Warning from Space


Director: Koji Shima

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Warning from SpaceWarning from Space is the American dubbed version of Uchujin Tokyo ni awawaru (Unknown Satellite Over Tokyo, 1956). It has also been known by the English titles The Mysterious Satellite or The Cosmic Man Appears in Tokyo.

This is a remarkable film when compared to standard schlock sci-fi from the USA in the same year. It was the first full color Japanese science fiction film, not just a B film, & while it certainly is a camp treasure for today's viewers, it was a serious film in its day, & the dubbed version preserves the original story pretty much intact, rather than re-edited in the ruinous way of Japanese monster flicks, & no one thought it necessary to splice in some badly integrated scenes with white actors.

There are fascinating cultural contrasts in this film which reflect Japan in the immediate post-war period. For instance, we see traditional neighborhoods that could've come right out of the Meiji era or earlier, in walking distance of nightclubs where western-style song & dance routines entertain the public.

Based on a novel by Gentaro Nakajima (1929-1992), the story mixes themes from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) about a warning against earth's creation of super-weapons, & When Worlds Collide (1951) about earth's imminent collision with another planet.

Flying saucers appear over Tokyo. An alien attempts to communicate with the first humans she encounters, but earthlings either run in fear or respond violently to the appearance of aliens. So the representative rejoins her group & informs them communication must be attempted only after transforming into human guise.

The natural appearance of these aliens is as five-point starfish with a big two-dimensional eye pasted in the center. The starfish people waddling around in their spacecraft provides the film's central image of unintentional hilarity.

Because the costumes seem to be sewn from shiny silk or rayon, the aliens look like children in a christmas pageant dressed up as stars. Trying to kill them at first sight would be a little like panicking & shooting someone in an easter bunny costume. But, well, earthlings are like that.

During the aborted first attempt to communicate with earthlings there was a way cool tap dancing nightclub act very western in its style. The alien brought back to her ship a poster advertising this nightclub act, so that she could disguise herself as the tapdancing showgirl (Toyomi Karita).

Earthlings turn out to be a little more willing to communicate with aliens if they look like beautiful tapdancers, so the starfish people are finally able to deliver their message, which has to do with the destruction of the entire earth from a large asteroid hurling itself straight for us. The aliens share our orbit but their planet is always on the opposite side of the sun so we never knew about them, but they'd been visiting us in saucers for ages. If our planet is destroyed it'll muck up their orbit, too, so they had to help us.

The aliens want to meet & reason with the smartest geezer on Earth, Dr. Kamura (Bontaro Miyake), who has a formula for the most destructive weapon ever conceived, which will dwarf the A bomb. Unfortunately he has been kidnapped by yakuza who want the formula for themselves. By the time Kamura is rescued he's already half convinced humanity isn't prepared to control such power.

The bombs earthlings already possess, together with the aliens' rather minimalist assistance, is plenty to save earth from colliding with the incoming planet. The super-weapon never has to be built & Dr. Komura never shares the formula, hooray.

Considering that the warning against super-bombs comes from the national cinema of Earth's only nation to be A-bombed into submission, a little more bitterness might have been expected. But there's a sweetness about this film that makes it a wonderful children's movie, yet good for a little more than its campiness even for adults.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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