YONGARY Makes a Belated Domestic TV Debut
On June 19, 2011, the Korean network EBS (Educational Broadcasting System) will air YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP (대괴수 용가리, Daegoesu Yonggary, 1967). This marks the first ever domestic TV broadcast of the film, 44 years after its theatrical release in Korea. It is also the first HD broadcast of the movie. EBS will air YONGARY as part of its weekly movie program, KOREAN MOVIE SPECIAL (한국영화 특선), which shows classic Korean movies at 11:00pm KST every Sunday.
The reason for YONGARY’s much-belated TV debut in its home country stemmed from the film’s bumpy release history. After its theatrical release in 1967, the production company Keukdong Entertainment (of which YONGARY’s director Kim Ki-duk was one of the founders) sold the US movie rights to distributor American International Pictures (AIP). AIP dubbed the movie in English and syndicated it to American television stations beginning in 1969. But when Keukdong exported the film, they mistakenly shipped all the original materials, including the negatives, to AIP. It was an unbelievable, unacceptable deed from today’s point of view; but director Kim recently explained that very few Korean movies were sold to international markets in the 1960s so there was little know-how about the appropriate procedures for export.
As a result, no original negatives of YONGARY remain in Korea. The Korean Film Archive (KOFA) has only a partial print which ran about 48 minutes, about a half of the film’s original running time of 80 minutes. But even this print was not capable of projection because the film perforations were damaged. The lack of any original materials in good condition prevented YONGARY from being released in Korea on TV or any home video formats such as VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray Disc, and for many years, the movie has been thought of almost being ‘lost’. Therefore, Korean monster fans who wanted to watch YONGARY had to rely on foreign editions such as the out-of-print American VHS or laserdisc released in 1989 via Orion Home Video. The American ‘public domain’ label Alpha Video unofficially released YONGARY on DVD with a horrible, cropped picture in 2004, and there have been two separate DVD releases in Germany.
Then in 2007— which was ironically the movie’s 40th anniversary— a series of miraculous happenings occurred. In September of that year, the American studio MGM (which had acquired the AIP film library years before) released the first official YONGARY DVD as a double feature with the British creature feature KONGA. MGM meticulously remastered YONGARY and preserved the movie’s 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio, much to the joy of fans. And in November, there came another miracle. For the 1st Chungmuro International Film Festival, KOFA digitally restored their damaged print with the Korean audio track. This ‘imperfect restoration version’ was showed twice during the festival and has been shown several times at the Korean Film Archive Cinematheque. This version is also available to watch via the pay-per-view streaming internet video service of KOFA (only accessible within Korea).
Mr. Kim Bong-young, head of the collection department of KOFA, told this writer that KOFA contacted MGM and learned that the company had 35mm interpositives and a magnetic soundtrack (in English) of YONGARY. So in early 2008 KOFA was able to make copies of the 35mm dupe negatives and a theatrical print from MGM’s source materials, to add its collection of the Korean cinema. Hence, the only complete version of YONGARY that KOFA has is AIP’s English language version. The version that EBS will air is the HD telecine from the newly-acquired KOFA print, dubbed in English with Korean subtitles.
Ms. Shin Ye-won, the program director of EBS, said that the company has a close relationship with KOFA because of the KOREAN MOVIE SPECIAL program. According to Mr. Shin, EBS receives the list of films that KOFA possesses and that’s how her team chooses which movies to air. She said that she chose YONGARY because KOFA recommended it and thought it would be interesting and worthwhile to show such a rare classic Korean SFX movie to their viewers. With that in mind, it is easy to understand that the June 19th broadcast of YONGARY will be a very valuable, even historical opportunity for monster fans in Korea.
This article could not have been possible without the kind help of Ms. Shin Ye-won of EBS and Mr. Kim Bong-young of KOFA.
For more information of YONGARY, MONSTER FROM THE DEEP, including its production history and restoration process for the DVD, please check SciFi Japan’s previous coverage: