Thursday, September 29, 2011

Trailer Thursday: Pulgasari (1985)

Pulgasari is a giant monster movie with a bizarre history. Did you know that the leader of North Korea, dictator Kim Jong-il, loves movies? He really loves movies. He loves movies so much in fact that he once used his dictatorial connections to arrange for the kidnapping of South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and his wife. In 1979 Sang-ok and his wife were kidnapped in Hong Kong, taken to North Korea, and imprisoned. There, Shin Sang-ok directed the North Korean monster movie: PULGASARI

In the early 1980s, Kim Jong-il, who had not yet succeeded his father as ruler, was not happy with the quality or propagandist thrust of the North Korean movie industry. Despite kidnapping Shin Sang-ok in 1979, it wasn't until four years later that Kim Jong-il plucked him out of the prison camp where he was languishing and offered Shin Sang-ok the chance to make movies. Kim Jong-il would allow the South Korean director to make movies for North Korea and grant him an annual pay cheque of $3m as well as whatever counted as freedom within North Korea's isolated confines. In exchange, Shin Sang-ok had to claim he moved to North Korea of his own free will, renounce Capitalism, and never leave the country to shoot movies without permission of the government and a contingent of guards. Failing to follow these rules, could mean further imprisonment or death.

One of the films Shin Sang-ok produced was Pulgasari, a Godzilla ripoff with a confusing North Korean ideological bent. Set in ancient Korea, an evil king is oppressing his people, but they are saved (kind of) when a blacksmith's doll -- Pulgasari -- comes to life and leads the people against the oppressive government. However, Pulgasari seems to turn on the people. To bring Pulgasari to life, Sang-ok was allowed to get production assistance from the monster masters at Toho in Japan. Pulgasari is even played by Kenpachiro Satsuma, the Godzilla suit actor from 1984-1995.

I always wanted to review Pulgasari, so you can expect to see more of Pulgasari on ALL MONSTERS BLOG! in the near future.

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