Heungbu and Nolbu (1967)

I'm not even sure how I came to land on this discovery. I fell into some kind of internet worm hole and this was at the other end.

Heungbu and Nolbu is a Korean folk tale about two adult brothers who are left an inheritance from their father. The older bother, Nolbu, is greedy and hateful so he kicks his brother Heungbu and his family out of the estate so he can have all the money and property to himself.

Despite having plenty of his own problems, the kind and benevolent Heungbu saves a defenseless swallow from a snake and mends his broken leg. The swallow is from magical bird land run by a lady bird queen. To thank Heungbu, the swallow gives him an enchanted gourd seed. He and his family work together to build themselves a modest grass hut to live in. They plant the seed and big green gourd grows, when they cut it in half to eat and suddenly prosperous treasures begin to appear all around them.

Heungbu bashes the snake until it's dead and bloody. This is where the children's begins to feel less wholesome.

Queen of the birds.

When Nolbu discovers the good fortune of his brother, he gets jealous and steals a seed to grow his own magical plant. This is where the film takes a turn for the insane.

Nolbu and his wife are first greeted by a vicious tiger...

...that breathes pink smoke.

Then a fire breathing dragon...

And best of all...

Nolbu and his wife are visited by a variety of spooky ghouls.

Including these absolutely amazing and terrifying Japanese-esque Onryo style female ghosts that look like a cyclops Sadako and green-faced Kayako Saeki. This is not the kind of imagery I'm used to from puppet films in the 60's. I could go on about the story, but why? I was really just leading up to this. These images say it all.

I've found very little information about this South Korean gem. There's a live action version from 1959 that seems to be easily confused with this one on the few sites I've unearthed. It has tinges of Jiri Barta's work and elements of the more recent Blood Tea and Red String by Christiane Cegavske. Despite the shades of horror, it's a bit too traditional to be akin to someone like Jan Svankmajer, though I struggle not to mention that fans of his might get some enjoyment out of this. It's a bit slow to start but once the magical elements take shape, it unfolds into a highly entertaining example of Eastern Kiddie Matinee cinema. I watched it without subtitles, but having a basic knowledge of the folk tale, it wasn't hard to follow along. If you're interested in seeing this one, I could only find it streaming on viewster...

Heungbu and Nolbu

This isn't much of a review. I'm not sure how to be critical of a flick like this. This post serves more to spread the words because as far as I know this has no Western audience what-so-ever. On that note, I'll leave you with all the weird-y cute animals from the film...

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