Seen in Jeonju

Extremely Good Luck (1975)

25th January 2010

extremely good luckShim Woo-seob was a prolific director who debuted in 1959 and continued to make films up to 1983.  In that twenty-four year period, he made a total of 76 films.  With such an impressive number of movies, you might think that his name would come up occassionally in film circles along with his contemporaries like Shin Sang-ok, Im Kwon-taek or Kim Ki-yeong however he remains virtually unknown.  The reason is because the vast majority of his films were comedies. In fact, he was known as the master of the comic film during the 60s and 70s often working with the biggest names in comedy at the time including Ku Bong-seo and Kim Hee-gab. His better known films include Daughter-in-Laws from 8 Provinces (1970) which is one of the numerous ‘Paldo’ movies, and The Male Housemaid (1968).  He also directed The Male Beautician (1968) reviewed earlier on this site.  The vast majority of his films have no deep meaning. They were meant as pure turn-off-your-brain-and-just-watch entertainment.  Extremely Good Luck, like some other Korean comedies of the early 70s, has a very Disney-esque feeling to them. During my childhood in the 70s, Disney studios has moved a little away from cartoons for awhile and was making ‘live-action’ films such as the Apple Dumpling Gang or the North Avenue Irregulars.  While watching Extremely Good Luck, I kept picturing Dick Van Dyke in the role of Sam-ryong.  Van Dyke would have excelled at a role like this and his comic timing and delivery was exactly what this movie needed to make it better.  As this is not on DVD and there is probably a zero percent chance that it ever will be, I will talk a little bit about the plot. 

Sam-ryong (played by Bae Sam-ryong) is a kind-hearted but rather simple man. However, he is also extremely poor. While he may not seem to need much money for himself, his hardworking girlfriend who has been supporting him is now in finacial trouble. Seeing that he has little choice, Sam-ryong decides to become a thief.

Unfortunately, Sam-ryong’s kindness and good-manners work against him in this profession. Before burglarizing any house, he announces his intention loudly to give people a chance to say that they don’t want to be robbed.  His first venture proves successful as the drunken owner of the house gives Sam-ryong the combination to the safe and allows him to take as much as he needs. His next attempts are far less successful. In one of them, he is continually interupted in trying find money to steal by bill collectors at the door. The considerate robber pays each out of his own pocket. He also has to do some errands for the house owner who calls and mistakes him for one of her servants. She arrives home before he can make off with any valuables. In another situation, while casing homes, Sam-ryong thwarts a more ruthless thief played by Lee Ki-dong.  Ki-dong offers to split the loot with him but the honest Sam-ryong cannot accept stolen property and his cries of ‘Thief’ quickly drive Ki-dong away.

Ki-dong becomes a rival of Sam-ryong and the two encounter each other at almost every robbery with the latter coming out on top. Sam-ryong never actually steals anything else though. He winds up returning a briefcase he found containing some important documents but talks the reward money down as he doesn’t need the full amount that was being offered. And while breaking into another house, he manages to stop a murder plot from being carried out. Both of these situations demonstrate his honesty and sense of responsibilty and make for a happy end to the film.

The film is mildly entertaining, suffering a bit with the passing of more than three decades. However, its biggest problem lies in the execution and timing of the sight gags. Something that his funny once is dragged out until it wears out its welcome. This is especially true in the tiger rug scene where a tiger skin falls on the stunned Sam-ryong and he crawls around the house terrifying people. The first person he encounters screams and faints dead away. So does the second. And the third. And the fourth and fifth.  It was funny once. I was willing to let it slide the second time. But five times were too many.

Although it was not a great movie and a little on the childish side, I would be willing to see more by this director.  I wish there were more interest in older films where someone could put together a Shim Woo-seob or a Ku Bong-seo DVD boxset and people would be interested in buying it. But with the lack of interest and current state of the DVD market, I do not think that will be happening soon.

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