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Saturday, July 11, 2009


In the annals of Japanese monster movie cryptozoology there are few city-stomping giants more visually ludicrous than Guilala, the one-shot star of 1967's THE X FROM OUTER SPACE. Not unfairly described as looking like the result of a drunken tryst between some foam latex, a chicken, and a large order of Egg Foo-Yung, Guilala came and went from the daikaiju landscape in the blink of an eye, remembered here in the States only by those of us who saw its sole feature film on afternoon movie showcases like THE 4:30 MOVIE in the Tri-State area, where it ran for years as part of the rotating roster of perennials during that show's beloved "Monster Week."

Guilala, as originally seen in THE X FROM OUTER SPACE (1967).

I haven't seen THE X FROM OUTER SPACE in a long time and don't recall it with the clarity of its more compelling brethren, but I do remember Guilala as being a monster generated from an extraterrestrial spore that had adhered to a returning spacecraft from Earth, and once it hit the planet's atmosphere it got all big and proceeded to do the "urban renewal boogie." As giant monster time-killers went, THE X FROM OUTER SPACE was clearly a kiddie flick and its star didn't have on ounce of the appeal of a Godzilla or King Ghidorah, so Guilala was swiftly forgotten, except when brought up in geeky, drunken arguments of which was the goofiest Japanese monster of all time. (Goofy though Guilala certainly is, for sheer conceptual idiocy I still go with the original series version of Gamera. A flying, flaming turtle with saber-teeth? What the fuck?!!?)

Then the ludicrous critter popped up again in a recent TV ad for a high-end job search website, and now Guilala gets another shot at a feature film in this 2008 feature that made me say "You have got to be kidding me!" aloud when I heard about it a little over a year ago. As is my wont as a diakaiju follower, I checked out all the available info on the then-upcoming film and was amazed to see the level of seriousness that its filmmakers were apparently pouring into the production. But what totally eluded me during the reading of those articles and press releases was the fact that MONSTER X STRIKES BACK: ATTACK THE G8 SUMMIT is a comedy, so when I got my hands on it last week I was totally unprepared for what I sat down to watch that night. A lot of Japanese comedies that make their way over here fall flat due to the marked differences between American and Japanese humor, but I'm glad to say MONSTER X STRIKES BACK: ATTACK THE G8 SUMMIT works well without a crash course in Japanese culture thanks to the United States having been fed a steady diet of Japanese monster movies and TV shows since the 1950's, thus allowing Godzilla and his colleagues to become in a strange way as American as Superman.

Guilala 2008: still crazy after all these years.

Yankee diakaiju enthusiasts will find much to laugh along with here as the film knowingly skewers damned near every trope in the giant monster movie handbook. As the world's leaders converge in Japan for a global summit, Guilala arrives from outer space in a red energy bubble — straight out of the first episode of the original ULTRAMAN — and immediately starts in with the city-stomping. This rampage is covered by two journalists of the type common to these films since at least as far back as the excellent MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1962), and during an initially unrelated assignment they discover a village deep in the woods that's still very much in touch with old school nature worship. The deity the villagers ritually venerate is named "Take-Majin" (pronounced "tah-keh mah-jheen") and entreaties to the guardian spirit may be the only thing that can stop the increasingly amusing rampage of Guilala as the world's nations take turns at strategic one-upmanship regarding the monster and fail miserably.

The awesomeness (?) of Take Majin.

Saying much more would ruin the genuine surprises offered by the movie, but here are a few things to consider:

See these gun-wielding cuties? You simply will not believe how they end up in the story.

Carrying on a fine giant monster movie tradition, all of the non-Japanese players turn in shockingly awful performances of a jaw-droppingly bad caliber not witnessed since GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH's infamous "Lieutenant Spielberg" bit. Seeing as this is an intentional comedy I'd say it's safe to assume the unbelievable overacting may be part of the gag, but you never know...

The military general speaking into the microphone is none other than Susumu Kurobe, better known to American fans as Hayata, the human host for the original Ultraman.

There's much to recommend here, but I do have to say it's probably best enjoyed by people who are already fans of the genre being lampooned. Totally suitable for kids — provided they don't balk at the subtitles, or their parents taking umbrage over Take Majin's unbelievable method for getting rid of a nuclear warhead — MONSTER X STRIKES BACK: ATTACK THE G-8 SUMMIT is a hoot and would make the perfect second half of a film festival including episodes of ULTRAMAN or JOHNNY SOCKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT.

1 comment:

Deacon Blue said...

Apropos of absolutely nothing, your mention of Susumu Kurobe (Hayata) being in the flick inspires me to share a tale of my 3.9-year-old girl's ongoing experiences with Ultraman (since, after all, it was you who so kindly e-mailed me with the news I could get the series on DVD).

Why is it that almost every time she watches the show, she asks me, the first time that Hayata appears in an episode, "Daddy, is that Hayata?"

I'm curious as to how many viewings it will take for her to realize that the one guy in the whole Science Patrol team who doesn't look like a goober is Hayata. (And yet it only took a few viewings of Teen Titans for her to memorize not only every character in the series but memorize some of the most obscure lines and scenes in every episode)

Oh, and once we've established that Hayata is indeed Hayata as we're weatching an episode, why am I ordered to explain, nearly every time, how it is that Hayata and Ultraman are the same person? Kinda. It's hard to explain sci-fi hosting/ultra-dimensional co-existence concepts to someone who isn't even in pre-K yet...