Thursday, February 7, 2013

Movie Review: WARNING FROM SPACE

WARNING FROM SPACE

Uchujin Tokyo ni arawaru
"Space Men Appear In Tokyo"
aka THE MYSTERIOUS SATELLITE
1956, Something Weird Video, HF, $20.00 ppd, 80m 57s, VHS

By John Charles
Originally published in slightly different form in Video Watchdog #92

The first color science fiction movie shot in Japan, this Daiei production from director Koji Shima owes a debt to WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, but is generally more in keeping with the local genre productions of its period. One evening, scientist Toru (Keizo Kawasaki) spies a flying saucer through his observatory's telescope and, later on, the same ship is seen falling into Tokyo Bay. Beings from Planet Paira have arrived on Earth and their strange appearance (floppy man-sized starfish with a single glowing eye) horrifies those humans who encounter them. Desperately seeking to make contact, one of the Pairans transforms into an exact duplicate of a popular female singer. While their motives appear sinister, the creatures are actually here to warn humanity of impending disaster: a runaway orb that the Pairans call Planet "R" is on a collision course with Earth. The aliens warn that all of our hydrogen and atomic bombs will required to obliterate R or, at least, alter its course. If the various world governments are not convinced of the threat and refuse to share their weapons, both Earth and Paira will perish in the ensuing holocaust. Dr. Matsuda (Isao Yamagata) has discovered an extremely powerful explosive formula that may prove essential in achieving success, but foreign agents kidnap him just as the approaching planet creates deadly heat and tidal waves on Earth.


Dialogue heavy and featuring fewer special FX than would be the norm in later Japanese science fiction films, WARNING FROM SPACE still has its points of interest. The premise echoes that of GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954/56) by painting the atomic build-up as a countdown to Armageddon, though it ultimately deviates somewhat from this stance by having Matsuda's new super explosive be the only effective defense against Planet R. In addition to their advanced science and shape-shifting abilities, the Pairans display their superiority in another important way by tricking the Earthlings into using up their atomic stockpile in what the aliens almost certainly knew would be a futile effort. However, the screenplay never spells out why the visitors would risk their own destruction at the same time. The Pairans eradicated violence on their world and have come to their counterparts on the other side of the sun for aid in destroying the menace. The female Pairan agent admonishes Matsuda midway through the picture for his invention, which her people realized eons ago would be the harbinger of their doom. Why would everything come down to the wire, with a quest to find the kidnapped doctor, when the aliens could have produced the explosive (or one similar) and used it on their own?  The admittedly silly looking starfish (which resemble people trapped inside giant pillows) are often cited for ridicule, but this is actually an accomplished production, with the sterile metallic interior of the Pairan's ship a particularly striking bit of design.

WARNING FROM SPACE was released theatrically in England in 1957, with a running time of 88m. It was handled stateside by American International, who had the picture trimmed by approximately 8m (possibly explaining the inconsistency mentioned above) and re-dubbed by Titra before sending it direct-to-television. As it was derived from an old pre-scanned (and somewhat worn) 16mm TV print, one cannot expect a definitive presentation, but SWV's rendition is reasonable considering what they had to work with. The image is soft, but colors are fairly robust. During the climactic heatwave, the picture is more of a pinkish brown than the stark red or orange that one presumes was originally featured. The pan & scan reformatting of the frame is not too distracting, though the audio is quite noisy, particularly in the first half.

(WARNING FROM SPACE is no longer available from Something Weird, but is in the public domain and easy to find, including the above YouTube link featuring the entire film)

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