During the ancient Three Kingdoms Period, all of Silla is ravaged by the onslaught of bandits. Returning from his victorious campaign against the bandit hordes, Kim Won-rang is summoned by Queen Jinseong. Bemoaning her lonely life, the queen tries to seduce Won-rang and orders his wife Yeo-hwa to be driven from the capital. While traveling deep in the mountains, Yeo-hwa is set upon by bandits. She flees and jumps into a lake, but the lake happens to be haunted by the spirit of a thousand-year-old fox. No one who entered the lake has ever emerged with their lives, but Yeo-hwa survives and recuperates at the home of her friend, A-dal. One night, Yeo-hwa awakens from her sleep and ventures from the house as if possessed by a ghost. The spirit of the thousand-year-old fox enters Yeo-hwa, who harbors a grudge for her baby’s death, and the fox implores Yeo-hwa to avenge her wrongs. Every night without knowing it herself, Yeo-hwa steals into Queen Jinseong’s quarters and tries to take her life. Realizing that the thousand-year-old fox has possessed his wife, Won-rang seeks out a venerated monk named Baek-un and asks him to rid Yeo-hwa of the intruding spirit. However, the queen recalls Won-rang into the palace and has her men set fire to the temple where Yeo-hwa abides. Won-rang is forced to kill Yeo-hwa, who has again been possessed by the fox’s spirit, and is captured as a result. After his release, Won-rang rejects the queen’s importunate suit and sits in vigil at his wife’s grave, never moving from his place whether in rain or snow. Years later, Baek-un comes in search of Won-rang, but finds that he has become a sitting skeleton in front of his wife’s final resting place. —Koreafilm.org
Shin Sang-ok has surely had one of the strangest careers of any film director. Hailed as the Orson Welles of South Korea for the modernizing influence his 1960s work had on that country’s film industry, he his now best known for having been kidnapped (along with his wife, actress Choi Eun-hee) by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il only to escape to the United States and eventually become producer of the Disney kid flick 3 Ninjas and its sequels.
Shin was born in 1926 in the Hamyong province of what is now North Korea. He studied painting at the University of Tokyo and then returned to Korea and began his film career as a production designer on the first movie made in Korea after the Japanese occupation, Choi In-kyu’s Via Freedom. He began directing films himself shortly thereafter. His 1958 feature, Flower in Hell, was the first Korean film to feature an onscreen kiss, a mild precursor to the erotic content of his later work. Throughout the ‘60s, Shin… read more