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The X from Outer Space

Posted by martinteller on May 5, 2013

The jelly & paint on the 40 watt bulb
They use when the slime droozle off
The rumples & the wrinkles in the cardboard rock
And the canvas of the cave is too soft
The suits & the hats & the tie’s too wide
And too short for the scientist man
The chemistry lady with the roll-away mind
While the monster just ate Japan

– Frank Zappa, “Cheepnis”

A team of astronauts is sent to investigate why all the missions to Mars have never returned.  Dr. Kato (Eiji Okada, of Hiroshima Mon Amour) assembles a crew including Captain Sano (Shunya Wazaki), radio operator Miyamoto (Shinici Yanagisawa), medical man Dr. Shioda (Keisuke Sonoi) and biologist Lisa (Peggy Neal).  On their journey they encounter a UFO, and Shioda falls ill.  They take a detour at the moon base, where Dr. Stein (Mike Danning) diagnoses Shioda with “space sickness” and grounds him.  The grumpy Stein reluctantly takes his place and they set out once again.  This time they head into a meteor shower and the hull gets punctured.  When all that’s over, Lisa notices spores on the ship’s exterior.  They collect a sample, stop off at the moon base again to pick up Sato’s gal Michiko (Itoko Harada), and return to Earth.  The spore, however, turns out to be an egg (or something?) and “Guilala” is born… a giant monster who rampages across Japan while the team scrambles to find a way to stop him.

The Shochiku studio was late to the kaiju (monster movie) game.  They only did four movies in the genre, and this was the first.  And as you might have guessed, it’s pretty terrible.  Guilala (as close as they could get to “Godzilla” without being sued, I presume) looks like a cross between a lizard and a chicken and… well, a guy in a rubber suit.  The miniatures used are really cheap-looking, although I must say the moon base looked kinda neat.  There are blatant continuity errors (Michiko has a noticeably different hairstyle between when you see her at the base and when you see her over the ship — excuse me, “astroboat” — monitor).  The score is the most hilariously wrong element of all, starting with a happy pop song and playing the most inappropriately goofy lounge music throughout.

The script is entirely cookie-cutter, loaded with clumsy exposition and silly jargon.  The reaction to the UFO couldn’t be more casual (Miyamoto quips that it looks like a “half-baked omelet”).  Likewise, after they’ve determined that there is a monster and it’s on the loose, the principals all decide “Let’s go to the bar for a nightcap.”  A nightcap!  The telephone conversations are always of the type where the person repeats everything from the other end in the form of a question: “The lab’s been ransacked?”

Although Lisa (no last name necessary, I guess) does turn out to be somewhat useful, the gender roles aren’t exactly progressive.  Guess who fetches the crew’s food and drink?  And the film sets up this love triangle between the gals over Sano (oh that glare Michiko gives Lisa!) only to instantly deflate it when Lisa gives Michiko a pair of earrings.  And then the rivalry pops up again whenever convenient.  But don’t worry, in the end (spoiler alert!) the whites end up with the whites and the Japanese end up with the Japanese… the way God intended.

Of course, it all makes for “so bad it’s good” enjoyment.  I don’t have any special affection for kaiju films, so I probably don’t appreciate it the same way hardcore fans do, but I got some laughs out of it and it kept me reasonably entertained for most of its 88 minutes.  But it’s not a good movie.  It’s said to be the worst of Shochiku’s entries in the genre.  With the other three still ahead of me, I sure hope so.  Rating: Poor (58)


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