Warning From Space
directed by Koji Shima
starring Toyomi Karita, KeizÃ´ Kawasaki
Released in the wake of Ishiro Honda’s culture defining science fiction monster movie, Godzilla (1954), Koji Shima’s Warning from Space attempted to move the genre into more thoughtful realms with decidedly less mass destruction, which is fitting since the entire plot is centered around avoiding mass destruction. The results may have been a bit mixed, but the film has still managed to find eternal life via America’s never ending desire for low cost filled entertainment on television and home video formats.
Produced by Daiei Film, the studio that unleashed the super turtle Gamera on the world, Koji Shima’s Warning from Space is a far different creature from the studio’s later Kaiji slugfests. Strange starfish like cyclopian aliens begin a secret invasion of the earth, leaving strange blue fire in their wake. The Pairan aliens disguise one of their numbers into a human form, namely the form of a beautiful nightclub singer named Aozora. In Aozora guise the aliens are better able to communicate with the Earth’s scientists. They are not actually an invading force, but on a mercy mission to alert the Earthlings that a runaway planet is en route and to help humanity save itself from extinction.
Warning from Space, literally translated Spacemen Appear in Tokyo is interesting and is more reminiscent of Nigel Kneale’s sci-fi work like the Quatermass or even a Twilight Zone episode, but even with a sub 90 minute run time it still feels padded and slight. There are far too many characters having long conversations that stop the movie cold, not to mention the lavish, but pointless nightclub performances. As a TV episode or a segment in an anthology film the material might have fared better. The film often gets called out for the hokey special effect, but in fairness the miniature work is pretty nice and the alien costumes are pretty effective in the quick, early glimpses we get. It’s when we see the Pairans in their full glory standing around empty spaceship sets that the cloth sack origins strain the credulity of even the most forgiving of viewers.
Despite the film’s shortcomings, or possibly because of them, Warning from Space has charm and has developed a certain level of cult status. For decades it was a staple of late night and Saturday afternoon TV and matinee kiddie shows before being released in numerous home video formats over time. This new Blu-ray from Arrow Video is a terrific get for fans as it boast a great picture that retains a fair amount of original film grain while returning the film’s lush color palette that has been sucked out of increasingly faded video transfers. The original Japanese presentation is featured on the disc although the US dubbed edit is also included. The only major extra is a commentary track from Stuart Galbraith IV who you may recognize from such audio commentaries as Classic Media’s DVD of Invasion of Astro-Monster or Arrow Video’s Blu-ray of Gamera vs. Gyaos.
Warning from Space is not a classic but it is earnest and entertaining with some nice scenes and memorable if ultimately silly monsters. So often the imperfect movies are the ones that find a special place in our hearts. The imperfect films need love too and if you love Warning from Space then this upgrade is a must. If you’ve never seen it, take a chance because the movie’s kooky charisma might just win you over.