Blu Notes: The X From Outer Space「宇宙大怪獣ギララ」⋅ 2014 ⋅ Shochiku
My thoughts on director Kazui Nihonmatsu’s oddball kaiju opus Space Monster Guilala / The X From Outer Space haven’t changed all that much since I reviewed it a couple of years back in conjunction with the it’s domestic DVD premiere. X remains a gigantic mess of a picture, an awkward mix of swinging space travel, lethargic romance, and ludicrous giant monster action that appears as though it were edited together by someone with no knowledge as to what story it’s various bits were supposed to be telling. I would be remiss, however, in saying that I hadn’t softened a bit more to the film over those ensuing years. There’s a definite charm to be found in its propulsive sort of pointlessness, a euphoric brand of utter silliness that could only have been born in the space-crazed ’60s, with the Apollo program on the rise. This is the antithesis of films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the recent Interstellar – post-Kubrick science fiction has about as much interest in lunar surface bounce-party diversions and impromptu astronaut cocktail shindigs as X does in actual science, but then that’s the greater part of X‘s appeal.
I suspect there will be plenty of reappraisal of X‘s willfully goofy space-age charms in the wake of its latest video edition, a fine blu-ray offering from Shochiku in Japan which presents the film in its first new transfer in more than a decade (from Shochiku’s ‘Collector’s Edition’ in 2001 to Criterion / Eclipse’s release in 2012, X‘s DVD editions have all regurgitated the same lackluster SD master). Released as part of the company’s new The Best of Films in Those Days Shochiku Blu-ray Collection (あの頃映画 the BEST 松竹ブルーレイ・コレクション), X and its minimal supportive content receive a well-encoded single layer BD25 treatment at the bargain price (by Japanese standards) of ¥3,300 plus tax. Better yet, the disc looks to be all region compatible (it played fine on my Region B secondary deck), and while English subtitle support has not been included an English dub for the film has. I suspect this one will turn up on many a tokusatsu fan’s shopping list this holiday season, and with good reason.
Shochiku’s new HD master for The X From Outer Space presents the film in full 1080p at the proper Shochiku GrandScope ratio of 2.39:1, and adeptly corrects the many weaknesses of the DVD master that preceded it. Framing is now consistent and stable (the old master was fond of showing ragged frame edges), mid-range contrast is no longer boosted beyond the pale, and the finer detail of the 35mm photography finally shines through. The image here is darker and richer overall than has been evidenced in the past, and the more balanced color still packs plenty of pop. The image loses trace amounts of information at the edges in comparison to the DVDs, but most of this was never intended to be seen by viewers – the jagged extremities of the 35mm frame should never have been allowed onscreen in the first place, and their loss here is a positive. X has also been digitally restored, albeit only to a point. The image is still afflicted by traces of splice gunk and dust and specks crop up from time to time, but the major damage (particularly during the film’s frequent optical effects) has been corrected, leaving X looking better than it would’ve when new in many instances. Detail advances as much as one might hope in comparison to the old DVD master (the comparisons below will tell more in that regard than I ever could), and there’s a subtle layer of grain tinkering about attractively in the background. Technical specs provide more than ample support – X receives an Mpeg-4 AVC encode at an average bitrate of 29.3 Mbps (with peaks to 40.0 Mbps), and I noted nothing in the way of significant artifacts. It all adds up to a fine looking video presentation, and fans should be very pleased indeed.
Criterion / Eclipse DVD (L) vs. Shochiku Blu-ray (R)
Frame matches are not exact in all cases.
Audio isn’t likely to wow anyone with regards to The X From Outer Space, but Shochiku have done quite well given the limitations of the film’s original mix. There are no artificial bumps to contend with, just the original Japanese monophonic recording presented in lossless 2.0 LPCM (48kHz / 24-bit). I noticed no significant wear and tear (pops, hiss and the like) and aside from some shrillness at the high end the track sounds very nice. A set of optional Japanese SDH subtitles are offered in support. Included as a bonus is Shochiku’s own English dubbed track for the film, which is in a bit rougher shape than its Japanese counterpart, but still perfectly presentable. The English track, too, is given a lossless encode, albeit at a lower bit depth – 2.0 monophonic LPCM (48kHz / 16-bit). A second set of optional Japanese subtitles is offered in support of the English dub track.
As with all of the titles in Shochiku’s …the Best blu-ray line, supplements are extremely limited. The original theatrical trailer (4 minutes) for The X From Outer Space is included, as is a short theatrical dispatch (~40 seconds) announcing the production (this was a treat, as I’d never seen it before). Though unrestored, each is presented in native 1080p HD with lossless 48kHz / 24-bit audio – one can’t ask for much more in that regard. Strangely absent is a second, longer dispatch for the film that was included on the original Shochiku DVD, which featured Guilala’s fanciful naming ceremony. The first pressing of the blu-ray also includes a miniature lobby card replica, in this case a familiar shot of Guilala on the lunar surface with the FAFC moon base and Astro-Boat AAB Gamma tooling about in the background.
There’s not much else to say, really. While a bit more supplemental heft would have been appreciated (isn’t that always the case?), it’s tough to argue against Shochiku’s efforts here. This is an excellent and affordable presentation of a real oddball of a film, and I’ve got no complaints. The X From Outer Space was released December 3rd, and is readily available for purchase through Amazon.co.jp, HMV, and the other usual outlets.
Cover (w/ OBI):
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