Warning From Space (Cert PG)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: Arrow Video) Running Time: 87 minutes approx.
One of the things scientists and astronomers hope for in discovering extraterrestrial life is learning from them. If they have conquered space travel chances are they have seen more than we have and might be able to offer answers to our concerns about our planet. But this rests on getting over a potential language barrier first and whether they are genuine.
A space station hovers high above the earth, populated by starfish like creatures that have discovered a meteor called Planet R is hurtling towards earth and feel duty bound to warn humanity of this impending doom. At the same time UFOs are seen over Tokyo, but Dr. Kamura (Bontaro Miake) and Dr. Itsobe (Keizo Kawasaki) are both unconvinced they are alien craft without further proof.
Meanwhile the starfish find Japan is the best country to land in and try to warn the people about the meteor but their appearance is too frightening, so one of the starfish, Ginko, volunteers to adopt the form of popular singer Hikari Aozora (Toyomi Karita) in order to spread her warning to humanity. But will they listen?
Warning From Space has the distinction of being Japan’s first colour sci-fi film, beating Ishiro Honda’s The Mysterians by a year, but for many that will be its greatest accolade. Made on an obvious meagre budget and with a script that is heavy on exposition and low on depth, this is cult B-Movie trash for the masses – look beneath the surface however and there is a prescient tale about the dangers of global warming.
It takes a while for this aspect to become fully realised as the threat is a rogue planet leaving its orbit rather than a manmade disaster but of course, there wasn’t such a thing as global warming when this was written in 1956, so the titular warning is purely accidental rather than deliberate, but it does make for curious viewing through modern eyes.
Naturally the script has a ton of plot holes and jumps in the story that make little to no sense or proffer any explanation for some of the things that happen, making its B-movie status all too evident. Yet director Koji Shima suffuses it with enough quirky, earnest charm to carry it through to the end, leaving us to wonder what if this had been made with a bigger budget and stronger script?
The starfish folk are comedic in appearance – basically the actors in full body suits with their arms outstretched and a big eye stuck to their chests. They come from the planet Paira, located directly opposite the earth but on the other side of the sun which is unknown to humans. The starfish design isn’t their real form – it’s a protective uniform – but for a race so advanced why couldn’t they come up with something less cumbersome and dumb looking?
Earlier UFO sightings were initially considered to be spy drones from other countries until the appearance of the Pairans exacerbated the alien attack theory. Somehow one of them procured a photo of singer Hikari Aozora and felt her popularity would make it easier to address a captive audience. But again, for an intelligent race, why did none of the Pairans consider that having two Aozoras might freak the earth people out a bit?
For example, the Pairan double is found floating in a river and this makes big news, yet the original is performing at a concert at the same time, yet nobody questions this? And when Pairan Aozora exposes herself by jumping over ten feet in the air during a tennis match or walking through walls like a ghost, this doesn’t become headline news?
Still the ploy doesn’t completely work as Pairan Aozora interrupts a scientist building a nuclear weapon, Dr. Matsuda (Isao Yamagata), ripping up his formula notes (which she can understand) because of the damage it would cause. Instead of being outraged that some arrogant pop singer is telling him how to do his job, Matsuda continues to work on his formula.
Luckily he does because guess how the Pairans figure out the best way to stop Planet R from hitting the earth? Yeah – oh the irony! This is an example of where a few extra minutes of thought by screenwriter Hideo Oguni could have made all the difference in bring some logic to this crazy scenario, or maybe the fault lies with the source material, a novel by Gentaro Nakajima.
Amazingly, once the unbearable heat caused by the fast approaching planet and the side effects of animals dying, river banks overflowing, and mini-natural disasters occurring hits everything takes on a new meaning pertaining to the current global warming crisis. Whether you are a believer or a denier, this silly little film helps it make sense, arguably more so than million-dollar CGI blockbusters could.
Delving beneath the environmental concerns and sci-fi hokum a little further and one will find a cautionary message about being less presumptuous towards those from outside our own communities. Considering Japan isolated themselves from the rest of the world for many centuries this is quite a bold statement, perhaps using the Pairans to represent Japan by way of reaching out to other nations.
Regarding this new Blu-ray release, the colours have been given a makeover and are now nicely balanced, so no more of the painful pale green wash with dashes of muted red of the original print. We also have both the original Japanese version and the slightly longer (by a minute) US dubbed version with its different opening, which I saw via Amazon Prime and can confirm the translated Japanese dialogue is far less hokey than the American rewrite.
To call Warning From Space a classic would be deceitful and its sci-fi credentials are modest at best, yet its message packs enough of a prophetic punch beyond its weight to warrant the label of cult curio for those with a taste for the quirkier side of cinema.
Original Uncompressed Japanese Mono Soundtrack
Audio Commentary by Stuart Galbraith IV
HD Version of the American Release
First Pressing Only:
Illustrated Collector’s Booklet
Rating – ***
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