The X from Outer Space (1967)

Director: Kazui Nihonmatsu

Next stop: the Criterion/Eclipse When Horror Came to Shochiku box… The essay accompanying this film handily contextualises the four films in this set, noting that when they were made Shochiku were in the midst of a pretty bad slump after the death of Yasujiro Ozu, their mainstay. So the studio decided to belatedly jump on the SF/horror bandwagon most of the other studios had been reaping rewards from ever since Gojira over a decade earlier. As the essay also notes, though, said bandwagon may have started out on a serious level (and I do recall being stunned by just how heavy Gojira was when I first saw it) but it rather quickly devolved to the level of, you know, that Gamera movie I reviewed here years ago, or The Green Slime, which this actually faintly resembles. Anyway, Shochiku evidently saw no reason to elevate this film above the juvenile either; I suspect if I were a reasonably uncritical ten year old boy watching this at the cinema for the first time, I’d probably think it was pretty smoking. Our not entirely coherent story involves astronauts trying to get to Mars but being harassed by a UFO curiously reminiscent of an omelette; their ship accrues some mysterious material on its hull, a sample of which they return to Earth. But this stuff is the seed, or something, of Guilala, the titular X; as Paul Kelly once said, from little things big things grow, and soon our little luminous lump has grown into a preposterous part-insect part-chicken part-lizard, but all-rubber, giant monster wreaking havoc on a number of models of Japanese cities and rural settings. Actually some of the carnage isn’t bad, but, as one IMDB commenter observes, it’s actually the human relationships that are interesting, mainly the way the space captain has two women (including a white one!) in love with him but he barely seems to notice either of them, and the two women seem to be great pals rather than rivals; it’s more like they’re the romantic couple. As for Eiji Okada, here in a smallish role, he must’ve been wondering how did he go from working with Alain Resnais (that’s him in Hiroshima mon amour) and Hiroshi Teshigahara to whatever the hell this is…

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