I didn’t lie yesterday. I told you that I was out of Toho kaiju movies but I didn’t say I was completely out of kaiju movies. Today’s movie is actually a little fitting considering the nationality of it. See, back in the 60’s, South Korea, seeing the success of Godzilla and other kaiju films, decided to try their hand at the kaiju movie business. So South Korea’s Keukdong Entertainment Company decided to partner with Japan’s Toei Company (who would later become famous for Super Sentai (which would become Power Rangers)) and come up with their own movie. Now I first heard about this movie years ago while talking about Japanese monster movies and someone had asked if I had seen it, saying it was basically a Korean Godzilla knock off. Well I hadn’t at the time but I would rectify that and pretty soon added Yongary: Monster Of The Deep to my collection of kaiju movies.
The plot: In South Korea, the families of an astronaut and his new bride watch as they drive off for their honeymoon, then tease Il-woo and his girlfriend Soon-a about when they will tie the knot. Il-woo leaves, citing he has a lot of research to do, and Soon-a is upset, thinking that he loves his research more than her but her father assures her that is not the case. As the married couple drive down the road, they are struck by a beam of light that causes them to start itching. Il-woo comes across them and after talking with the astronaut, he realizes what is going on and calls out for Icho, the bride’s younger brother, the come out of hiding. Icho comes out and the couple continue on their honeymoon while Il-woo chastises Icho for taking the ray gun out of his lab, saying he could have seriously hurt his sister with it. That night, the astronaut gets called away from his honeymoon for an emergency assignment to provide rocket surveillance on a possible nuclear testing site in the middle east. As his capsule heads into space and begins monitoring the area, the test commences and the explosion causes interference with the capsules radio, as well as triggers an earthquake to occur. When the control tower finally manages to regain contact with the capsule, they have him land and he informs them that the earthquake is moving, just as the scientists confirm that the earthquake’s epicenter has shifted and is moving towards Korea. As officials meet to discuss what they should do about the earthquake, it reaches the Hwanghae province and they decide to evacuate the area and impose martial law. As the earthquake occurs, a photographer in the area takes some pictures and spots a creature moving around underneath where the ground split open. He drives off to try and get to the authorities but ends up crashing off a cliff due to the tremors. Some guards find him and bring him to the emergency panel, where he hands them his camera before dying from his wounds. When the film is developed, the authorities see the man’s pictures of the giant monster and one of the scientist names the creature Yongary, based on an old legend. When Yongary emerges from the ground, the military is sent in to try and kill him but their tanks have no effect on the giant monster as it makes it’s way towards Seoul. As the city is evacuated, Il-woo decides to head there to observe Yongary and try to figure out a weakness and Soon-a and Icho go to try and stop him. They eventually find Il-woo and duck behind a wall as Yongary is close by, then watch as it continues to wreck the city. Deciding it is too dangerous, they all leave but end up getting separated, and Il-woo and Soon-a start trying to find Icho. The military wants to use guided missiles to attack Yongary but the government fears it would cause more damage to the area and refuses to allow the attack. Meanwhile, Icho makes his way through the sewers and ends up at an oil refinery just as Yongary arrives there. Icho watches as Yongary begins drinking from the tanks containing gasoline and oil, so Icho shuts off the valve, preventing more oil from flowing to the tanks. As Yongary angrily starts thrashing about, he smashes a building and causes an explosion that envelopes him in a white cloud of gas. Icho notices that Yongary starts acting strange when the gas cloud envelopes him and he rushes off to find Il-woo and tell him what he saw. When Icho returns home, he tells Il-woo what he saw and they decide to go to the authorities to speak with them and Il-woo says that the missiles would only make him stronger but they don’t believe him and decide to continue with their plan to use guided missiles on Yongary. Il-woo returns to his lab and, based on what Icho had said about the gas, begins fashioning an ammonia solution to try and defeat Yongary. Icho sneaks back out of the house and uses the itch ray to lure Yongary back to the refinery, where it absorbs the fire from a burning tanker. The military launches it’s missile attack but they have no effect on Yongary. Meanwhile, Il-woo, Soon-a, her sister and new husband use a helicopter to fly over Yongary and drop Il-woo’s ammonia solution into the clouds, causing it to rain and put Yongary to sleep but Il-woo says it is only temporary and that he needs to do some more work on the formula. As he works in his lab on the formula, Icho sneaks out again and goes to see Yongary, using the beam on him and causing him to wake up. Icho laughs when it appears Yongary is starting to dance and he dances with him until some soldiers show up and quickly take Icho to safety. Yongary renews his rampage and the military realizes that their missiles had no effect on him and try a new attack on him. Meanwhile, Il-woo finishes refining his solution and heads out to load it into a helicopter. As Yongary reaches the Han river, they fly overhead and begin dumping the ammonia onto Yongary, causing him to thrash about violently before eventually collapsing to the ground. Icho begs them not to kill Yongary but Il-woo says they have no choice as Yongary finally dies. The next day, Il-woo is commended for his role in stopping Yongary and he gives Icho the credit for his observations on Yongary’s behavior. Icho tells the reporters that Yongary wasn’t really evil, as he was just searching for food but he knows that Yongary couldn’t live with people, but still wishes he could dance with him again. As they all head inside, Il-woo offers to marry Soon-a and she accepts, the smacks Icho when he says that soon she might have a brat like him of her own.
I honestly think the thing that bugs me the most about this movie is that we will probably never be able to see the original Korean version, as the original negatives were shipped out overseas for international release and ended up being lost and the only version available is the AIP English dub. That being said, there are some good elements to this movie but it is one of the weaker kaiju movies that I have seen. The acting was ok, though the dubbing made some of the scenes more comedic than they probably should have been. They seemed to decide to go with the Gamera route and have this be somewhat more kid-centric so a lot of focus was on Icho but to be honest, he was kind of a pain in the ass brat. I mean, he steals the ray gun three times, using it first on his own sister and then on Yongary twice. Some aspects of the story were interesting, such as Yongary feeding on oil and gasoline but the one obvious flaw with that plot line is that if the nuclear test and earthquake occurred in the Middle East, then wouldn’t Yongary just stay in that region, as there is an abundance of those substances there. But of course, they wanted the movie to be focused on South Korea so they had him travel there. The Yongary suit honestly looked a little cheap, and you could totally see the flame thrower nozzle in his mouth the times he breathed fire, while the model sets were kind of hit or miss in regards to how good they looked. It was a good attempt, but I think they could have done a better job with it.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5