Saturday, December 1, 2007

YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP/ KONGA

For fans of giant monsters and rampaging behemoths, there’s the destructive double bill of YONGARY, MONSTER OF THE DEEP/ KONGA (1967/1961).

YONGARY was Korea’s first entry in the Asian giant monster genre (remade in the 90s as REPTILIAN), and it’s pretty awful, although MGM’s newly restored DVD helps it quite a bit. The plot is simple: a giant saurian emerges from the ground and rampages through the Korean country-and-city-side until it is defeated by a noble scientist. With the obligatory obnoxious kid in short pants and scenes of model airplanes being batted from their strings by the guy in the monster suit, the film satisfies all the requirements of the kaiju genre. It’s all just a bit ineptly done, unfortunately.

Never previously available in the U.S. in widescreen (the film was bought by AIP television in the Sixties and released to syndication only in a 16mm, horrifically cropped, full-frame version. MGM’s new, restored DVD is in 2.35 anamorphic widescreen, and looks terrific, with a sharp picture, solid colors, and virtually no visible print damage. There are no extras provided, unfortunately.

KONGA was an American-International release directed by John Lemont and produced by Herman Cohen. Michael Gough (HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, Alfred in the first four BATMAN films) plays Doctor Charles Decker, an arrogant botanist and college professor whose experiments turn a small chimp named Konga into a rampaging giant gorilla.

It takes a while to get there, though, and the audience has to sit through more than an hour of Gough being a complete prick to everyone around him and a few Rue Morgue-styled murders before Konga shoots up to King Kong-like proportions and begins the obligatory rampage. Fortunately, Gough’s Decker is an utter bastard, so fun to watch that it keeps your attention until the monkey business begins. Plus, there’s a buxom blonde co-ed, a goofy gorilla suit and some truly ridiculous pseudo-science to keep you entertained – just don’t ask how the chimp switches species to become a gorilla. No one knows.

This "Midnite Movies" presentation is a direct port of the previously released Sony/MGM disc with a crystal clear full-screen (1.33:1) transfer. The picture quality is so sharp that it actually betrays the movie’s special effects work, making the process shots and the Barbie dolls that Konga carries around way too obvious. The sound is a clear mono, with only minimal background noise. The otherwise bare-bones disc even includes trailers for several unrelated Sony DVD releases from a few years ago, when Sony handled MGM’s distribution.

BUY: Yongary Monster From the Deep / Konga (Double Feature)