Friday, June 3, 2016

Rare Import Flix: North Korean Godzilla (aka Pulgasari)

The Monster is loose- unchecked Imperialism, that is!  Today's Film is Pulgasari, more commonly known as the North Korean answer to Godzilla.  Much like the Nazis inadvertently gave us Munchausen, this one comes to us from the Kim Jong Family...and their captives.  'Fun' Backstory: a South Korean Director and his Wife were kidnapped by the Dictator and forced to make his Propaganda Films.  This captivity lasted for around a Decade or so- just in time for this Movie to be finished.  The couple moved to America- afraid to be called willing participants by South Korea- and made Movies here.  He Directed such classics as 3 Ninjas and 3 Ninjas Strike Back before his death in 2006.  To note, Kim Jong-Il wasn't actually in power at this point (it was his Father Kim Il-Sung), but he was the man who made the call to kidnap the pair.  I'd be careful around Kim Jong-Un if I were you, John Woo!  What is this actual Film though?  It is the tale of an evil Emperor (supposed to be Chinese, I think) who faces the wrath of a monster for his crimes.  Is the Story of the Film being made greater than the actual Story *in* the Film?  To find out, read on...
Way back in the day, an evil Emperor is punishing the locals and taking all of their Iron to make weapons.  The Secret Origin Story of Tony Stark?
In this harsh times, Heroes must rise...only to have their thunder stolen by a guy dressed like Barney later.
Chaos ensues as the Rebels fight back, but things aren't going their way.  Many die, many are beaten and one lady somehow loses a hand when a cart's wheel runs over it.  Huh?
The Uncle is locked up, beaten and starved.  Have I mentioned that this Film is super-dark yet?

While in Jail, he takes the small amount of rice snuck into his cell to...make a figure out of clay.
This is Pulgasari.  He eats metal.  Any questions?
As time goes by, Pulgasari eats lots of metal, pushes the oppressors around (being invulnerable pretty much right away) and plans for the big battle.
Now represented by a slightly-inflated foot, Pulgasari now leads the battle against the oppressors!
The battle is broken up by segments of the Emperor trying different ways to stop the beast, be it cannons, fire or even...exorcism?  Yeah, it doesn't work.
In the aftermath, the Daughter of the man who summoned the creature realizes that it will continue to wreak havoc and eat metal while it lives, so she does the ceremony to kill it.  The creature's spirit ends up in her, setting up a Sequel...maybe.
Dark, sometimes silly stuff. Pulgasari is an odd attempt to both be Godzilla, be Daimajin and be a Propaganda Film.  The creature is clearly supposed to make you think of Godzilla, while the Plot is practically cribbed from Daimajin.  Evil Emperor, oppressed people and giant creature there to save them- not subtle.  As far as being Propaganda goes, it is a little more vague.  I guess the idea is that the Workers united to stop an Emperor, which is theoretically how North Korea worked.  Of course, it didn't (and doesn't) actually work that way.  There's a theory that the kidnapped Director skewed the Story to be a bit more about the Kim Family being evil, but there's no solid proof to that.  It is more likely that they were just tone deaf.  It isn't like Propaganda is *usually* all that accurate.  If it was, it would be called News, right?  The Film itself is not all that bad as far as the Production goes, save for the melodrama and occasional bits of silliness.  The big problems are thus: repetitive Action and dark tone.  Once you've seen one big battle, you've pretty much seen them all.  The Tone is the big thing, as people are dying, being beaten and all sorts of other nastiness throughout.  Godzilla Films are not usually light, but they are definitely lighter than this!  All in all, the Film is a bizarre Historical Relic, but not much more.  Take us away, subtle symbolism!
Next up, I get back on schedule with a Horror Comedy.  It still can't be more disappointing than Maniac Cop 2.  Stay tuned...

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