Director: Koji Shima
Script: Hideo Oguni
Cast: Keizo Kawasaki, Toyoni Karita, Bin Yagisaua, Isao Yamagata Shuzo Nanbu, Bontaro Miake
Running time: 87 minutes
UFOs are seen around Tokyo and a group of starfish-like aliens, (replete with a large blue glowing eye set roughly in their centre), from the planet Parian, come to Earth to warn mankind about a runaway planetoid known as Planet R that is on a collision course with Earth. It is feared that when Earth is destroyed that their own planet will be destroyed as well since it’s on a similar orbit or something like that. However, since their form naturally causes people to panic they decide to use a different tactic and chose a female member of their race to take on human form to spread their message. By using a photo of a popular singer they disguise their colleague who then takes the form of said popular female singer. It/she warns mankind that the mega meteor will crash on Earth, killing off all life as we know it.
Meanwhile, the approaching Planetoid causes hotter and hotter weather, the seas and oceans to become more energised thus creating huge storms, animals and plants to die, and mankind to panic, and probably even to stock up on toilet roll, who knows!
The Japanese finally convince the world’s other countries to act and do something, once the planetoid becomes visible through telescopes, so the rest of mankind runs around like headless chickens for a while and then uses their nuclear arsenal to try and destroy the rogue planet, but fail miserably to do this.
As a back-up plan the aliens also contact a prominent scientist who has invented a new source of energy, Urium (Mmm, sounds suspiciously like Uranium!), which can also be made into the most destructive bomb the world has ever known, which might be just what Earth needs to destroy the planetoid. Unfortunately, the scientist is kidnapped by enemy agents who want to use the bomb for their own purposes, mostly for making them lots of money, which they won’t be able to spend anyway. Now it becomes a race against time to find the scientist so he can put his secret formula into practice and save mankind.
Warning from Space (aka Spacemen appear in Tokyo or Mysterious Satellite) could have had the capacity to be an excellent 50s sci-fi movie, but sadly it fails to provide the audience with a character they can root for and it fails to provide any real sense of danger or tension. The quasi ensemble cast doesn’t ever really get fleshed out as proper characters; hence they become ciphers of stereotypes for this kind of film. On a more positive note, the production values are quite high with plenty of good sets and locations used, including some attractive Japanese countryside, plus the use of sizable amounts of extras during some crowd scenes. Also, the visual effects aren’t bad of their period, particularly the eerie blue flames connected with the aliens and some nifty model shots. The acting is decent, although most of the actors tend to play their characters over earnestly.
Coming just two years after Godzilla, Warning from Space also fixates on the use of nuclear weaponry, but this time in a more positive way. Although in this film the threat seems more realistic – a giant planetoid hurtling towards Earth, which could happen, as opposed to a gigantic fire-breathing lizard, which is somewhat less likely, unless you live in Wales (just check out their flag!).
As a sci-fi curiosity, one that highlights some interesting historical and cultural elements of Japanese life, then Warning from Space is still worth a watch, but as an edge-of-the-seat piece of sci-fi entertainment it’s found sorely wanting. The music score, by Seitaro Omori, is an interesting one though, and is ahead of its time.
Arrow Video is distributing Warning from Space on Blu-ray and DVD. There are a bunch of extras on the disc which include:
Scene commentary by Stuart Galbraith IV (65 mins) – An engaging commentary track by a writer who clearly knows his stuff when it comes to Japanese cinema. Stuart speaks well and provides plenty of information about the film and its historical context. For example, it’s the first Japanese sci-fi film in colour. I think it would have been better to have played his commentary more as a documentary over photos and posters of all the different films and players that he speaks about, rather than just over the film itself.
Trailers – Teaser (2.28 min) – Emphasises the main actress, this being her debut;
Theatrical Trailer (3.05 mins) – Full length trailer
Image gallery – 49 stills