Pulgasari (1985)

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pulgasari (1985)

I truly wanted to write this article as a Party Member North Korean film reviewer but the further I got the more racist it became and although it was hilarious I just can’t risk the chance it could be viewed as hate speak.  So…

  • Actors: Chang Son Hui, Ham Gi Sop, Jong-uk Ri, Gwon Ri, Gyong-ae Yu
  • Directors: Chong Gon Jo, Sang-ok Shin
  • Writers: Se Ryun Kim
  • Producers: Jong-il Kim
  • Format: Color, Letterboxed, NTSC
  • Subtitles: English
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Section 23
  • VHS Release Date: February 20, 2001
  • Run Time: 95 minutes

Pulgasari is a 1985 North Korean fantasy action film directed by Shin Sang-ok and Chong Gon Jo.  The film, a giant-monster film similar to the Japanese Godzilla series, was produced by the South Korean Shin, who had been kidnapped in 1978 by North Korean intelligence on the orders of Kim Jong-il, son of the then-ruling Kim Il-sung.

Kim was a lifelong admirer of the director and Kaiju-like films, and kidnapped the latter and his wife, famous actress Choi Eun-hee, with the specific purpose of making fantasy/propaganda films for the North Korean government.  Kim Jong-il also produced Pulgasari and all the films that Sang-ok made before he and Choi fled the country.

Teruyoshi Nakano and the staff from Japan's Toho studios, the creators of Godzilla, participated in creating the film's special effects.  Kenpachiro Satsuma – the stunt performer who played Godzilla from 1984 to 1995 – portrayed Pulgasari, and when the Godzilla remake was released in Japan in 1998, he was quoted as saying he preferred Pulgasari to the American Godzilla.

In feudal Korea, during the Goryeo Dynasty, a King controls the land with an iron fist, subjecting the peasantry to misery and starvation.  An old blacksmith who was sent to prison creates a tiny figurine of a monster by making a doll of rice.  When it comes into contact with the blood of the blacksmith's daughter, the creature springs to life, becoming a giant metal-eating monster named Pulgasari.

The evil King becomes aware that there is a rebellion being planned in the country, which he intends to crush, but he runs into Pulgasari, who fights with the peasant army to overthrow the corrupt monarchy.

Pulgasari has gained some popularity over the years because of the shocking story of Shin Sang-ok and Choi Eun-hee's kidnapping and strange captivity as the director and leading actress - the latter one excluding this film - of a total of seven films, for which the couple was simultaneously commissioned and forced to do by North Korea's government.  Jonathan Ross of The BBC stated that the film is intended to be a propaganda metaphor for the effects of unchecked capitalism and the power of the collective.

Shin later wrote the script for a loose remake of Pulgasari entitled The Adventures of Galgameth, which released in 1997.

Not shown outside of North Korea or South Korea for over a decade after its release in 1985.  In the early 1990's, the North Koreans attempted to market this propaganda film to foreign countries with no success. Finally in 1998 it got its first international viewing in Japan where it gained a small cult following.

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