Now HERE is an odd egg to say the least. I must admit that I had confused YONGRAY with REPTILLICUS, a Danish made Giant Rampaging Monster flick, and was overjoyed when I found it on a new 3 DVD Public Domain Market wonder from St. Clair Ent. called GIANT MONSTERS, containing most of the PDM Gamera films, the requisite GIANT GILA MONSTER, a couple others I have not heard of (WARNING FROM SPACE, anyone??). REPTILLICUS stands out in my memory not only because someone swiped my old pre-record of it a few years back, but because it was a stop animation European made monster flick and not some guy in a suit pummeling models.
YONGRAY amusingly turned out to be something totally different, and one of the strangest viewing experiences of this type I can recall. YONGRAY -- or "Yongaree", as he is called in the film -- is a South Korean made ditty that was filmed on such a low budget that you can see the tin seams on the wind-up model tanks used in the big battle scenes. YONGRAY is some sort of beast of legend who is awakened from his slumbers underground by the side effects of South Korean space program tests (talk about odd coincidences with real life...) and the first quarter of the film is actually a THUNDERBIRDS worthy display of model rocketry & assorted technologies as our hero -- a maverick Korean astronaut -- is sent into space on a "reconaissance mission" which serves no real purpose, other than to awaken Yongray. And like his cousin Hedorah the Smog Monster, Yongray feeds off our industrialized petrochemicals & their waste, namely gasoline and other fuel oils. As he seeks to chow down on various refinery tanks stuff gets blown up real good, the Korean Army steps in and efforts are made to kill the beast before that aerosol can they used to simulate his fire breath explodes & kills a stage technician. Half of the fun in the film IS how ultra-low budget and somewhat shoddy it looks. "Endearing" is the word I think. YONGRAY has an endearing immediacy too it, sort of like Ed Wood doing Godzilla, but with what for him would have been actual money.
So far so good, but one of the odd aspects of the film is it's ambivalence towards Yongray as a character himself, who is on one hand a rampaging juggernaut of destruction, but on the other hand is lovable & strikes up a predictably annoying bond of "friendship" with an annoying 9 year old tyke annoyingly written into the script for the sole purpose of annoying anyone watching older than, say, 12. But this does treat us to the odd sight of the supposedly sky scraper sized Yongray dancing to Korean surf rock with the kid, who sort of kinda sticks up for poor Yongray when the South Korean Army starts spewing a chemical weapons solution at it, and eventually KILL Yongray in a scene that can only be described as "pathetic", meaning that it inspired pity within the viewers present during the screening here FOR Yongray. We were rooting for him, but no. Spew enough orange gunk and he is meat getting cold.
The Korean cast then stands around laughing about it with these creepy, canned, dubbed laugh tracks -- especially creepy when the annoying tyke announces that he liked Yongray, that Yongray was his friend, and that when he grows up he wants to be a biochemist. Laugh laugh laugh, and there is poor Yongray lying dead in a mucky, polluted river, now only about as big as a tractor trailer (Yongray's physical scale changes dramatically in relation to the sets from scene to scene) and his tail twitching painfully in the toxin polluted water that killed him. Are we having fun yet??
Don't get me wrong: I LOVE this movie. It is twice as cool as REPTILLICUS, with bizarrely translated dialog, cunning use of models, interesting use of color schemes and YONGRAY!! who's creature costume design looks more like a guy in a suit than any other Asian-depicted monster I can think of, even King Kong. I like the way technology is used in the film, the fact that our central hero figure is an astronaut who's special skills are never really explained (other than that he can pilot a spacecraft, though how that would help the Earth defeat a Giant Rampaging Monster is beyond me), and enjoy the quasi-futurist 1967 era production design. There is even a "party scene" with characters getting totally wasted in a bar: This is a movie with a split personality disorder, unsure of just what it wants us to get out of it but very enthused about showing us the works nonetheless.
But I cannot get around how sad it is that Yongray had to be killed off, the pathetic and presumably environmentally destructive way he is killed, and the fact that the on screen characters feel "good" about it all, even though we in the audience do not. Unless you are some kind of a sick Nazi I guess: How can you cheer for stupid humans poisoning to death a goofy lookin' monster who likes surf rock? In the words of the annoying kid,
"Just because Yongray did terrible things and killed all of those people, that doesn't mean he was bad or a monster."
Amen to that; 710
UPDATE 91707: YONGARY has been released by MGM on a beautiful remastered Region 1 DVD struck from a fantastic widescreen transfer. Give your bargain bin DVD version to someone who might not otherwise bother, this new version is a sign of PROGRESS.
Review by Steve Nyland (Squonkamatic) from the Internet Movie Database.