Topic: The story of Pulgasari

I recently got my hands on a copy of this rare North Korean kaiju film, so I figured I’d let you guys know the wierd story behind it.

In the early 1970’s, Shin Sang-ok was one of South Korea’s most respected filmmakers— meaning, you understand, that he was pretty much unknown outside of East Asia except among a small group of hardcore movie nerds, but on his home turf he was a big deal. Nevertheless, he had a troubled relationship with his government (which, in its way, honestly wasn’t a whole lot less repressive than that of the North in those days), and it was looking increasingly like his career was pretty much over. That’s when Kim Jong Il, son of North Korean Great Leader Kim Il Sung, entered the picture. The younger Kim has always had a reputation as a movie nut, and has even written a book on the philosophy of communist filmmaking. In the 70’s, one of his jobs was overseeing the North’s popular culture, and it appears to have bothered him immensely that his own country didn’t have even a single director who could compare with Shin Sang-ok down south. So with Kim Il Sung’s blessing (or maybe it was the old man’s idea in the first place— I told you I’ve been having a hard time pinning down the details), Kim Jong Il had both Shin and his wife kidnapped and brought across the DMZ.

You might expect Shin to have been put to work making movies immediately, but that’s apparently not quite the way it happened. His dealings with the two Kims were understandably strained, and he eventually wound up in a prison camp, where he spent about five years. Then in 1983— and who am I to attempt to understand how a dictator’s mind works?— Shin was released from prison and brought before Kim Jong Il himself. The Great-Leader-in-Training had a job for Shin, one for which he believed only the captive director was suitable: Kim wanted someone to make him an epic socialist monster movie! And because he was the son of the Great Leader, he was in a position to make certain Shin got whatever he needed to deliver it. First pick of the country’s rather backward and inadequate film-industry infrastructure? Easy. Enough money to bring Toho’s special effects people over from Japan to build the monster suit and miniature sets? Can do! Squads of actual soldiers to serve as extras in the battle scenes? No problem! And by every indication, Shin was surprisingly devoted to the project, even to the extent that when he finally escaped from Kim’s clutches, he shot a remake of Pulgasari for the free world. But even an artist’s devotion has its limits, and Shin was not about to forego a chance to flee the country just so that he could put the finishing touches on a movie. When opportunity knocked in 1985, Shin and his wife skipped town immediately, leaving Pulgasari to be completed by a different director. Maybe it was the escape of its creator that turned the Kims sour on Pulgasari, leading them either to ban it or to allow it to languish unseen for some thirteen years. Or maybe there was something in the content of the movie itself that offended them. Sure Pulgasari tells the story of a peasant revolt in the middle ages that is aided by the power of an indestructible monster, but there’s more than one political spin you could put on a movie in which the downtrodden rise up against a cruel tyrant who starves them in order to build up the most powerful army his limited resources can buy. And even if you don’t make the connection that the movie’s evil king could represent North Korea’s current leaders just as easily as its old ones, there’s simply no getting around the point that Pulgasari depicts the people’s savior in the fight against tyranny turning into their own worst enemy once that tyranny has fallen. So perhaps that’s why what is probably the world’s only communist kaiju flick ended up vanishing off the face of the earth between the time of its completion and its own breakout across the DMZ in the late 1990’s.

You watch the whole movie here for free. … 4122049461

Re: The story of Pulgasari

Hey thanks! def will try and watch it soon.

Re: The story of Pulgasari

I saw it online a while ago, twas the production values of a made for TV movie mixed with Godzilla.

Last edited by thegoldensimatar (2009-01-13 19:40:29)