Yongary Blu-ray Review

Yongary Schmongary

Korea’s dip into the then heightened 1960s surplus of giant monsters is an indistinct yarn. Prodded along by character archetypes and left withering by inexperienced miniature makers, Yongary will only suffice to the genre-curious.

Even to that forgiving audience, Yongary is a mere mash-up of familiar ideas, playing up the childish side and situating itself in a sci-fi near future where South Korea is technologically advantageous. It’s a well settled and routine production involving heroic scientists and baffled military men. Narrative conventions are numerous.

Yongary is insufficient in terms of cultural relevancy. Incidentally, the film’s social inaction says more about the nation than it may realize. Situated within a high class family unit, the few pale, thinly drawn lead characters remain deeply connected for the runtime. Yongary lacks a central human villain; the country works in careful unison, almost robotic in their actions, as they seek answers for their sizable national problem.

Tight miniature sets are devoid of scope or scale and the title creature is as nondescript a Godzilla knock-off as possible.

Produced as an all-ages visual effects spectacle, Yongary stumbles through scenes of an uncomfortable suit actor punching plaster and balsa wood buildings. Tight miniature sets are devoid of scope or scale and the title creature is as nondescript a Godzilla knock-off as possible. By the time Yongary is performing a jig to Korean folk songs, the film had little chance of earning admiration. It’s a mere anomaly.

Today, the film exists only as in an English dub. Original Korean language prints were lost or destroyed – an incomplete, 48-minute version is all that remains. In English, dialog featuring a soldier repeating himself about a missile launch will flood the feature with unforgiving camp value. It’s doubtful this monster non-thriller would perform better in its native language, however.

Even if Yongary was a failed experiment, it’s part of monster sub-culture which paired Asian nations together. Hong Kong would capitalize on late ’70s King Kong hysteria with Mighty Peking Man. Japanese studios pumped oddballs out in droves (aside from Godzilla) including Gappa and the rowdy goofiness of The X From Outer Space. And, Korea would strike again not only with the sadly lost Space Monster Wangmagwi but a loose Yongary remake known in the States as the dud Reptilian. The genre’s reach stretched so far as to impact North Korea – their surreal ’80s fantasy Pulgasari carries unfortunate behind-the-scenes drama.

Oddball as it is, Yongary’s imitative flair does place it within the golden age of giant monsters. Its execution and results are dull, but when there are no more Toho-made man-in-suit extravaganzas to consume, at least there are a litany of kaiju curiosities, Yongary included.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Yongary Blu-ray screen shot 7

Since Korean prints are considered lost, the source here is an interpositive made for TV distribution by American International in the late ’60s. Condition is passable, considering. Damage is frequent. Scratches and debris have more screen time than the monster itself. No clean-up appears to have been performed for this release. Images are identical in condition to the master struck for the MGM Midnite Movies DVD release eight or so year ago.

While hardly a premiere example of Blu-ray’s capability, the presentation still boasts a gain in fidelity. Close-ups resolve facial details and texture on Yongary’s suit is stronger than on DVD. The uptick in resolution does matter. Miniature sets and composites are no longer subtle. Intact grain is preserved and resolved by a fine AVC encode. No errant processing has been applied.

Through the years, contrast and color have held, the latter being especially prominent. Primaries are dazzling, displaying vividness in reds and blues without being out of place. Flesh tones are natural.

Note while the aspect ratio appears correct (2.35:1), there is a subtle horizontal squeeze. This is evident by the opening shot of a model Earth and continues through a film which feels slightly squished.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

Dubbing work is clean and situates into the soundtrack nicely. The original elements such as the score exhibit a wobbling quality, fluctuating in volume and tone. Highs are warped by age.

A few pops and drop outs are noted, if minor. They’re usually relegated to edits without dialog. Still, the upgrade to DTS-HD from Dolby Digital is an insignificant boost in quality. This 2.0 mono mix performs as expected.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Japanese film enthusiast and author Steve Ryfle joins Korean critic Kim Song-ho for a commentary track. Ryfle carries the majority with enthusiasm for the film, while offering historical context to better place the feature for a foreign audience. Two trailers are left, a bonus package which soars above previous Yongary releases considering they offered, well, nothing.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.