For those of you who haven’t heard the tale, back in the late 1970s Kim Il Jong, an insatiable movie fiend, kidnapped South Korea’s best movie director, brought him to the North and told him to make a Godzilla-like movie. I managed to find a copy online and watched it.
Unfortunately, the version I saw is subtitled in Japanese, and since I don’t speak Korean or Japanese, I have no idea of what any of the characters were saying. Still, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on, and I gotta say, that the film’s better than certain Hollywood films I can think of (Pearl Harbor, I’m looking in your direction).
The film opens in a small villiage where the people are scurrying about, gathering up various farm tools. (And if all North Korean women look as good as the female lead in the film, then I want to defect.) Shortly thereafter soldiers show up, and begin sacking the villiage, taking anything and everything made of iron. The villagers resist and many of them are put in jail. One of them is an old man, who get’s the crap beat out of him.
The old man’s daughter and son throw food into the old man’s cell. He fashions it into a small doll and then dies. As his body is being carried out of the prison, his daughter snatches the doll out of his hand. Later at home, she’s mending her brother’s shirt when she pricks herself, a drop of blood falls on the doll and Pulgasari springs to life! He promptly goes around eating iron and growing larger.
When the lead’s boyfriend is about to be executed by the soldiers, Pulgasari leaps from the crowd and promptly eats the executioner’s sword. This inspires the locals to start kicking ass. They quickly overcome the soldiers and take over the fortress.
The local governor gets wind of this, and isn’t amused (he doesn’t seem to believe the events that have been recounted to him). So they plan an attack, and are surprised to find a man sized Pulgasari running amok in the armory. Well, that’s enough for the governor who tries to flee, only to be cut down by the lead’s boyfriend. The peasants rejoyce and plan to march on the king’s palace.
The king sends his best general after the peasant army (which at one point is reduced to eating horses and treebark), but thanks to the rapidly growing Pulgasari, the villiagers are able to defeat every army that’s thrown against them, and continue their march towards the palace.
The general concocts a plan to capture the lead and has her order Pulgasari into a giant wooden cage. When Pulgasari enters the cage, the door’s shut and the whole thing is set on fire. There’s tense moments as Pulgasari succumbs to the smoke and flames, and the peasant army musters it’s courage for one last charge (“Do it for Pulgasari!” you can almost hear them say.) The moment the general and his minions abandon the lead to go charging into battle, Pulgasari reappears from the smoldering ashes of his cage. The army panics and tries to flee across a river. Pulgasari, who’s glowing red with heat, steps into the river and dispatches most of them by boiling them alive.
For the general’s next fiendish plan, he launches “fire-arrows” against Pulgasari. One of them hits Pulgasari in the eye, wounding him, but he keeps coming and the general flees yet again. This time he falls back to the king’s palace, where they hatch their next scheme to dispose of the monster. This time, they dig an enormous trench, and as Pulgasari is walking by it, some witches do a voodoo number, causing him to fall into the trench. The soldiers then cause an avalanche, covering Pulgasari with boulders.
When the general’s army goes after the peasant army this time, he’s much more successful, and manages to capture the lead’s boyfriend (whom he executes by hanging). The lead snakes her way through the general’s camp as they’re celebrating the victory, finds the trench where Pulgasari is buried, stands ontop of the boulders, slashes her wrist and as she bleeds onto the boulders, calls out Pulgasari’s name. He claws his way out, and begins trashing the army.
Back at the palace, the general unveils to the king his last plan, which is sure to work! (“Nuthin’ up my sleeve!”) They construct several cannons and when Pulgasari shows up, they open fire on him. The cannon balls bounce harmlessly off Pulgasari, until one hits him in the mouth. Aha! The general thinks, I’ve found a weak spot! Aim for the mouth! The next shot goes right in the kisser, and Pulgasari promptly spits it right back at them. Naturally, they keep aiming for the mouth. Pulgasari, trashes the palace and squishes the king who was hiding in some curtains. The peasants wipe out the rest of the army and then have a celebration.
The party’s short lived, as there seems to be something wrong with Pulgasari. I can only guess it’s because he wasn’t getting enough iron in his diet, as he seems slightly better after the peasants feed him a cannon. Distressed by all this, the lead goes and rings one of those long tubular bells, and then promptly hides inside of it. Pulgasari walks up to the bell, grabs it, crumples it like a beer can and eats it. Once inside of him, the lead says something, and Pulgasari promptly explodes. The film ends with a minature Pulgasari turning into a beam of light and entering the lead’s body.
The beginning of the film is kind of weak, but it gets better as it goes along. I originally thought that I’d be MST3King the film, but I actually liked it.