side of a large mound of dirt. Pure hell breaking loose. Dogs and cats LIVING TOGETHER!!!

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Yongary feeds on fossil fuels. This leads him to raid an oil refinery. While smashing the oil tanks in search of food, Yongary inadvertently destroys a tank carrying an ammonia-based chemical. This causes the monster to itch furiously. That’s right. Itch! We’re gonna need a really large bottle of Calamine lotion for this. While he’s standing there scratching all over himself, Yongary almost looks like a junkie waiting for his next fix. That is just what it looked like to me. I assure you that Yongary is “clean”. Varan, on the other hand….

Ilo gets to work on creating a weapon out of the ammonia as a means of defeating the monster. Meanwhile, in what is easily the film’s most memorable sequence, Icho and Yongary have a dance party. No, I’m not joking. Yongary breaks into the Ickey Shuffle (or would that be the “Itchy Shuffle”?). Homeboy’s got moves like Jaguar. Jet Jaguar, that is.

More carnage and mayhem ensue after Yongary is blasted with missiles in a failed attempt to stop it. The film makers were wise to reveal their creature early. The creature is revealed after 30 minutes of character development, and the film then wisely spends the majority of its remaining run time focused on the monster as it continues on its path of destruction.

As far as kaiju monsters go, Yongary is one goofy looking critter. The construction of the creature suit is not quite on par with those found in the Godzilla films. If anything, it’s much closer to the quality of some of Gamera‘s monstrous foes. One of Yongary’s defining features is that there is almost no attempt made to camouflage the nozzle of the flame thrower concealed in the creature’s mouth. There’s a strong sense that someone was happy enough getting the thing to work without setting the suit on fire. Aesthetics were secondary.

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Yongary, Monster from the Deep is the type of film that allows you to turn your brain off for a short time and just enjoy the simple pleasure of watching a large rubber monster smashing the hell out of model cities and toys. This is the kind of movie you might watch when the weather is crap and you just want to slouch on the couch as the day drifts away. It’s big. It’s dumb. It’s fun.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

The print used for this transfer is pretty rough in spots. There are plenty of speckles, spots, & scratches. What is missing here is the fluorescent green tint that punctuated the cheap, VHS-sourced, public domain copies that made up the majority of this film’s prior DVD releases.

As expected, detail is vastly improved over previous releases, but this release will still probably look underwhelming to those not familiar with the film. The film has an inherent “softness” which causes a few scenes to look quite “fuzzy”, while others feature a pleasant level of detail. This increase in clarity also serves to reveal the limitations not only in the creature design and the model vehicles, but also in the backdrops of the sets. Seams are exposed on some, as well as folds in the fabric used for others. For those of the same mindset as myself, this “shoddiness” just adds to the charm.

This release features a 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix that, while functional, still lacks some “oomph”. Dialog is always quite clear, and the score is serviceably delivered, if somewhat muted. What this track lacks is any sense of “weight” behind the creature’s roars and other special audio effects. While the creature attacking the city may be quite large, the depth to the sounds of its carnage are quite small.

EXTRAS:

The only “extra” included is a commentary track featuring film historian Steve Ryfle and writer Kim Song-ho. A theatrical trailer is not included, but trailers for The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues & The Monster that Challenged the World (other recent Kino Lorber releases) are.

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OVERALL: Yongary is nothing more than a shallow time-killer. It’s not much more “deep” than a kiddie pool. It provides all the city stomping and tank smashing that fans expect from this type of films. The HD presentation will more than please longtime fans, while possibly leaving new viewers unimpressed. Audio is clean and clear, but lacks any real punch. Worth a purchase for fans, but casual viewers may want to wait for a sale before making the plunge.

 

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