CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 24, 2023



The title should be self-explanatory: The Man With The Golden Gun Milk Commercial. Why not?  By 1974, the 007 franchise was no longer trying for anything resembling serious thrills; the series lost me as a theatrical patron after Diamonds are Forever.

I have to say that I’ve never seen milk being drunk on a film set. Late at night in chilly February, the electricians and grips did seem to carry other more warming drinks, though. It was tough work, in the rafters of a sound stage or out in the elements.



And here’s a CineSavant mini-review — while aching over the delay of Invaders from Mars we try not to forget that, for every disc that’s released, somebody out there is jonesing for it. This Korean monster movie was previously so rare, it might have been only a rumor. It always got special mention on want-to-see lists.

Online web board Savant “Jameson” is an eclectic collector. He sometimes sends me keen mini-reviews of discs that I’m not likely to get for review. This time around he’s allowed me to print his amusing thoughts for a title that was made for gotta-have-it completists. And with that I hand the microphone to Jameson:


Well, I watched SPACE MONSTER WANGMAGWI, and can report that . . . uh . . . well . . . it is indeed a movie.

It starts as a fairly standard kaiju film. Aliens cast their envious eyes upon the Earth, and plot to conquer it using their monster Wangmagwi, which starts out human-sized — or at least the same size as the humanoid aliens — but grows to enormous proportions when exposed to Earth’s atmosphere. A Korean Air Force pilot is torn away from his bride-to-be on the eve of their wedding to deal with the monster attack.

So far, so average. Then the monster appears, and the movie introduces a series of comic relief characters and situations. A pair of cowardly gamblers place a series of bets related to the monster attack while bumbling about and/or cowering in fear. A man with an urgent need to defecate struggles to find a way to deal with his situation while in a crowded evacuation area (this subplot does not have a happy ending). A street kid named “Squirrel” ends up climbing onto and INTO Wangmagwi. He climbs onto the monster’s back, into his ear, up his nose . . . clinging to giant nose hairs. Meanwhile, the pilot’s bride has been carried off by Wangmagwi, giving the conflict a personal angle. Will she ever get to have her wedding?

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of all this. Was Space Monster Wangmagwi intended as a spoof of Japanese kaiju films?  Was it aimed at kids?  Some of the lowbrow humor, and the central role played by ‘Squirrel’ would suggest so, but some of the humor seems aimed more toward adults, especially when the gamblers add their wives to the gambling stakes. Was the lowbrow comic relief commonplace in Korean films of the period?  Was the film marketed as a comedy, a kid’s film, or a standard monster movie?  Having seen no Korean films from the period other than Yongary, I sure don’t know. It would be nice if the commentary had offered some context. I can’t say that it does. There are a few comments about the cast and a few useful general remarks about South Korea in the mid-’60s, and that’s about it for factual information. The rest of the talk track is jokes and stretches of silence.

It would also be interesting to know which Japanese kaiju/tokusatsu films were distributed in South Korea, when, and which ones were particularly popular. Could the Gamera films been big hits in Korea?  That might explain the prominent role of the ‘Squirrel’ character . . . except that by 1967 only the first three Gamera films had been made, and the monster was not yet firmly established as the ‘friend of children.’ Did War of the Gargantuas influence the choice to go with a vaguely humanoid monster?  Wangmagwi’s design is slightly reminiscent of a giant in Prince of Space, while the aliens vaguely recall those in Invasion of the Neptune Men. Is that just coincidence, or were those two series popular in Korea?

On the positive side, the photography is solidly professional and some of the miniature sets are quite good. The Blu-ray shows both off to good advantage. Audio sync is loose; did Korean films typically loop all the dialogue during this period?

Overall, I’d say this is a title for kaiju completists only. It’s offbeat and different, to be sure, but not necessarily in a good way. I’m afraid it is destined to be remembered in kaiju history as ‘the one with that guy who has to poop on a newspaper during the monster attack.’ Yongary may be dully formulaic, but I vote for it as the better of the two 1967 Korean kaiju films.
— Jameson

Hey, I did find Space Monster Wangmagwi for sale, at a site called SRS Cinemastore. These color images found online are bogus, as the rather good promo at the SRS page is in crisp B&W, and in 1.33:1. The promo seems to skip over the potty humor, though.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson