Column: The Vault of Secrets: Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967)

By Paula R. Stiles

Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967). Directed by: Ki-duk Kim. Starring: Yeong-il Oh, Jeong-im Name, Sun-jae Lee.

Welcome back to the Vault of Secrets, where we’ll be unearthing another classic (or not-so-classic) vintage horror film for your delectation. Tonight’s film is Korea’s answer to Godzilla: Yongary, Monster from the Deep. The only version of tonight’s film that still exists in its complete state is the direct-to-TV American release done by American International Pictures, so there’s not even a Korean-language option on the DVD. That’s okay, though, because very few people ever watched a giant monster movie because they were really, really interested in the dialogue. The selling point here is watching a guy in a rubber suit stomp on, kick and smash through all the tiny buildings, cars, tanks and bridges the budget can afford.

Yongary joins other flicks like Gamera, Gorgo, and their ilk in attempting to reproduce the success of the godfather of them all, Godzilla. And, like most of the rest, it kind of fails, but fortunately, Yongary actually has a lot going for it, especially if you’re looking for a midnight movie kind of viewing experience. And if you’re not, really, what are you doing at the Vault of Secrets?

Yongary‘s best trait is its handmade, putting-on-a-show-in-the-barn charm. It turns out that a lesson lots of giant monster movies could have learned is that using models all the time is way more effective than interspersing them with stock footage. It still looks like a guy in a suit stomping on models, but when everything is models, and always has been since before the monster even showed up, then it just seems like a stylistic choice, rather than bad special effects. (Not that there aren’t some of those in Yongary; we’ll just get to them in a minute.)

As with any movie of this type, the question is: How’s the monster? And the answer is that he looks kind of cheap, but he’s also sort of great. There are lots of nice touches on the suit, from glowing eyes that open and close to a light-up horn on his nose to a spiked tail. Of course, Yongary also breathes fire — and not some kind of post-production effect, either. It’s an actual flamethrower that shoots out of his mouth, complete with clearly visible nozzle. Later, after he gets hit with an itching ray (This movie is obsessed with itching) by the film’s requisite kid in short pants, he develops an additional weapon for some reason, in the form of a laser that shoots out from his horn and cuts things in half. Yeah, I don’t know, either.

Our titular monster also drinks oil and, in the grand tradition of Godzilla himself, dances, this time to surf music, at least in the American release of the film. After the HO-scale military might of Korea proves inevitably useless against the monster (That army guy really just wants to shoot his missiles), the kid and the scientist come up with the solution to vanquishing Yongary, whose death is remarkably disturbing and actually involves rectal bleeding. Thanks, cheerful giant monster movie!

In 1999, Yongary added another G to the middle of his name and got remade. The remake was released in the United States as Reptilian in 2001, with cover art that made its intent to cash in on the 1998 release of the execrable American Godzilla apparent.

That’s it for tonight, but be sure to join us next time when a very different giant monster menaces Great Britain!