PULGASARI (1985) – 22nd May 2014, The Cuban, Harbourside

As well as being a tyrannical dictator, Kim Jong-Il also tried his hand at movie producing… with unique results.



There are few films with as interesting a backstory as Pulgasari (also known as Bulgasari).

While Kim Jong-Il may be best known as a ruthless dictator (and a lonely puppet in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America), he was also a massive movie buff. There are reports that he had a personal collection of over 20,000  movies and he even penned a book entitled The Art Of Cinema.

In it, he describes Gone With The Wind as the greatest film ever made, whilst also showering praise on Friday the 13th and Rambo.

Like many of the world’s most famous tyrants, Kim knew the power of cinema as a form of propaganda and set out to create a film industry based on North Korea’s ideology. Unfortunately, North Korea’s hugely constrictive environment meant that creativity was hard to come. Unable to find a local director to make his vision a reality, Kim Jong-Il decided to take a more unique approach – he kidnapped one.

Shin Sang-ok was one of South Korea’s most respected directors, so Kim Jong-Il ordered him (and his wife) to be kidnapped. During his ‘stay’ in North Korea (which included four years in prison), Shin Sang-ok made seven films, with Kim Jong-Il acting as producer on all of them.

However the most famous is Kaiju (monster) movie Pulgasari.


The film tells the tale of a starving village under threat from a selfish leader (irony alert!) who bring to life the titular monster (created with rice and blood) to overthrow the evil dictator.

If you think Pulgasari’s look is very similar to Godzilla, that is because the special effects team were from Japan, and many had worked on the infamous monster series themselves. In fact, the man in the Pulgasari suit is Kenpachiro Satsuma who wore the Godzilla suit in many movies.

Many have said that the film is meant to be a parable of uncontrolled capitalism, but that is tenuous at best. What is known is that the film never received international distribution. In fact, it was essentially banned for 10 years, until a pirated copy found its way to Japan in the 1990s, where it became a cult sensation.

It has been dubbed the  “worst giant lizard creature film of all time”, but Kenpachiro Satsuma has said he thinks it’s better than Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla movie. Fair enough.

When: 8.00pm, 22nd May 2014

Location: The Cuban, Harbourside, BS1 5SZ

Tickets: £5 (in advance)/£6(on the door) (all profits going to Awamu)

The Cuban is also offering food for the screening, so for £12 you can get your advance ticket PLUS one of the following:
Quesadillas (chilli beef / chicken / vegetarian);
Empanadas (chilli beef / chicken / vegetarian); or
Nachos (chilli beef / chorizo / plain cheese [vegetarian]).

Tickets no longer available

In feudal Korea, the evil King becomes aware that there is a peasant rebellion being planned in the country. He steals all the iron farming tools and cooking pots from the people, so that he may make weapons to fend off the peasant army. An old blacksmith is imprisoned and starved to death. His last creation is a tiny figurine of Pulgasari, a Godzilla-like creature that eats iron. The blood of his daughter brings the creature to life, and fights with the poor, starving peasants to overthrow the corrupt monarchy.

“What or who is this giant idiotic creature supposed to represent? What political message can be dug out from the rubble of this weird, bad, gloriously messed-up exercise in socialist filmmaking?” Luke Buckmaster, Crikey

“All of this chaos started because some crazy geezer made an action figure out of some rice?! Mother was right, never play with your food.” FilmThreat.com

“It’s dyed-red communist propaganda in the guise of one of the most magnificent giant monster movies I’ve seen” ZekeFilm