I watch Korean movies every night before I sleep (since weekends are reserved for Korean Drama Marathons) so I got so absorbed (for the wrong reasons) in what was surprisingly a Korean doppleganger of “Scorpio Nights”, the critically-acclaimed Filipino classic by Peque Gallaga. “Summer Time” is a 2001 movie by Park Jae-Ho that is practically a straight adaptation of the original 1985 Filipino movie.
It stars Ryoo Soo-Yeong as Sang-Ho, a young man who is wanted for his involvement in the student movement. He eventually ends up in a room on the second floor of a battered old house in his attempts to escape from the government authorities. One night, Sang-Ho discovers a hole on the floor where he can actually peek into the room below occupied by a loveless couple.
Kim Ji-Heon shows a sensitive characterization of Hee-Ran, a woman who feels literally and figuratively caged by her marriage to her husband. Choi Cheul-Ho gives a powerful portrayal of Tae-Yeol, a policeman who locks up his wife Hee-Ran in her room whenever he leaves for work. As the young Sang-Ho secretly watches Hee-Ran and her loveless couplings with her husband, he becomes enamored by her beauty and eventually desires to have her for his own.
Fortune eventually favors Sang-Ho when he discovers the lost key of Tae-Yeol to the apartment prison of Hee-Ran. Sang-Ho cannot resist making a move on Hee-Ran (since she normally has her back turned on her husband during their couplings) and sneaks into the room to make love with her. When she discovers that it isn’t her husband, she reciprocates his desire and starts an affair with the young hot-blooded man. The two lovers are eventually caught in the act by Tae-Yeol, which leads to a violent and bloody ending to their affair.
All in all, this would have been a good tribute to “Scorpio Nights” since its cast delivers in terms of acting (except for Ryoo Soo-Yeong, who pales beside the original nuanced performance of Daniel Fernando). But I haven’t read yet any official press release or news report (in English or Korean) that this is an adaptation of that Filipino Classic movie so yes, I’m peeved that it has not acknowledged its “reference material”. I’ve seen the original “Scorpio Nights” (which I think was a fantastic movie) so I can definitely say for certain that this was a rip-off of it. Minus some tweaks to the development of the original storyline, the movie actually is such a copy of “Scorpio Nights”.
The characters are practically the same (i.e. the cop husband, the unhappy wife, the voyeur), the setting looks so much like the original Filipino scene (you can put them side by side and almost not be able to tell the difference except for the Korean setting being more cleaned-up), and the voyeur set-up is identical (I am willing to debate with writer Lee Jeong-Hak on this). Even the side characters and minor plot developments copy the Philippine movie).
The director’s treatment is also so Filipino. It tries to add that distinct Korean touch to it by putting the Korean cinematic glossy touch to some of the scenes but it still looks so much like the original. Dark lighting, dirty setting combined – it seemed as if a Peque Gallaga wannabe shot this film. The movie claims to be a political treatise (hence the student activist twist) but it is a poor excuse to knock-off the Filipino classic.
Aish…I’m a big supporter/promoter of Korean movies and I’ve been very vocal in the past when Hollywood copies or adapts Korean stuff. But seriously, give credit where credit is due. “Summer Time” is not a remake of “Scorpio Nights”. It’s a B-movie rip-off of the A-movie.