Review Date: September 26, 2005
Released by: Shochiku Home Video
Release date: 3/21/2001
MSRP: $120.00 (OOP)
Region 2, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
In response to the continued success of Toho's Godzilla films during the 1960's a number of other rival Japanese studios tried their hand at making giant monster movies. The only studio besides Toho that had any real success was Daiei, who produced Gamera
and a slew of sequels. Nikkatsu Studios produced a clunker named Gappa the Triphibian Monster
(often called Monster From a Prehistoric Planet
in the U.S.), while in 1967 Shochiku Studios produced this film, X From Outer Space
, a movie that in several ways is so bizarre that it must be seen to be believed.
It's sometime in the future, and mankind's exploration of outer space has hit a snag. Though there's a successful space base on the moon, repeated attempts to reach Mars have met with failure, and each time that failure has coincided with the appearance of a mysterious UFO. Nonetheless, the Japanese space agency has decided to try yet another attempt to reach the red planet, this time using the newly designed spaceship AAB-Gamma. The mission is commanded by the stern Captain Sano (Toshiya Wazaki
), and includes amongst the crew European biologist Lisa (Peggy Neal
), the clownish Miyamoto (Shinichi Yanagisawa
) and physician Dr. Shioda (Keisuke Sonoi
The expedition reaches the vicinity of Mars when, sure enough, the UFO appears. Suddenly, Dr. Shioda suffers a medical emergency, forcing Sano to head for the moon base where Shioda is replaced by the very cranky Dr. Stein (Mike Daneen
). They set off again for Mars, only to have the ship damaged by a meteor. The UFO appears again, this time covering the outside of the ship with mysterious spores. They take one of the spores as a sample and Sano decides to abort the mission and return to Earth.
On Earth, the spore is left alone in a containment room at the space agency laboratory, but very quickly something hatches out of it and escapes from the facility by burning a hole in the floor. In short order, the mysterious creature grows to a humongous size and proceeds to rampage across the countryside. The beast is given the name Guilala (presumably for a lack of anything better) and, as is to be expected in a movie like this, turns out to be impervious to military force. Will Japan be destroyed under the feet of the monster, or will a weapon capable of stopping Guilala be discovered before it's too late?
X From Outer Space
found American distribution through AIP's television distribution arm, where it no doubt found many late night showings. Aside from one or two of the Gamera sequels, it is the worst of the non-Toho "Kaiju Eiga" films to see American distribution, though it is not without a certain charm. It presents an amusingly anachronistic view of the future in which space travel is common, but which otherwise looks a lot like 1967, complete with retro fashions, hairstyles, cars and Cold War military hardware.
The special effects range from okay to poor, with the worst usually being shots where Guilala is optically combined with shots of panicked Japanese citizens. Some of the miniature work is surprisingly good, while some looks completely fake. Guilala himself is something else altogether. Some reviewers have described him as a giant alien chicken, which is not very accurate (his beak is his only bird-like feature), but is illustrative of just how difficult a thing he is to describe. The history of monster movies is riddled with bizarre creature designs, but Guilala ranks as one of the wackiest. It's hard to believe that anyone actually conceived of such a thing, but it happened.
Yet Guilala is the only major element of X From Outer Space
that really makes the film watchable. He does not put in an appearance until the movie is already half over. Prior to that, most of the scenes aboard AAB-Gamma and on the moon are so lethargically paced that many viewers may start to lose interest. After Guilala does appear the film's speed picks up dramatically, but a bit too late. Overall, X From Outer Space
just doesn't deliver the giant monster goods.
The only legitimate American home video release of X From Outer Space
came in the late 1980's from Orion Home Video. As one would expect, the release was of the AIP-TV cut and was badly cropped, and those who are used to seeing the film in this manner will be pleasantly surprised to see how much better it plays in its full 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The 16x9 enhanced transfer is quite good, but with two strange flaws. On the plus side, colors are quite vivid, and the image is very sharp and detailed, with little or no grain marring its presentation. The film elements used in the transfer (reportedly from original vault materials) are, with one exception, in gorgeous shape, free of any significant damage, specks or stains. However, that one exception is part of the first of the two visual anomalies that are present on this release. This anomaly is the presence of certain individual shots throughout the film that will be covered with scratches and specks (unlike the second anomaly, this one is too subtle to be captured via screenshots, but is definitely there). The shot before this happens is usually fine, as is the shot that follows immediately after. Interestingly enough, this usually only happens in shots where mattes are used to combine two images, indicating that the damage probably was incurred when the optical effects were first completed.
The second anomaly is the presence of a significant number of splices that creep their way into either the first or the last frame of many shots. Though not every shot is affected this way, many are, and in fact when watching the transfer I started keeping track of how many I saw and quickly lost count. Most of them werenít as bad as the examples shown below, but they were still noticeable and still distracting. The fact that they appear only at the beginning or end of shots indicates that this might also be native to the original elements for the film, probably the result of sloppy negative cutting when the master version was being assembled back in the 60's.
Two soundtrack options are available, one in Japanese 2.0 Mono, the other in English 2.0 Mono. There are no subtitle options included at all, which is a pity because the English dub track isn't very good at all (it should be noted that the dub track on the AIP-TV version was not the same as this one) and gets annoying pretty quickly.
The Japanese track is louder and more well-defined overall, but the English track itself is also perfectly fine, with clear dialogue reproduction and practically no background noise or distortion to get in the way. It does sound a little bit flat and muffled at times, but overall this is an acceptable presentation for an old film.
Here is where this limited edition starts to become really cool. The only on-disc extras are limited to a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer, both in Japanese. The teaser trailer contains footage that is definitely not seen in the movie itself, but without English translation itís not completely clear whatís going on (strangely enough, the menu screens for this release are mostly in English). An eight-page booklet of liner notes in Japanese is also included. But those things aren't the real treats. As you will see from the photo below, this disc comes packaged in a larger than normal box that looks great (though it is not very sturdy), and not only contains the DVD, but several other goodies as well.
The first of these goodies is a well-molded seven-inch tall plastic replication of Guilala, which will allow you and your friends to marvel at his wackiness long after the movie is over (mine sits proudly on my computer desk, where many a person has asked "What the hell
is that thing?"). The other is a plastic model kit that allows you to build your own AAB-Gamma spaceship. The instructions are in Japanese only, but accompanied with simple diagrams to help with construction. The building of the model itself isnít difficult, though it is time consuming and recommended mostly to those who have adequate patience with such things (and be careful with whatever kind of glue you use, I ruined a new T-shirt that way).
Guilala is no Godzilla, and X From Outer Space
is no Toho monster romp. Despite the nice transfer and extras, the weakness of the film, combined with the priciness of this box set, makes this a difficult release to recommend except to the most dedicated Japanese monster fans. Those who are interested would be well advised to try and track down a copy of the Orion VHS release to see whether or not it meets their tastes.
It should also be noted that, though this release is out-of-print, there are still online retailers that carry it. A second Japanese edition (with different artwork) is also available, minus the off-disc extras and at a cheaper price, though reportedly the disc itself is the same for both versions.
Movie - C-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 1 hour 28 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Japanese 2.0 Mono
- English 2.0 Mono
- Theatrical trailer
- Teaser trailer
- Liner notes (in Japanese)
- Guilala figurine
- AAB-Gamma model