Year Released: 1985
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 100 minutes
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You know when you pick up a video title that reads, “BANNED FOR TEN YEARS” it really means that it got banished in some back-ass country that still believes photo taking is just another means of stealing your soul. Well, the meagerly made monster flick, “Pulgasari” beats them all by not only being banned in it’s own country, but also having a political debacle stranger than most films by Oliver Stone.
This is obviously a case of the story behind the film being better than the film itself. The story begins with a one Kim Jong II. Leader of North Korea in the 80’s, this man not only put his country back to the stone age by ruling it with an iron fist, but God bless his heart, he’s a softy for the cinema. So he decides to make a monster film, sneaking in a little North Korean philosophy inside it along the way.
Every producer needs a director for an opus this size, so Jong hires prominent director Shin San-Oak. You know, the director of famous classics like “Sarang Sarang Nae Sarang,” Guan Shi Yin,” and let’s not forget his timeless masterpiece, “Yollyomoon.” He’s also an easy director to get because he’s been kidnapped by the northern regime since the late 70’s (by his buddy/employer/supreme leader Jong, of course). While Jong forces Oak to make this epic of a small town and their friendly but sassy monster, Jong figures he’ll kidnap two of North Korea’s most popular actors and force them to be in the film as well. It’s a triple threat! Just before “Pulgasari” was completed, Oak took his wife, proclaimed juche from North Korea, and took the midnight train out of the country for good. Pissed off with Oak and his freedom loving ways, Jong bans the film for almost ten years.
As for a movie so riddled with political turmoil, it’s strictly standard good vs. evil monster type fare. A small village decides to quietly start a rebellion against its mean and nasty empire (sound familiar?). The empire realizes that to have a strong army, one must have a lot of iron to build weapons. Since the village is on the brink of starvation, they’re certainly not going to need those iron pots and pans to cook with, so they raid the joint of all iron materials, mess up the place like a biker gang, and call it a day.
But all is not lost for our heroes. An old geezer by the name of Takse hides his fortune of iron and when asked where in the hell it went, he proclaims that a silly beast named Pulgasari took it. This kind of back-talk puts him straight in the joint. While in jail, his family tries to throw him some rice for food, but the crazy geezer doesn’t eat the mess, he makes a really cool looking action figure out of it.
To cut to the chase, the family finds this little “rice toy” and due to some blood dropping on it, Pulgasari (the name of the little rodent) comes to life. The little bugger’s like an Old Yeller, Casper, and that crappy little creature from “Mac and Me” all rolled into one. They find that the little rascal loves eating iron, and the doctor always said that iron makes you grow, so our little Pulgasari does.
Soon, Pulgasari leads the rebel troops in battle, getting bigger with every chunk of iron he eats. These villagers must have seen “Return of the Jedi” one too many times, because their battle tactics mostly consist of logs rolling off cliffs and boulder throwing. Even with all this log jamming, the evil empire finally captures the beast and attempt to burn him, which pisses Pulgasari off to no end. He stops, drops, and rolls into a riverbed, boiling a good portion of the foes like a bubbling pot of fine Louisiana gumbo. This battle of the dim witted goes on for the rest of the film until the good guys finally win, but not without a price. Pulgasari is still hankering for some iron and the town is running dry. They now have to find a way of letting Pulgasari down easy and tell him to split. What irony. Get it? The monster eats iron and… just forget it.
This movie would be better served as an episode on the classic, “Mystery Science Theatre 2000.” It’s amazing that after fifty years of monster movies, the technology has not changed. There are a total of three sound effects for the entire production, the monster still looks like a stuntman in a rubber suit, and rear screen projection is replaced by people actually running in front of a drive-in movie screen. Who would have even thought there was a drive-in in North Korea?
I guess it comes down to the age old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In conclusion, all of this chaos started because some crazy geezer made an action figure out of some rice. Mother was right, never play with your food.
Posted on October 31, 2002 in Reviews by Dennis Przywara
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- CROSSING THE LINE
- BY WAY OF IRON…
- HEY…LOOK…IT’S IRON MAN. LOOKS LIKE…IRON MAN.
- LOVE AND THE MONSTER
- “IRON MAN” IS SO MONEY AND HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW IT
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