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Thursday, July 28, 2022

Fantasia Review: “Space Monster Wangmagwi” (1967)

"Space Monster" or "Time Waster"? Wangmagwi May Only Appeal to Kaiju Movie Completists
by Joseph Perry
Hoo, boy, this movie.

No matter how much of a giant-monster movie fan you are, black-and-white South Korean entry into the subgenre Space Monster Wangmagwi is not an easy watch. Regular readers of my reviews know that I do not take making negative comments in my reviews lightly, so please keep that in mind as you forge ahead.

In South Korea’s second giant-monster outing (the first is supposedly a lost film), a group of the least convincing space aliens you have ever seen — and among the worst of planners — drop a man-sized beast from one of their spaceships to Korea, knowing that it will grow in size as, and because, it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, I prefer 1950s creature feature “science” to modern-day scientific accuracy in my monster movies, but you need to apply the maximum willing suspension of disbelief that you have for Space Monster Wangmagwi. Once the beast grows to the enormous proportions that they calculate — which is a far cry from its scale when it arrives in Seoul — it will eventually destroy all human life, and the aliens can swoop down and set up shop on Earth.

Space Monster Wangmagwi starts out with the most serious human drama in the film, as Air Force officer Jeong-Hwan (Nam-kung Won) and his bride-to-be Ahn-Hee (Seon-Kyeong Kim) discuss their wedding plans for the next day, when he is called away on the official business of helping to fight the monster. Ahn-Hee and her mother go on with the wedding preparations despite warnings from neighbors to flee and their wedding helpers running away as the titular monster rampages through the city, and if you have ever seen any version of King Kong and any Godzilla or Gamera film featuring a precocious kid, you already know what’s coming — sort of.

Wangmagwi is represented by a simply awful rubber-suit monster design including the worst looking monster feet in cinematic history, unless you find bedroom slippers with long toenails terrifying. The sets for Space Monster Wangmagwi at times look quite impressive, so it is puzzling why the monster suit looks so bad. The creature captures Ahn-Hee and carries her around, and the film changes tone completely to corny comedy as, first, a man puts his wife up in a bet that he is braver than his friend (this goes on way too long) and then a young street urchin boy (Sang-Cheol Jeon) climbs inside the monster’s ear and cuts its eardrums with a knife. Potty humor involving multiple characters ensues for no good reason, including a man accidentally sitting in his own feces. Meanwhile, the Air Force does next to nothing to attack the monster. 

I now realize that I may have made Space Monster Wangmagwi sound far more entertaining than it was to me, and that could be a good thing for those who prefer their monster movies off-the-wall and their humor corny. SRS Cinema has secured the U.S. home media rights to Space Monster Wangmagwi and is planning for an August or September release this year, so the kaiju movie completists and brave or foolhardy among you will have a chance to witness the film for yourselves soon.

Space Monster Wangmagwi screens as part of Fantasia, which takes place in Montreal from July 14–August 3, 2022. For more information, visit https://fantasiafestival.com/en/.

Space Monster Wangmagwi
Directed by: Hyeok-jinn Gwon
Written by: Ha-yeong Byeon
Produced by: Century Company
Genre: Science fiction, comedy
Starring: Nam-kung Won, Seon-Kyeong Kim, Sang-Cheol Jeon
Runtime: 1 hour 20 minutes
Rated: NR
Release Date: 1967 (South Korea)

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