For the majority of the year, I cover movies and shows from Japan and Hollywood. That’s just where most kaiju and giant monster films and TV comes from. But every once in a great while a different country steps up and says “Hey man, we got a monster too!” and I love that shit. It’s exciting to get entries in the genre from somewhere besides Hollywood and Japan, and the results vary from complete schlock to low-key modern classic.
This month I’m reviewing 1996’s Galgameth (aka The Legend of Galgameth or The Adventures of Galgameth), a Romanian/US co-production that lands right about in the middle of the schlock/classic spectrum. It’s a loose remake of North Korea’s Pulgasari, giving it yet another layer of… internationality (holy shit that’s actually a word?!) So what happens when the story of Pulgasari gets remade in the mid-90s, filtered through a couple more cultures and directed by the renowned auteur that mounted 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain? Read on to find out!
In light of the recent shitshow over Sony’s The Interview it only seems right to take on North Korea’s very own kaiju, Pulgasari! It’s one of the very few kaiju movies to also be a period piece, taking place in feudal Korea. It probably won’t surprise you that Pulgasari attempts and fails to be anti-capitalist propaganda (instead coming closer to satirizing Best Korea and Glorious Leader), but it might surprise you that they kidnapped a South Korean director to make it! No, seriously, Kim Jong-Il kidnapped director Shin Sang-ok, and his ex-wife, actress Chong Gon Jo, and held them captive for 8 years, forcing them to remarry and crank out seven films, including Pulgasari. It gets weirder: Toho’s Godzilla team (including Godzilla suit actor Kenpachirô Satsuma) did the special effects, presumably without being kidnapped. And one last blast of bizarreness: the movie ain’t bad. The highest rating most sources online give it is “so-bad-it’s-good,” but considering the insane circumstances, the movie turned out pretty damn solid. I feel kind of shitty enjoying Pulgasari because people were torn from their homes and held captive to make it, and North Korea’s whole situation is a totalitarian hellscape, but you’d probably make a good movie too if your life literally depended on it.
So grab some swords and shovels to munch on, make a little dog-bear-man out of rice (and maybe poop), and jam some sick snyths on your Casio, because I’m talkin’ about Pulgasari!