Half a dozen manned spaceflights to Mars disappear under strange circumstances. A joint Japanese-German(?) mission rocket follows, the crew hoping to both land on the Red Planet and solve the mystery of what happened to the previous expeditions.
Several other Japanese film studios tried to emulate the international achievements of Toho Studios and their monster movies in the 1960s. The most successful of these were Daiei with their ‘Gamera’ series but there was also Nikkatsu with ‘Gappa, the Triphibian Monster’ (1967) and Shochiku, who presented ‘The X From Outer Space’ (1967).
In a nod to the international market, the boffins on the ground here include Franz Gruber as a fuel expert who assists headman Eji Okada, an international name after appearing in ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ (1960). We also get blonde Peggy Neal as the space crew biologist, although she’s very poorly dubbed, her accent sometimes German, sometimes not. Neal already had experience with Japanese monsters, her previous role being in Kaitei Daisensou (‘Terror Beneath the Sea’) (1966), which featured mutant cyborg fish men.
After a mission briefing explaining things you would have thought the crew should already know, our zeroes head off to Mars but are intercepted by a UFO that looks like a large orange pie. After this unexciting close encounter, they land at Moonbase, where they dance, jump around in the low gravity and take Jacuzzis with synthesised water that isn’t real (eh?). This is obviously far more important that investigating mankind’s ‘first contact’ with alien life. Back in space, the ship is hit by the inevitable meteor shower, a circumstance for which they are pitifully unprepared considering it had happened to every cinematic spacecraft in the previous couple of decades. Another encounter with the alien pie ship leaves their capsule covered with a strange substance so they decide to call it a day and head back home for tea.Whilst having a knees-up at their ‘welcome back’ shindig, our gormless astro-naughts find out that the strange intergalactic substance they brought back has escaped from the lab and metamorphosed into a giant, gnarly space chicken.
This fine example of intergalactic poultry goes on a rampage, shooting flame from its mouth and wading through sets of tiny skyscrapers. The military and the scientists get round the big table to try and sort it all out (as they usually do) but they don’t have any ideas. They do name the creature though (‘Guilala’) so that’s all sorted then. Later on they reject the idea of a nuclear strike and decide to use toxic soap suds from the moon as their ultimate weapon instead.
Ultimately, the films plays like a poor photostat of a Toho Production, devoid of both technical artistry and fresh ideas. The spacecraft models aren’t that badly done (although they are still obviously models) but it’s the miniature sets in particular that come up short. And the monster itself, of course. It looks like a bloke in a silly suit on his way to a primary school to teach kids some aspect of health and safety.
After the Nikkatsu studio folded, Shochiku announced a ‘Gappa vs Guilala’ movie but it never happened. Not such a bad thing in my opinion…