Monday, December 5, 2011

Shaolin vs. Frankenstein

Disclaimer: A screener copy of the "Shaolin vs. Frankenstein" DVD was sent to the owner of this blog for review.

Back in the carefree 1990s, when we rode our dinosaurs to the post office to pick up the latest issues of our favorite fanzines, Damon Foster surprised us all when he began reviewing KOREAN sci-fi movies in the pages of his Oriental Cinema. Later, I even acquired a few of them (not from Damon) during those madcap video trading days. They were just as oddball as he'd said, and more than a little bit hard to follow. I don't think I own any of those tapes today, but I never forgot my exposure to those movies.

Fast forward to the present, and Damon has gifted us with his new video, SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN. SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is built around footage from THREE (count 'em!) different Korean movies. This is very much a good thing, because while these films always have some points of interest, they are also filled with a lot of stuff that is just a waste of your time. Damon has smartly solved this dilemma by weaving the plots of three separate films together into one. Amazingly, it is pretty much at least as coherent as the originals were separately.

I won't attempt to recap the plot, but I will tell you this movie features:

* Monsters! Including Dracula and the Frankenstein monster!
* The giant monster Yongary!
* The superhero Golden Bat!
* A Shaolin priest!
* An utterly moronic lead character in Shim Hyung Rae's "Young Gu"!
* Juvenile humor at its most juvenile!

SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is a little slow out of the gate, because there is only so much Damon and company can do with the expository portion of the proceedings. Still, there are good gags to be found. However, when things kick into gear, they REALLY kick into gear. Imagine if you will a superhero fight intercut with the Shaolin priest battling monsters intercut with Yongary on a rampage. It was as if everything cool had a giant mash-up party!

Damon Foster deserves a lot of credit for seriously improving on what were at best minor video curios and making them not only watchable but entertaining. I hadn't given these flicks much thought in ages, so it was a pleasure to rediscover some of their idiosyncratic charm in a more palatable form. In many ways, it hearkened back to the time when we watched movies just because they were different.

Caution: SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is not for everyone. Some of the dubbed humor may offend, but that is Damon's M.O. and I wouldn't change it. There are also some scenes from the Korean movies that may surprise you in their gross-out factor, considering these were originally marketed as being for kids. Oh, and there is one laughably cheap but disturbingly graphic (if that makes a lick of sense) sequence that I won't spoil here.

SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is a worthy addition to Damon's collection of unusual video projects. You can check those out on his video page. SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN is not for sale juuuust yet, so keep your eyes peeled at Damon Foster's Page! When available, it can be yours for the modest price of $10!

EDIT March 26, 2012: You can now buy SHAOLIN VS. FRANKENSTEIN at your convenience!

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