The X From Outer Space ~ 1967, Kazui Nihonmatsu, Japan
In the 1960’s, the assorted motion picture studios of Japan had all come to see Toho’s Godzilla as a big, green, lumbering money factory, just ripe for exploitation, and they all knew that if they wanted a slice of that kaiju pie, they needed to rip him off, pronto, before the heat died down. Suddenly, everybody in town had some giant, crappy monster they just had to cram down people’s throats, and the race to hop on Godzilla’s coattails had begun. First, there was Daiei, and their substantially less popular yet still kinda popular turtle monster Gamera. Then, there was Nikkatsu, who gave us Gappa, just one of the modern cinema’s many creatures who found themselves overshadowed by their own rad theme song. Then, in 1967, Shochiku, gave the world Guilala, star of the Science Fiction/monster outing The X From Outer Space. Wanna make a Kaiju film? Come up with a funny name beginning with the letter ‘G.’ You are now 80% of the way there.
THE PLOT~ We Earthlings just can’t figure out why all of our astronauts keep dying on the way to Mars. Let’s look at what we DO know; we KNOW that they all report the same peculiar glitches in their onboard computer systems… We know that they all get straight up menaced by a mysterious UFO as they approach the Red Planet, and we also know that right after that, they die… But how?!? Huh! It’s a real head-scratcher… Oh well, no matter, because even if we can’t put two and two together, we damn sure can put together special mission AAB-Gamma; just another collection of doomed astronauts who we have decided to condemn to death in the cold, dark recesses of space. We’re geniuses!
You’re all gonna die, you idiots!!!
From the get go, AAB-Gamma is plagued with ill omens and terrifying space disasters, they face everything from failing equipment, high levels of radiation, asteroid showers, punctures in the spacecrafts hull, mysterious illnesses, and, of course, that damn UFO I mentioned before. They eventually have to throw in the towel and admit defeat when this malicious alien spacecraft sprays the Astro-Boat down with some sort of weird, Martian spores, rendering the vessel totally immobile for some reason. They’re saved, shockingly enough, when they’re able to send out a distress signal, but not before collecting a sample of the alien spores from the outer hull of the ship, which they bring back to Earth for study. Guess what? Monster egg; that thing hatches overnight and right around the halfway mark, Guilala makes his big entrance. Within minutes of hatching, our boy Guilala grows to a standard Japanese monster height of 300 feet, and begins his stomping/smashing career. Naturally, all of our defenses fail to repel this abomination from space, and the crew of AAB-Gamma discovers that the only hope mankind has left is in it’s ability to synthesize a compound which can subdue Guilala, and this process can only be done in the absolute vacuum of space. So back they go, into space, to make some anti-monster goop.
It’s pretty middle of the road. By this point, essentially every Godzilla film featured aliens prominently, so in that way, The X From Outer Space effectively hops right into the swing of things with commendable ease, and our human characters are much more interesting than the interchangeable cyphers which populated Toho’s Godzilla-verse. There’s even a love triangle in this film! It’s poorly written, but it’s there! And that’s all good! It’s more than you usually get from Toho or Daiei’s human characters. Additionally, as I’ve said before, Guilala doesn’t even turn up until right around the halfway mark, and he’s really not in the film that much, when you step back and look at it. Believe it or not, that works out in the our favor, because what we end up with for the lion’s share of the run time is a delightfully adequate 1960’s space adventure, and honestly, that’s a lot more entertaining than all this giant monster business. We run into significant trouble when this movie expects us to give a shit about Guilala, or what he’s up to, and while these sequences are fairly well done from a technical perspective, they’re noticeably more boring than the work Toho and Daiei were doing at that time.
Guilala kind of sucks, too. He might have been fine as a secondary character, maybe teaming up with Gigan or something, but on his own, out in the spotlight, it’s pretty clear that he’s just not star material. First of all, he sort of looks like Big Bird.
It’s like I’m seein’ double!
This particular look works just fine on the mean streets of Sesame, but it’s hard to take a Kaiju seriously when you keep thinking “Hey, is that that dude who taught me to count?” Not good. Secondly, Guilala’s limbs are all swollen, puffy, and frilled, giving him the appearance of an alien Big Bird wearing Jerry’s pirate shirt from Seinfeld.
“I don’t wanna be a pirate!” – Guilala
That’s what you’re going to remember about this friggin’ monster, he looks like Big Bird, his name is way too difficult to pronounce, and Jerry Seinfeld’s freaking pirate shirt. I’m sorry, Guilala, but by the natural law of Survival of the Fittest, you must go, for you are not fit. Go and die.
And he did, pretty much. Guilala failed to win over the Japanese theater going public, and the next time anybody saw him was decades later in Monster X Strikes Back: Attack The G8 Summit, which was a damn comedy. The X From Outer Space isn’t terrible, it’s probably a decent way to spend your time if you’re a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth kaijuphile, but truthfuly, it’s a lukewarm experience, and certainly not a highlight of the genre.