Kim Ji-woon’s thriller is hard to take but beautiful to behold.
Thanks to the wonder of downloading—er, we mean the legal purchase of a DVD at a sanctioned commercial outlet—this weekend we were able to re-screen one of our favorite recent movies, the 2010 South Korean gutwrencher Angmareul boatda, aka I Saw the Devil. Last time we watched it we didn’t write about it, but we think it’s a good time to recommend the movie because today was its official American premiere date. Amazingly, that unveiling was at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Well, nobody felt like dancing by the time the movie ended, you can be sure. Often lumped in with horror or torture porn movies, in truth I Saw the Devil is an unflinching but high-gloss revenge thriller, beautifully shot, and carefully paced. The revenge in question is directed toward a serial killer and director Kim Ji-woon’s documentation of that person’s gory exploits is where much of the movie’s early mayhem occurs.
Unlike many American films, I Saw the Devil doesn’t soften the impact of violence by turning it into a technical showcase for an fx house—the movie tries its best to make those scenes frightening yet somehow banal. No heads explode, nobody is thrown in a tire shredder, and nobody is impaled by a pair of skis. The most proximate cause of nearly every human death in history—technically speaking—has been lack of oxygen to the brain. Oxygen very often stops going to the brain because the blood needed to carry it there has gone somewhere else—the floor, for example. I Saw the Devil explores that concept with vivid clarity. Above is one of the American posters, and below is the original South Korean promo.
Monroe heats up the troops with her special brand of spice.
Isn’t this an amazing shot of Marilyn Monroe? Heritage Auctions, which bills itself as the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer, is selling a cache of Marilyn Monroe photos taken while she was entertaining U.S. troops in South Korea in 1954. She performed ten shows over four days to more than 100,000 spectators. It’s a small but amazing group of thirteen shots, with the high bid currently at $1,000, and an expected winning bid somewhere in the $2,000 range. Even if you can’t afford that kind of purchase, the photos are more than worth a look and you can see them here.
Whisper promises a nude Elizabeth Taylor. Does it deliver?
Elizabeth Taylor nude! Those sneaks at Whisper raised the hopes of millions of readers who bought this March 1965 issue, but inside revealed that the whited-out silhouette on the cover with Richard Burton is in reality a wooden statue of Taylor made to promote her role in The Sandpiper. It was to be unveiled at a party aboard the Queen Mary, but producer Joseph E. Levine connived a way for the sculpture to be stowed below decks so his star Carroll Baker wouldn’t be upstaged. In the end, nobody at the party saw the Taylor statue and Carroll Baker—once again wearing that amazing dress, by the way—ruled the day.
Elsewhere in the issue readers are treated to a story about French gadabout Roger Vadim, who had been involved with Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, and various other high profile women, but at the moment was with rising star Jane Fonda. Whisper outs Vadim on pretty much every bad act of his life and issues a dire warning to Fonda that she should get out of the relationship while she can. Fonda must not have listened, though, because she and Vadim were married for eight years and along the way made a classic movie called Barbarella and a daughter named Vanessa.
Whisper also tells the story of a girl cruelly sold into prostitution by her mother, shares the seedy career tribulations of a hard luck New Orleans stripper named Babs Darling, and exposes the vast flesh racket in Seoul, South Korea, where sex slaves from the “reeking slums” of the city were being purchased by American soldiers, some them “Negroes.” Best line: Themselves the descendents of slaves, they now own light-skinned slaves of their own. The next sentence should be, but isn’t—And white soldiers, many the descendents of slave owners, scoff: “Amateurs.” Scandal, irony, outrage, sex, death, crime, and plenty of casual racism—Whisper delivers it all. Nude Liz Taylor? Not so much. Scans below.
Pacino arrives in Korea in a hail of bullets.
Something completely different today, this is a South Korean poster for the 1983 Brian De Palma thriller Scarface, which didn’t open there until December 1984. We have no idea what all that info packed on the poster says. Maybe something about how this is the most violence to hit Korean shores since the end of the war. The image, by the way, is not a nice clean scan, but rather a digital photo shot through a store window. It looks pretty good, though, no? Anyway, we have others and maybe we’ll share those later.
Some people just can't live a quiet life.
Seems like everyone is talking about Joyce McKinney these days, thanks to the newest film from American documentarian Errol Morris. Entitled Tabloid, it opened in the U.S. Friday and has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews as the director revisits an infamous tabloid case from 1978. That incident involved McKinney, a former beauty contest winner, kidnapping the object of her desire, handcuffing him for three days to a bed, and repeatedly raping him in an attempt to get pregnant. At least that’s one version of the story. McKinney’s version is that the kidnappee, Kirk Anderson, came with her willingly, and that a woman raping a man is like “putting a marshmallow in a parking meter.” That comment alone will give you an idea of the unusual personality Morris chose for his film, yet no matter how well Tabloid does, the notoriety it generates for McKinney will never approach the level it reached in 1978, when the U.S., the U.K., and possibly the entire western world were enthralled by her sordid story.
The case would have been a sensation anyway, but the fact that those involved were members of the largely unknown (in 1977) Mormon (or Latter Day Saints) religion gave the tale that much more sizzle. And there was also the addition of an accomplice named Keith May, whose involvement seemed to derive from the fact that he was too smitten by McKinney to refuse her anything—including assistance arranging for sex with another man. In short, the British papers knew great material when they saw it, and they were soon in a race for scoops. The more they dug into McKinney’s past, the more tabloid gold they unearthed. McKinney was not originally LDS, but had converted to Mormonism after moving to Provo, Utah. Before that she had lived in Wyoming, where, in 1972, she won the Miss Wyoming World beauty contest. Very little gets tabloid editors excited like the phrase “beauty queen,” and the stories on McKinney snowballed as a highly amused British public lapped up the details. These facts were salacious but also undeniably comical. The public learned of the velvet handcuffs used to restrain Anderson. They learned that he had ended up in Britain only because he had begged church elders to send him overseas so he could escape the obsessive McKinney. The papers discovered that before McKinney’s involvement with Anderson she had met but failed to successfully woo Wayne Osmond, of the famous Osmonds musical group. The tabloid Daily Mirror discovered that she had worked as a nude model and soon those photos began to see the light of day. McKinney’s bail hearing was an event virtually unprecedented in the history of British courts. Before a mob of reporters, the prosecution made its rape claims, and McKinney countered by saying that, due to the fact that his mother had been so domineering, Anderson could only get aroused by being restrained. She said that when she first walked into the bedroom wearing only a see-through nightgown Anderson began “grinning like a monkey.” Her description of Anderson’s specialLDS underwear was a revelation to the court, press and public alike. Every time she opened her mouth she seemed to say something uproarious. Even when she wasn’t speaking she was able to dominate a situation, as seen in the photo above of her displaying a handwritten sign succinctly telling her side of the story. Eventually McKinney and her accused accomplice Keith May were both granted bail, and both promptly traveled to Ireland, and from there fled to Canada using fake passports and disguised as members of a deaf-mute mime troupe.
Once back in the U.S. McKinney started going by her middle name and kept a low profile—or as low as a person like her could manage. But tellingly, her version of low profile included numerous encounters with the law over the next three decades, though these never came to the attention of British authorities. But the list is long. McKinney was charged with passing bad checks, assaulting a public official, burglary, and making threatening statements toward another woman. She was also arrested for harassment against Kirk Anderson after allegedly confronting him near his workplace in Salt Lake City. But perhaps the most notable charge against her is her 2004 arrest for animal cruelty, a brush with the law that is thick with irony because of how McKinney finally reappeared in the public eye.
In 2008 McKinney paid a group of South Korean scientists to clone her dead pit bull Booger. When the procedure succeeded she announced it via press conference and, it’s safe to say, she didn’t get the reactions she was expecting. For while McKinney had gotten into the aforementioned spots of trouble over the years, crucially, nobody in the press ever connected the woman now going by her middle name to the infamous sex criminal from the late 1970s. But after the cloning announcement,people immediately noticed the resemblance between the middle-aged dog lover and the fugitive from British justice. McKinney denied the connection until the evidence became overwhelming, at which point she confessed the truth during a teary call to an AP reporter. She complained bitterly about people dragging up her past, saying, “I don’t want that garbage in with the puppy story,” but of course she had thrust herself willingly back into the limelight.
With the release of Tabloid, the same pattern is repeating itself. McKinney participated in the documentary willingly, but now says she was taken advantage of and never wished to be viewed in a humorous light. Errol Morris says he has made an accurate document of an outsized personality, and that the humor in Tabloid derives from the simple fact that Joyce McKinney is funny. Morris claims to have explained as much to his suddenly reluctant star, telling her, "Joyce, you use certain kinds of language. You must know you are funny. In fact, you're one of the funniest people I've ever met." But McKinney, unimpressed, says she is considering a lawsuit. However it turns out, it’s worth noting that this is the third time during her life that Joyce McKinney has managed to make world headlines. She may not want to admit that she’s funny, but at the very least it’s clear that she isn’t a person who can live a quiet life. And if you can’t stay under the radar, you really don’t have much choice about how people see you.
What a town without pity can do.
Below we have top-notch promo posters from South Korea for Seung-wan Ryoo’s actioner Jjackpae, aka City of Violence. The film is exactly what you’d expect from looking at the art—two men driven by vengeance fight their way through swarms of baddies until finally reaching the evil kingpin who caused all their troubles. But even if it’s the type of tale we’ve seen made by every director from Woo to Tarantino, it’s done with style and delivers a mighty nice kick. Jjackpae premiered in South Korea today in 2006.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Communist Party Outlawed
In the U.S., during the height of the Red Scare, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Communist Control Act into law. The new legislation bans the American Communist Party, and prohibits people deemed to be communists from serving as officials in labor organizations.
1968—France Explodes Nuke
a two-stage nuclear weapon, codenamed Canopus, on Fangataufa, French Polynesia.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
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