Yongary: Monster From The Deep


One of the most fascinating things about the success of Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla back in 1954 is that other countries decided to give the whole city-stimping lizard thing a try while trying to graft on aspects of their own nationalism. Whether this is because we all have a weird fascination of seeing a giant monster flatten cities where we live, or some other reason I honestly couldn’t tell you, but after the British tried to get into the act with 1961’s Gorgo, South Korea decided to have a punt a few years later with Yongary.
However, here’s where the story gets iffy. You see, thanks to the relative inexperience of the Korean producers, a snafu occurred that meant all original prints of the movie were lost and the only version to remain was the English dubbed version released by AIP (Titled Yongary: Monster From The Deep) was the only one to survive, meaning that any political and social nuance was smothered by some noticeably colourful voice over work.
I guess some giant monsters just can’t catch a break…


Astronaut Yoo Kwang-nam has barely had time to celebrate (or consummate) his marriage to On-na when he’s called away by his bosses to observe a nuclear test in the Middle East from the rather awkward comfort of space. However, after the device has been tested, a robust earthquake shakes the area, but fears of tectonic plates doing the shuddery mambo are quashed when the epicentre of the rumbling proceeds on a path towards South Korea and after it strikes Panmunjorn, the culprit is revealed to be a giant, horn-nosed monster who is dubbed Yongary after local legends.
After indulging in the sort of behaviour all Kaiju seem to do when visiting a new country (building smashing, tank burning, jet crushing, the whole nine yards), the government strain to try and work out how the stop this destructive rampage, but hope may lay in the hands of an obnoxious child who has a huge fascination with the beast.
Icho, who coincidentally is the younger brother of On-na, has a huge love of science (despite constantly using it to commit shitty pranks that border on abuse) and thanks to his friendship to young scientist, Illo Nami, believes he has the moxy to observe Yongary like some infant Kaiju stalker, hoping to maybe spot a huge, lethal monster to some cool shit for his own amusement. However, Icho’s creepy Kaiju fetish manages to unlock a clue as to how to defeat it as it’s flaming breath and glowing horn (on his nose, smart guy) seems to give it the edge when battling the military.
Despite the typical general type insisting that bigger missiles are the way to go, Icho, Illo and, for some reason, his civilian girlfriend, all hatch a plan to bring Yongary down once and for all.


The quickest way to take any classic Kaiju movie and render it instantly ridiculous is fairly simple – just watch the dubbed version. For years I soaked up acres of rubbery monster movies that, due to the awkwardness of American voice over artist trying to cram their lines into the flapping mouths of the on-screen characters, I remained blissfully unaware that a lot of them are actually well put together movies that lose a lot of their potency once the cartoonish voices kick in. However, watching them in their subtitled form caused something of an epiphany in me much like the time I finally saw John Carpenter’s movies in a wide-screen format – they become whole other movies that contain a huge amount of artistic merit. With that being said, the fact that the only full version of Yongary: Monster From The Deep (or just simply Yongary in it’s native South Korea) that exists is the dubbed one means that taking it seriously is something of a chore. Never mind that the smug Icho (who, when asked his age by a reporter, vaguely places it at “around 8”) sounds like a twenty year old woman and some other voice artists are regrettably are trying for some, random, Asian accent, but one of the main heads of government bizarrely has been given a more “feminine” cadence which makes him sound he’s just flown in from a Carry On movie.
Another thing that keeps pulling the attention away from any socio-political musings (early Kaiju movies really were the George Romero zombie movies of their day) is the fact that the name Yongary is repeated so much, my brain eventually started hearing “Young Gary” instead which, I’m sure you’d admit, is hardly a moniker for a monster that immediately strikes fear into the hearts of men…


As for “Gary” himself, well, he’s a blatant rip off of Godzilla as most Godzilla adjacent Kaiju often are – he’s got the long neck, the sweeping tail and even has himself some suspiciously familiar looking back spines, but while he also blows fire, the horn on his nose seems to be the only thing saving the filmmakers from a stern visit from Toho’s lawyers. It’s a bit annoying that a more elaborate design wasn’t settled on, especially considering that the noticeably different-looking Gamera already existed and the movie even pilfers a trick or two from the giant turtle by having the main child character inexplicably exuding fan worship for a building-sized beast that’s stomping the living shit out of his country. The movie even has a confusing moment where Ichi celebrates as Yongary seems to indulge in a little “dance” while taking a break from catastrophic property, but I’m sure he’s actually suffering side effects from being poisoned.
However, goofy voices aside, Yongary’s derivative-yet-destructive sequences are crisp and clean, giving you plenty of Kaiju carnage for your buck as he flips bridges like tables and punches fighter jets out of the air before his science-related demise offers him one of the more undignified deaths of the Kaiju pantheon. Godzilla was reduced to a skeleton thanks to the experimental Oxygen Destroyer and Rodan was roasted alive within a volcano, Yongary succumbs to an itching dust that has the concerning side effect of having a rust coloured liquid trickle out of him into the river which gives us the impression that he’s either pissing himself at the moment of death or, worse yet, a side effect of the plan has cause Yongary to start bleeding from the anus.


Yongary may not have anything new to offer to the genre and its haphazard dubbing repeatedly thwarts any attempt the movie makes at gravity, but for a bargain basement monster movie, it ticks enough boxes to offer non-discerning Kaiju nuts enough rubble and roaring to justify its existence – just about.
Good for you, Young Gary!


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