Yesterday, I watched Shochiku’s Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell, a haunting, cynical, and brutally honest examination of human behavior–and its potential to extinguish all life on Earth. The X From Outer Space, released by the same studio a year earlier, exists at the opposite end of the spectrum: a brightly colored, cheerfully scored, sickeningly optimistic sci-fi flick clearly aimed at the younger crowd.
The story begins in the not-too-distant future (I think): flying saucers are a universally-accepted scientific phenomenon, researchers grow pumpkin-sized apples on the moon, and the Not Science Patrol toils to circumvent gamma rays/magnetic fields and finally land a team on Mars. After a tense encounter with a glowing, out-of-focus whoopee cushion, the latest expedition discovers that its ship has been lightly dusted with luminous space cotton. The brave explorers bring a sample of the stuff back to Earth, where–surprise, surprise!–it mutates into a massive Rubber Space Chicken, nicknamed Guilala, and wreaks havoc across Japan.
And here, sadly, movie loses any semblance of scene-to-scene continuity. Guilala’s rampage feels disconnected from the rest of the action, as though it’s occurring in another dimension entirely; the scenes of destruction lack proper context, and thus carry little emotional weight. Good kaiju films take time to contemplate human suffering: in Godzilla, a mother cradles her children, promises them that they’ll soon reunite with their father as the thundering footfalls grow closer and closer; in Gamera vs. Gyaos, the less-friendly monster rips the top off of a bullet train and grinds the poor passengers between its teeth like so many potato chips. In The X From Outer Space, a weary general mentions in passing that Ginza and Shinjuku are lost; director Kazui Nihonmatsu doesn’t linger on the consequences of such devastation.
The X From Outer Space makes for decent enough all-ages entertainment, but Toho and Daiei produced countless better adventures in the same genre.
[Originally written September 11, 2012.]