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Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Mondo Macabro

Woman Chasing The Butterfly Of Death Large

Directed by Kim Ki-young
Written by Lee Mun-woong
1978, 117 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 22nd, 2019

Kim Ja-ok
Kim Jeong-cheol
Nam Kung Won
Kim Man
Am Park
Hyang Lee

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Kim Young-gul is a college student who mostly keeps to himself and has only one close friend. One day while out chasing butterflies, he meets a woman who poisons him in an attempted murder-suicide. Kim survives but now he too is suicidal and tries to hang himself. He is visited by a lively bookseller determined to open his mind to the powers of free will. The two argue, as Kim is not much of a reader, and the altercation turns physical, ending with the bookseller suffering a fatal stab wound. The man insists his will to live prevents him from dying and Kim takes it as a challenge and attacks him repeatedly and later sets him on fire. Kim remains suicidal but is once again interrupted this time by the bookseller’s re-animated skeleton that mocks him. Kim turns himself in to the police, but they can find no evidence of a crime.

The next day, Kim’s friend tells him he has recovered a two-thousand-year-old skeleton at a local archaeological dig. They sneak the bones home in hopes of selling them, but later that night when Kim is alone, the skeleton turns into a beautiful woman who seduces him. She tells him she must eat a human liver to stay alive or she will return to bones within ten days. He refuses to help her and she turns back into a skeleton. The next day he takes her remains to a local professor for profit. Kim tells no one of his recent encounters with the supernatural.

It is here that our story truly begins as we are introduced to Professor Lee and his beautiful daughter Kyungmi. Kim is hired as the professor’s assistant and he helps catalogue the man’s human skull collection. He tries to start a relationship with Kyungami, but she refuses his advances. She tells him she was friends with the woman who poisoned him and the two had a suicide pact. In her mind, the best way to profess true love is to agree to die together. Kyungami is not well physically and her father presses Kim to keep after her to bring her joy. Meanwhile, someone is collecting heads from both the living and the dead and mailing them to the professor. What follows is a truly bizarre journey into the darkness of one man’s fears and fantasies full of love, death and giant butterflies.

Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death (aka Killer Butterfly) is not an easy film to summarize. The plot is ruled by a dream logic where anything can happen and little is explained. Directed by Kim Ki-young (The Housemaid), this Korean film is reminiscent of the early surrealist work of filmmakers Luis Buñuel (An Andalusian Dog) and David Lynch (Eraserhead) and is incredibly colorful with a palette that echoes the efforts of Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace). The script does not follow the traditional structure of storytelling, instead injecting a philosophical melodrama into the middle act and then turning things upside down for the finale.

Kim Ki-young enjoyed great success in the 1960s with a string of distinctive films that proved quite popular. His output continued over the next two decades with mixed results, but his work made an indelible impression on the film community. His films were rediscovered in the 1990s and were introduced to a new generation of viewers. Many of today’s top Korean directors cite Kim Ki-young as a major influence and inspiration. Killer Butterfly is my first exposure to his filmography and it is clear, with his unconventional style, striking visuals and wicked sense of humor, that he is an artist deserving of a broader audience.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and digitally restored from a 4K scan of the original film elements, the picture looks pretty sweet with some occasional rough edges. Colors are bold and impressive and small-object detail is sharp. Black levels are inky and flesh tones appear natural throughout.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track preserves the original audio presentation and gets the job done. Music and sound effects are well-balanced with dialogue levels making for a rewarding experience.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Podcasters Kenneth Brorsson and Paul Quinn provide a thoughtful and informative audio commentary that covers a lot of ground. They provide biographical information about the director and his cast and dissect the film’s structure and themes. There is much praise for the non-traditional storyline and dynamic visuals, but they also are quick to poke fun at the more ludicrous elements of the picture.

Eleven Questions for Darcy Paquet (15m) is an interview with the American film critic who offers biographical information on the late director and a brief overview of his work dating back to the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. He discusses the revival of his work in the 1990s followed by an untimely death on the brink of a comeback.

Actress Lee Hwa-si starred in seven films for Kim Ki-young and in this new interview (11 minutes) she reflects on her career ups and downs, shifting from leading lady to supporting player. She shares her memories of this movie and her role as a two-thousand-year-old skeleton.

In a two-part interview with producer Jeong Jin-woo (part one, 16 minutes), he looks back on his time as a director in the 1960s, making energetic movies for youth audiences. In the 1980s he began making films to appeal to the international markets, namely anti-establishment pictures about human rights. He talks about the suppressive Korean government and of fighting censors and being arrested for his films’ messages.

In part two (13 minutes), the topic shifts to Jeong’s time as a producer for Kim Ki-young and their working relationship. He remembers Killer Butterfly fondly and praises the originality and effort.

In a new interview, cinematographer Koo Jong-mo (6 minutes) talks about his experiences working with great Korean directors, including Kim Ki-young, Im Kwon-taek and Kim Soo-yong. He praises Kim’s unique vision and strong storytelling skills. He talks about the golden age of Korean cinema in the 1960s and the frequent battles with the censors.

A collection of Mondo Macabro previews (14minutes) gives a look at other available titles.

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Movie: Threestars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Fourstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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