Seen in Jeonju

Countdown to Halloween d-7: Pterachilraus

25th October 2011

Although today’s entry in the Obscure Monster Countdown to Halloween is from 1984, I have to go back to 1966 to begin.  You see, if you were living in Japan in July 1966, you would have been treated to the very first appearance of Urutora or, as he is known to Western audiences, Ultraman.  Created by Eiji Tsuburaya, the original Ultraman television series ran for 39 episodes. Throughout the following years, Ultraman has returned in various incarnations.  Apparently, these giant warriors fuse their life force with a human who can then turn into the titantic defender when Earth is threatened. Growing up in the USA, we did get the original Ultraman series that was aired on Saturday morning when I was a very young child (when it was known as ‘Cartoon Day’, not Saturday)  However, it came on too early in the morning for me to see.. I would always catch the tail end of the show when he would shoot it with a laser from his arm and the monster he was battling that week would blow up.  I always wanted to see more.  When I was a little older, there was an American cartoon featuring Ultraman–several ultramen I believe– but when I moved to Korea, I saw my first complete series of Ultraman featuring Tiga. I think the most comparable show to Ultraman is the British series Dr. Who.  By this I mean that the main character and cast changes over the years, yet the fans instantly recognize and accept these changes as part of the mythos.

pterachilraus 1Why am I talking about Ultraman? Well, the producers of Ultraman had to come up with monsters each week for the hero to battle. Some were quite good. Others were ..umm.. not so good. And while costumes could be recycled over the years you are still going to have a lot of unused monster suits after a 50-year history. What to do with them?  If you were director Kim Jeong-yong, you would have had the idea to get your hands on some of them and make a monster movie. Then again, it might not have been his idea. The production company Woojin Films might have bought the leftover suits and designated Kim to make the film. And what a film he made! Not just a single giant monster, his movie had six different creatures tearing up cities and villages in Korea.  He used the suits that appeared in the Ultraman series as Fester, Sea Gorass, Sea Monster, Bemster, Pterotils and Baragon. Baragon deserves special mention. He was from Toho Studios, the company that produced Godzilla. He was frequently loaned to Tsuburaya Productions to battle Ultraman. He originally appeared in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) and is blamed for attacking Paris in Destroy All Monsters (1968) although he does not appear in that movie as his suit was on loan.  I have to assume that Tsuburaya Productions eventually bought Baragon, but he ultimately wound up in Korea and appeared in the 1984 film Flying Dragon Attacks.. (the title I am using is what appears on the VHS box shortly after its theatrical release. The KMDB lists this film as Flying Monster)

Baragon can hardly be considered obscure enough for me. Instead, I want to give the spot in the Halloween Countdown to the title creature, the Flying Monster herself, Pterachilraus! Her fearsome visage with her angry red plumage is pictured above.  Her height seems to vary throughout the movie depending what background she is in. I would estimate her to usually be around Godzilla-sized, 2-300 feet tall. However, when shooting interacting with her co-stars (the lower of the two images pictured above) she is more like 60 feet tall. One professor Kim gets  it into his head that Pterachilraus is a threat to humanity and that the only way to eliminate the threat is by attacking her nest and destroying her eggs. However, I am not sure what he hoped to accomplish by that… drive Pterachilraus to commit suicide as Rodan (a Toho monster whom Pterachilraus somewhat resembled) had done?  It didn’t work. Instead the gigantic flying beast goes on a revenge fueled rampage and destroys the cities closest to her home. She is apparently joined by many of her monster friends.. There is a three-minute video collage of the film here ( See if you can make any sense out of what is happening…  No?  Well, don’t feel bad. You are not alone.

The lovely woman staining the soles of Pterachilraus’ foot in the picture above is reporter Kang Ok-hee who went undercover as a maid in Prof. Kim’s house to get the scoop on the ‘rejuvenation formula’ he has been working on. While I do not know for sure, I am willing to bet that it is more than just a anti-aging skin cream he is working on and that it will somehow regrow her legs. I hope so anyway, for her sake.

I have to admit that as a child I loved ‘giant monster movies’ but as an adult I find them extremely difficult to go back and watch. I would not be able to do it at all except for the invention of the ‘mute’ button.. those monster roars are noisy…and much too frequent!  However, I would happily buy this movie if it were ever released on DVD just for the shear insanity of the film. Pterachilraus is the definition of ‘obscure monster’ and earns a place on the Obscure Monster Halloween Countdown.

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