Friday, July 27, 2018

Yongary: Monster from the Deep (1967) – MST3K Review


So this may sound a little familiar. A South Korean astronaut is orbiting the earth, when he detects a strange moving earthquake making its way toward the city of Soule. The military tries to keep a lid on this, but eventually the earthquake strikes and out of it erupts the giant monster Yongary! He’s reptilian, he breathes fire and he loves smashing buildings. 

As you may have guessed the military throws all kinds of things at it, but they don’t seem to have much effect. There is also a dance sequence including the monster, but the less said about that the better. One intrepid youngster Icho (Kwang Ho Lee) follows Yongary to an oil refinery and witnesses the beast drinking oil. Armed with this information and the help of a young scientist named Illo (Oh Yoeong-il) the two concoct a way to stop the creature by attacking its allergies… no I’m not making this up. But will the plan be enough to save South Korea, or will all of Asia fall to the mighty stomp of Yongary: Monster from the Deep?

Movie Review: 

Need a swath of destruction? Call Yongary!
At some point each nation on Earth must get to work making a giant rubber monster movie. I don’t know if this all part of Joseph Campbell’s mono-myth theory or if it is some kind of offering that humans must give to the gods of celluloid. Mystery Science Theater 3000 has managed to dig up quite a few of these in the past. Frankly, I accept it as proof that the gods of celluloid are scientific fact. No, you can’t fight me on this.

So here we have a South Korean offering of the giant reptile destroying everything it lays its tail on.Yongary was released in 1967, thirteen years after Godzilla invaded the Japan the first time. So the pattern and structure of these films was well entrenched. This provides some comfort for those coming to the film for the first time. You’re going to get what you expect from this film. But for those that were hoping for something a little different, well you’re going to be disappointed. 

Now Reptilicus stuck to the strict rules of Godzilla (kind of like Gorgo).Yongary actually feels like it has more in common with the Gamera films. Our central human protagonist in Yongary is a young boy, and acts in much the same way as Kenny did in the first Gamera film. 

Unleashing the power of Icho's itchy ray!
While he is often at the center of the danger, Icho ends up thinking that Yongary is just a hungry critter, not a rampaging monster. He actually witnesses the huge creature dancing with joy after it feeds. He does end up helping his elders stop the creature, but feels remorse when it finally shuffles off the mortal coil (in one of the more disturbing death scenes in these types of films for the era). I would say that Icho is slightly less annoying than Kenny, but he still has the whole “I’m a rowdy kid and all of you need to listen to me” attitude. Most of his antics in the first half of the film involving the itch ray make us want to give him a time out. He also has the habit of running toward the danger, instead of running away from it. But I suppose the story wouldn’t move forward if he did show some sense in that regard.

To be honest most the adult characters are useless in Yongary. You have the typical politician and military characters that aren’t very good at doing anything. Most of their ideas are pointless and only make the situation more dangerous. It takes the bratty kid and the distracted young scientist to really come up with a workable plan. Taking another page from the Gamera films, this master plan is just goofy. Not as goofy as a spinning blood fountain, but inspired by the itch ray, they essentially douse him with an ammonia compound that makes him itchy and sluggish and then bleed out of his rear until he dies. No, I’m not making it up. I wish I was.

Tom tries to make the scene more interesting.
Padding out all that material is lots of scenes of the military and politicians arguing. Tanks and jets flying at Yongary and attempting to stop him, but again like Gamera, all fire based attacks only give him greater strength. You have scenes of people evacuating cities and running in panic. There is a subplot with the newlywed astronaut and his wife. And yes, you get a heaping helping of property destruction at various scales, with the creature bouncing around and destroying models.

Visually the film feels more like a Gamera production as well. The creature suit for Yongary isn’t terribly interesting. It is a reptile with a horn on his snout and he can breathe fire from what looks like a jet engine that appears in his mouth. Yongary isn’t very scary, or cute, just kind of there. He feels like he could be a second tier monster in a Gamera film, and in fact reminded me of Barugon of Gamera vs Barugon fame, but without the cool rainbow beam attack. 

To be honest, the model work and monster costume just aren’t that impressive. The production team worked with Daiei Film’s special effects staff. If that name sounds familiar, that is because they worked on all the Gamera films. I always found Toho’s work on the Godzilla movies more impressive when it came to suits and model work. So this just feels second tier.

"Protective marshmallows have turned him into
a human s'more!"
Due to a strange twist of fate, the original Korean version of the film was lost. So the only way to watch Yongary: Monster from the Deep is to watch the American dubbed version. It was released by American International Pictures, a name familiar to Roger Corman fans. They were well known for picking up foreign films, slapping a quickie dub and unleashing them into theaters. That is what you get here, a ridiculous dub with some hilariously bad lines, dubious acting and a couple of “did I just hear that?” moments. Fans of horrible dubs will not be disappointed.

As a film Yongary just doesn’t measure up to his older cousins. The creature isn’t terribly interesting. All the plot points were done before and better in the Gamera and Godzilla films. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, except for the setting occurring in South Korea. It is one of those movies that would come on during a monster mash on your local station, and you’d watch it because you were a kid and you loved monsters. But I think that even as a kid, I would be disappointed by this film and wait for Gamera vs Guiroor Godzilla vs. Megalon to come in instead. 

Jonah and the bots don’t have a choice and Kinga unleashes this film on them in the middle of the eleventh season. Were they up to it after surviving Reptilicus?

Episode Review:

"Yongary's got a jet engine growing out of his mouth?
That is bad ass! I want one!"
Lots of fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are fans of the giant monster movies of the twentieth century. There were some very funny episodes, back in Season Three especially, that became fan favorites. So it wasn’t a huge surprise that some of these fans knew all about this relatively obscure film and were hoping against hope that Yongary would be featured on their favorite riffing show.

For me, the giant monster episodes are mixed. Some of them are top notch, like Godzilla vs. Megalon. But you also have a few like Gorgo that just don’t work for me. Jonah and the bots handled Reptilicus very well indeed, but that episode was saddled with a lot of additional weight, being the first episode not only of the season, but also the rebirth of the series. I was looking forward to seeing what they could do unfettered by all those other elements and going straight for the riffing.

The overall result is that the riffing for Yongary is pretty solid. The main issue here is a problem that nearly all the giant monster movies have, and it is a structure issue. The best riffing moments involve the giant monster. The giant monster doesn’t show up in the film for nearly thirty minutes. So you are left with much less riffable scenes involving boring human characters babbling about space travel and moving earthquakes. 

The boys do their best during these opening scenes, and while the iching ray that Icho uses provides some fun riffing, the best bits are for the astronaut and his mini-adventure. You get to see the prep, the launch, the orbit and the landing of this mission and yeah it feels like padding. But riffs about the name of his ship, the strange “marshmallow” padding around his head make for some humorous moments. But the best bits are when mission control loses contact with the capsule. The lead controller keeps yelling “Capsule!” into his microphone, and this leads to Jonah and the bots to join in. Soon this spirals into a running gag whenever anyone says the word capsule, our riffers yell it back in response.

Everybody cut footloose.
Eventually Yongary shows up and the real riffing material kicks in. When our titular monster rises from the crack in the earth one of the onlookers yells, “Yongary is coming out!” to which Crow replies in a jolly voice, “Good for him.” Later when the reptile is under attack by jets and flailing around Jonah quips, “I keep waiting for Pee Wee Herman to ride by on his bike.” Later, Crow comments that “Yongary looks like the kind of monster you’d get at the 99 cent store.”

There is a funny sequence in the middle of the film where desperate citizens of the city are spending their last hours. The variety of behavior from feasting, to dancing to getting bathed in booze offer some prime riffing material, as well as inspring a host segment.

Tom joins in taunting Yongary along with the helicopter.
Soon Yongary is rinsing and repeating its plot points. Army attacks and fails. Junior scientist uses chemical and it kind of works. Then the monster awakens again, and the military attacks. You get the idea. During Yongary’s itching and scratching Jonah observes “That looks like me when I’m trying to put on my own sunscreen.” I got a kick out of Crow declaring, “This movie is more repetitive than a Ramones song.” During a final effort by the air force, one pilot hurtles right at Yongary’s head only to be roasted by the fire blast. Tom says incredulously, “You were flying right at his open mouth! What did you think was going to happen?”

It is all fun and games until someone gets smashed.
The host segments kick off with the invention exchange. Jonah creates the tiny desk, so you can flip it in your rage and not mess up your real desk, and clean up is a snap! The Mads offer delicious Hitler Coffee, which gives you a distinctive mustache after you drink it creates all kinds of horrific awkward moments. At the first break Jonah and the bots discuss what kind of music you should play when you lift off from the launch pad to start your space mission. The options range from the overly obvious to deeply ironic. When we come back, Tom and Crow show off their new nightclub called Yongary Nights, which features real monster stomping action. Later the boys chat about which monster would they befriend if they had a chance. Tom picks Medusa! After the movie ends and the boys are traumatized by seeing Yongary bleed out of his rear, they try to sing a song to alleviate the pain. Kinga and Max are pleased by their response and promise something even more diabolical for the next episode.

"I think I made a wrong turn at Albuquerque."
In the end, Jonah and the bots are able to survive Yongary: Monster from the Deep, mostly intact. I have to say, I was hoping it would be a classic, but the structure of the film keeps it from firing on all cylinders. If you are a fan of the giant monster flicks, then I think you’ll get a kick out of this one. But I feel that Reptilicus was a bit more unique in execution and made for the better episode overall. But this one is a solid fun.

I give it three CAPSULE! out of five.

This episode is available on Netflix.

Baptism.. you're doing it wrong.


  1. I wonder if there was any intended homage to this film in "Colossal." Maybe Anne Hathaway and Yongary can do a crossover sequel and partner up for a re-enactment of the dance scene in "Pulp Fiction."

  2. Heh heh, now that is a mash up I wouldn't mind watching.

  3. The first thing I noted about Icho when he was introduced is how he's dressed identically to Conan Edogawa of Detective Conan, AKA Case Closed. When he was being reprimanded and asked where he got the itching ray, someone could have riffed, "From Dr. Agasa."