A Flower in Hell | Chicago Reader

A Flower in Hell

What's reportedly the first on-screen kiss in Korean cinema appears in this potent and grim 1958 melodrama by Shin Sang-ok, set in Seoul after the Korean war. A country rube turns up looking for his older brother, who by now has entered a life of crime, stealing from U.S. army warehouses and pimping for a prostitute (Choi Eun-hee—described as the Korean Mary Pickford and therefore shockingly cast against type) who services American soldiers. Frank about other forms of corruption, such as bribery of the police, this sordid tale is limited only by its simplistic characters. (The prostitute is a standard-issue femme fatale, seducing the innocent brother and snitching on her lover.) It culminates in an impressively staged action sequence involving a train heist, followed by a showdown in a muddy wasteland that reflects the probable influence of The Wages of Fear. In Korean with subtitles. 87 min.

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