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Countdown to Halloween: "X" is for The X from Outer Space (1967)



Since I take every chance I can to defend the appearance of the bird that's as big as a battleship in The Giant Claw (1957), it would be hypocritical of me to criticize the kaiju, Guilala, in The X from Outer Space (1967). Therefore, let me just get it out of the way. The appearance of the kaiju, Guilala, in The X from Outer Space is lovably goofy. Its body is similar to any number of giant Japanese monsters, but it's Guilala's head that's special.

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If you imagine a man inside the suit, the neck of Guilala would be located at face level. The head of the monster is on top of that, so above the actor's head. That might explain some of the bobbling back and forth that cause the pipe cleaner antenna with ping pong balls on the ends to bounce around like crazy. The neck inflates and deflates, so that's cool. I can't help but think, though, if we got a good close-up, we'd notice it was made of mesh so the actor can see out of it.

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I'm jumping the gun; Guilala doesn't appear until probably the last third of the movie. Prior to that, The X from Outer Space is a quirky, yet well-made and visually appealing science fiction adventure into space… with a snappy soundtrack. Previous missions to Mars have failed and it's the purpose of the crew of the AAB Gamma (aka Astro-Boat), a nuclear powered ship to determine why. The current theory is that UFOs interfered…

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…but, were they controlled from Mars or from somewhere else? Decent attempts are made to give the crew members characters and not just caricatures, although the result is a mix of both. K. Sano (Toshiya Wazaki) is the tough captain. Lisa Schneider (Peggy Neal) is the lovesick biologist. Pay close attention, because I didn't realize until the very end that The X from Outer Space is really a love story. Watch it; you'll see what I mean.

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Dr. Kato (Eiji Okada) has the fewest character traits, so obviously, he's the one that's going to be adversely affected during their trip. Counterbalancing him, though, is H. Miyamoto (Shinichi Yanagisawa), the exaggerated comic relief, so obviously, he's the one that's sure to become a hero. The camaraderie feels real and the humor is natural. However, I wonder if the line, "You may now move freely around the cabin," is a literal translation or if a flight attendant wrote it.

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The X from Outer Space reminds me a lot of Journey to the Seventh Planet in that there are no direct flights to their destinations. Space ships and astronauts both have to make stops on the Moon first. Here, it's so that Michiko Taki (Itoko Harada) can join the crew as the third side of a romantic triangle with Captain Sano and Lisa. Don't expect a catfight, though, these people all get along and are willing to make personal sacrifices for each other.

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Guilala isn't all that's goofy about The X from Outer Space. Here's a fun fact for you: did you know that since there is no atmosphere to block the sun, apples grow bigger on the Moon? Or did you know that you can synthesize artificial water from the hydrogen and oxygen in Moon rocks? Rather than explore or study their surroundings, the astronauts jump and play around outside, as if there are trampolines hidden behind rocks.

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Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot this is a Kaiju film. It's from Shochiku, not Toho, so when Guilala finally emerges on Earth from an alien spore inadvertently brought home, the effects aren't so special. They're not necessarily bad, but forget Toho, compared to even its own scenes in space, they're not as good. Scientists decide that the solution to their Guilala problem is a chemical that can be synthesized only on the Moon…

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…so it's back to space, although its 89-minutes are almost finished, so it's a quick trip there and back. It's another trip with peril, though, which creates a race against time. (A UFO returns… those "persistent creeps.") Back on Earth, because you don't think for one moment they won't make it, the chemical ("guilalanium") is quite effective, covering the giant monster in shaving cream that in essence dissolves it from inside.

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It's a plot-heavy movie with major shifts in focus, but The X from Outer Space is nevertheless a lot of fun. It's safe for the kiddies, but they might be bored with the parts of the movie that don't feature Guilala. There's also a lot of heart and humor. The former isn't always executed well, but the latter usually is. I recommend you watch it, if only to see what happens when another studio steps onto the playground owned by another.

Written by Moriyoshi, Ishida, Eibi Motomochi, Kazui Nihonmatsu

Directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu

Starring Eiji Okada, Shun'ya Wazaki, Itoko Harada, Peggy Neal RT 89 min.

Home Video Criterion Collection (When Horror Came to Shochiku, DVD)



Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.



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