[DVD REVIEWS]Love and war, the way they used to beA quick look through the local DVD magazines reveals pages of ads for Western movies, new and old. -- But if you want Korean classics, you're pretty much out of luck. -- Even if you understand Korean, local video stores rarely carry much old stock.
But one distributor, Bitwin, has begun to release films from the 1960s on DVD. -- They don't come with a lot of extras, but they're a few won cheaper than the typical DVD. Note: None of these films have English titles on the packaging, so identifying the DVD can be somewhat tricky.
MAENG JIN-SA DAEK GYEONGSA (Maeng Jin-sa's Happy Day, 1962)
Directed by Lee Yong-min. -- Starring Choi Eun-hi, Kim Seung-ho, Kim Hi-gap and Goo Bong-seo.
Maeng Jin-sa is a vain landowner, with dreams of nobility. -- He thinks he's scored a real coup when he arranges to have his only daughter, Gahb-boon, marry a government official's oldest son.
But then news comes that the official's son is crippled from polio. The family elders debate what to do. -- Jin-sa comes up with the brilliant idea of replacing his spoiled daughter with her kind servant Il-boon. -- Unlike Gahb-boon, however, Il-boon is the model of Korean values, and everybody knows the ancestors always reward the pious.
The funniest moments come as the family and servants try to understand Jin-sa's surreal wedding schemes -- just who is getting married and what that means for the family and all involved.
With odd musical interludes, "Maeng Jin-sa" plays almost like the "Bollywood" films of India.
As for the DVD quality, the color transfer is fairly good, but the screen periodically shakes. -- The subtitles are mostly well-done.
The movie, a remake of a popular 1950s film, "Wedding Day," was the first local production ever shown at an overseas film festival (Berlin).
DORAOJIANNEUN HAEBYEONG (Marines Never Return, 1963)
Directed by Lee Man-hwi. Starring Jang Dong-hui, Choi Moo-ryong, Goo Bong-seo and Yi Dae-yeop.
An early film made about the Korean War, this movie tells of a squad of marines that, during a battle, saves a young orphan girl, Young-hui. -- With no one left to take care of her, the marines adopt Young-hui as their mascot. -- The battle-weary men and the innocent girl need each other for hope and strength.
Then, a few days before Christmas, the squad is assigned to a major battle as a sacrificial lamb. -- Their job is to lure the enemy Chinese troops into a trap. The squad only needs to hold on until 2 p.m., then any survivors can withdraw and return. -- But the enemy is relentless.
This black-and-white film looks good and has well-done subtitles. The battle scenes are quite vivid for such a low-budget movie. -- One hand-to-hand fight with bayonets is particularly grim.
Make no mistake, neither of these films will be mistaken for "Shiri" or other modern blockbusters; -- But they provide an interesting look at a Korea that is hard to find today.
by Mark Russell