Yongary, Monster from the Deep was South Korea’s 1967 attempt to climb aboard the Japanese monster movie bandwagon. In fact it was a co-production with Japan’s Toei Studio. It’s not a very good movie but if you’re in the right mood it’s kind of fun.
The movie opens with a wedding. A few hours into the honeymoon the groom is called away by an urgent message - he’s needed for a rush reconnaissance space mission. He’s a South Korean astronaut and the mission is something to do with monitoring a nuclear test in the Middle East. You might think that the Korean space program is going to play a major role in the movie, but you’d be wrong. This is one of the movie’s major faults - it throws lots of potentially interesting elements into the mix but fails completely to integrate them into a coherent whole. This is certainly a weakness but on the other hand it does add to the goofiness factor.
Once our astronaut is in orbit he notices an earthquake heading for Korea. A crisis meeting is called but neither the military nor the scientists are sure what to do. Then a report comes in that it isn’t an earthquake at all - it’s a gigantic monster reptile. One of the generals remembers hearing stories when he was a kid about a monster name Yongary and he realises immediately that the monster they are dealing with must be Yongary.
How or why Yongary has awoken we never discover (at least not in the English dubbed version). Whatever the reason he is now leaving a path of destruction behind him. The military sends in tanks but Yongary either torches them (being a monster he naturally is able to breathe fire) or squashes them.
The next obvious step is to fire missiles against Yongary. Dedicated young scientist Ilo (the best buddy of the astronaut) is not convinced this is a good idea. His eight-year-old nephew Icho saw Yongary drinking out of a gasoline storage tank. Firing missiles against a gasoline-guzzling monster may just make him stronger. Ilo has his own ideas about combating Yongary.
Although Yongary has flattened entire cities no-one seems too worried about letting an eight-year-old boy go around chasing the monster. And top military leaders and scientists don’t seem too concerned that Ilo’s plant to defeat Yongary are based on careful scientific observations by the aforementioned eight-year-old boy.
For once it’s not Tokyo that gets stomped, which must have come as a relief to Japanese audiences watching this movie.
It has to be said that the special effects are not up to the standards of contemporary Japanese productions. Yongary looks reasonably impressive but the fact that we can clearly see the nozzle in his throat the projects the flames ruins the illusion somewhat. The miniatures are not up to Japanese standards either but as long as the movie confines itself to scenes involving miniatures only it doesn’t look too bad. The big problems come in the scenes that try to combine live action and miniatures, often very crudely indeed.
The acting is fairly dire but nobody watches Asian monster movies for the acting.
By 1967 Japanese monster movies were starting to cast the monsters in a more favourable light and this movie shows some of this influence when at a very late stage young Icho decides that maybe Yongary didn’t mean any harm, maybe he was just playing. After all a monster who dances can’t be all evil. Just, Yongary dances, in a scene that will either have you tearing your hair out or will delight you in its sheer surreal weirdness.
This is a very cheesy production and that is really its main asset - it’s so cheesy that it’s difficult not to end up having a certain fondness for this movie. Even the rather annoying eight-year-old brat adds something to the sheer outrageous goofiness of proceedings.
Yongary, Monster from the Deep is a very bad movie and certainly cannot compare to the better Japanese monster movies. On the other hand its extreme cheesiness gives it a certain appeal.
MGM’s Midnite Movies DVD release (in a double-header pack paired with the immensely entertaining 1961 Anglo-American giant ape movie Konga) presents Yongary, Monster from the Deep in a beautiful anamorphic transfer. While there’s no way it would be worth buying on its own if you’re going to buy the two-movie set to get Konga (which you definitely should) then you might as well treat it as an extra and give it a watch.