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Fantasia 2022 Cinematic Delights: Unearthing the Campy Grandeur of “Space Monster Wangmagwi” from 1967

Imagine a scene where a cheeky youngster clambers up into the cranium of an enormous creature and proceeds to relieve himself. Welcome to the zany world of “Space Monster Wangmagwi”!

A gem hidden from international audiences, SRS Cinema has unearthed the 1967 spectacle “Space Monster Wangmagwi” for the 2022 Fantasia festivities. It’s set to dazzle home audiences later in the year with a blu-ray release. While the film won’t win awards for excellence, it emanates an irresistible charm with its outrageous and purposefully comedic moments. Join us as we dissect this fantastical piece highlighted at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

Metallic-clad extraterrestrials donning peculiar headgear encircle our globe and unleash their colossal fiend upon South Korea. These spacefarers aim to erase humankind with their oddity, paving the way for alien settlement. The eponymous Wangmagwi does not dawdle; it promptly begins its demolition tour through Seoul, developing an unforeseen fondness for a soon-to-wed damsel, snatching her up as it advances.

It’s advisable to approach “Space Monster Wangmagwi” with the anticipation of humor rather than sheer monster movie thrills; otherwise, you might find yourself disenchanted. The film unravels somewhat unexpectedly. We’re initially introduced to a bride on the brink of her marriage when her airman beloved is summoned back to duty. Her story unfolds until she’s whisked away by the monster, leading into the film morphing into a collection of amusing segments, featuring various characters indulging in lighthearted escapades, loosely tied together by Wangmagwi’s rampage.

These comedic episodes boast uneven levels of hilarity, appealing subjectively to the viewer’s sense of humor. In an early skit, a duo of men wager on who can withstand the threat the longest without fleeing—a situation entertaining at first but eventually wearing out its welcome. An ensuing sketch, on the other hand, provides more amusement. A brave child, intent on combating Wangmagwi, ascends the monster and succeeds in puncturing its eardrum before wriggling into its head. It is at this point we are presented with the spectacle of a boy creating his own waterfall within the head of the gargantuan beast—a true moment for the books!

The special effects in the film leave much to be desired. Despite a few impressive shots showcasing miniature Seoul and innovative camera angles, the Wangmagwi creature could use more finesse, especially compared to South Korea’s other 1967 monster spectacle, “Yongary, Monster from the Deep”. Nonetheless, the consistent use of low-angle shots to frame Wangmagwi adds a captivating element. Yet, the flimsy sound design sours the scenes of city-wide destruction, failing to convey the immensity of chaos, and inadvertently highlighting the miniatures’ true scale.

The sporadic humor, vague narrative outline, and essentially invisible characters render the movie a taxing watch. It feels protracted despite its actual duration. However, I’m grateful for the experience. There’s something commendable about reviving a film that, while not deemed lost to time, was scarcely known in the Western hemisphere, recognized only through a smattering of clips and stills. It’s delightful to witness another chapter of giant monster film history becoming accessible, regardless of its flaws.

Despite its mediocrity, “Space Monster Wangmagwi” provides instances of bizarre amusement. While its charm may not be universally palpable, I’m pleased it’s seizing its moment to shine.

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