We already discussed the best known film from legendary South Korean director Shin Sang-ok (whom sadly passed away in 2004), and i feel one really deserves the epiteth of legend given the history behind the 1985 Bulgasari/Pulgasari, especially as it feels like a last middle finger to the then current North Korean dictator, as him and his wife (kidnapped to make movies for Kim Jong-il, again, not joking, at all) managed to escape while at a Vienna’s film festival.
We went through the whole ordeal for that movie’s review, so i’m not gonna repeat myself too much on this regard, but i do think we’re long overdue for a movie about the whole ordeal, since it’s a perfect case where reality is crazier than fiction.
After his escape in Vienna the director and his wife became US citizens for a while, and during the 90s he made some movies under the pseudonym Simon Sheen, including some “3 Ninjas” sequels, and today’s feature, the ever-so-obscure Galgameth, also known/released as The Legend Of Galgameth or The Adventures Of Galgameth, of course it has alternative titles.
And Galgameth is of interest for us because director Sean McNamara basically recycled the script from Shin Sang-ok’s Pulgasari/Bulgasari remake (the original 1962 Pulgasari is sadly a lost film) but made it into a sword and sorcery film for children. As you do.
The basic gist – and a lot of the script, to be honest – remains the same, with the father giving his son a weird statue of the creature in point of death, the monster being awakened by bodily fluids (here tears instead of blood), able to grow by eating metal and then going through an infant state before reaching his adult giant monster form (which has Doug Jones himself performing in the suit), there’s an evil political figure that is hunting down the protagonist backed up by the state’s army, heck, they even kept the subplot about the imported cannon technology from an eastern asian looking man (and the “creature eat up all the iron weapons prepared for him in a cart” scene)… yep, it’s pretty much Pulgasari but with a medieval adventure setting.
And a kid prince protagonist. YAY. But then again, keep in mind this is made for children, i mean, we have a villain so cartoonish he not only pets cats like a James Bond villain while looking menacing on a chair, the first thing he does when he tricks the prince into giving him power… is banish all the dogs from the castle and nearby areas. XD
Then he does enact evil policies, but still, that says it all, and the film does check all the boxes of the post-E.T movies about aliens or monster being friends with a kid, so when Galgameth comes alive as a weird biped scaleless dragon baby, they both scream in unison when they discover each other, that shit, the villain grabs his henchman by the nose like it’s Home Alone, and the same goes for the all the fantasy stuff, really typical children grade stuff from the era.
About the creature, “Galgy” has both a baby and adult form, and the baby one looks like the baby dinosaur from the 90s sitcoms Dinosaurs, it’s the same style of puppetry and suits, which means they look honestly good, even if kinda creepy. Also, the way Galgameth grows makes no sense, he gets bigger by sparsely biting a normal cauldron but then grows at the same rate by just eating two arrowheads, whatever i guess, his final form ain’t bad at all, all things considered.
It’s a silly design, but still, given it starts out as the following image, its final form it’s a lot better:
Can’t say the same for the digital special effects, those are aged plastic ass on a platter, in some istances the effects and compositions do look worse than the Pulgasari movie released 11 years ago, in comparison, but i can excuse this as this clearly isn’t from one of the big studios (Galaxy International Releasing and Trimark are involved, so it’s not surprising it was filmed in Romania), the miniatures aren’t half bad either, and while it’s not a big budget release it’s definitely competently produced enough to warrant the theathrical releases it did get.
The characters aren’t that interesting, but they sure better than the protagonist, as the young prince is the typical boastful-yet-wimpy hero-in-training, but he isn’t very likeable, especially when he says stuff like “i can’t let her die” when looking at his love interest…. in context of dozens of people that protected him, so he’s isn’t a dick per se but he says a lot of unfortunate (and unfortunatly worded, to be fair) shit that makes it hard to like him one bit, even more as he’s almost totally useless, he has to basically get rescued from everything and everyone, even the unwashed peasants that exist only for comic relief tend to do more of the actual heroics while Princus Mcdingus gets continually fooled, kidnapped or almost killed.
Not the worst hero ever, but it’s that kind of wimpy king-to-be young prince protagonist that unsurprisingly has fallen out of fashion years and years ago for a reason.
Overall, Galgameth’s a weird mixture that straddles the line between a medieval westernized kaiju movie and something like To Catch A Yeti, but it has some gormless charm, like seeing the teen kaiju play soccer, accidentally getting wasted on wine, the acting it’s okay, honestly, there’s always pleasure in seeing Stephen Macht playing a super hammy evil knight (really giving some Jack Palance from Hawk the Slayer vibes), and taken for what it is we have an enjoyable children/family adventure film that happens to have an interesting legacy and it’s kinda unique for both that and being a rare case of “western medial kaiju adventure flick”.
Nothing THAT special but it’s quite the curio for monster movies to discover again.