masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

Uri kangsan cha cha cha 우리 강산 차차차 1971 review

eab980eab8b0eb8d952Uri kangsan cha cha cha is a pretty forgettable comedy about two men who decide to come back from the dead to enjoy the cha cha cha fad. Although the actors do a pretty good job at hiding the lack of a proper scenario, towards the 45th minute it becomes painfully clear that concept took precedence over storyline from the start. That start, it must be said, is a damn good one, and after the promising design of the opening credits (see picture) it begins with a scene in a forest with a group of women and children performing a voodooesque sŭngmu dance by the graves of the two protagonists to the music of the rather excellent theme song by Yi Sangu, a mixture of Cha Cha Cha and psychedelic rock. Oh yes, nothing is impossible…

The two spirits come back down to earth, one looking like a yangban, one like a “modern boy” from the 1930s (holding a staff), and then head for the centre of Seoul to see their family, who happen to be in the midst of their annual ceremony for the ancestors. Since the yangban’s great grandson is in some financial trouble, help is of course needed, and it comes in the form of some ancient wisdom and slapstick humor. The problem is that throughout the movie the pace is too slow to keep a smile even when a fairly funny scene follows another. The music, on the other hand, is good, and the dance sequences – including that accompanied by the “House of the Rising Sun” song (55:25) – which take place in a club favored by the two spirits offer some wonderful eye candy. At the end of an adventure that includes too few jokes drawn out over too many unnecessary lines and scenes, as well as some all too gratuitous close-ups of a dancer’s bikini (whatever happened to imagination?), the two spirits decide to call it quits and head back to the woods. Master Lee found himself waking up to the sound of the closing credits…

Like many movies that have a type of music in the title (see Master Lee’s review of Shanghai Blues), this movie is a semi-musical that has a star-filled cast, but does not entail a music or dance performance by the protagonists themselves. This movie includes, among others, the Swell Sisters (쉘씨스터스), Sŭlli boy (쓰리보이), and Kim Wanyul’s Go Go Dancing Team. The number of “Sisters” acts was phenomenally large in the 1960s and early 1970s, and many, like the Swell Sisters, did not survive the increasing competition, and it is safe to say that their appearance in this movie towards the 60th minute will have been the highlight of their career, even though their “live” appearance outside City Hall here lasts no more than ten seconds. The only redeeming aspect of this movie lies in the performances at the club, and Master Lee certainly would not mind seeing those again, but if those two spirits come back to enjoy today’s Korean pop, he’s going to personally put them back in their graves.


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