Warning From Space (1956) – Film Review
Director: Kôji Shima
Cast: Keizô Kawasaki, Toyomi Karita, Bin Yagisawa
by Sarah Morgan
Sometimes less is more, but not in the world of Japanese director Kôji Shima and writer Hideo Oguni – rather than keeping their 1956 collaboration simple, they threw the kitchen sink at it.
So while it’s ostensibly a sci-fi movie, it also mentions monsters (a staple part of Japanese cinema in the 1950s), displays concerns about atomic energy (as you might expect from the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack) and addresses the bureaucratic problems that can arise when dealing with major global institutions.
That’s quite a lot to pack into a film that isn’t even an hour and a half long, but somehow the duo manage it without making audiences feel as if they were being preached at, spoken down to or lectured at – and what’s more, they do it while keeping everyone entertained.
The movie opens like a Yasujiro Ozu production. He was the masterful auteur behind Tokyo Story, which is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made; his works often dealt with ordinary people going about their daily business. Shinji opts to start his project at a train station, where two men alight before visiting a local café.
One of the men, a journalist, tries to persuade his friend, Dr Matsuda, to give him a statement about recent flying saucer sightings. Matsuda pours scorn on the idea of UFOs, but a series of bizarre events force him to change his mind.
A group of aliens from the planet Paira arrive and, after causing widespread panic due to their alarming appearance – they look like starfish wearing Ku Klux Klan uniforms – take human form and explain that a rogue planet is on a collision course with Earth, and only destroying it with nuclear warheads can avert a catastrophe.
Unfortunately, no other country will help, forcing the Pairians to take action.
Obviously Ozu’s influence dissipates rather quickly, but there’s still much to admire here. The acting is uniformly impressive and the plot surprisingly gripping, particularly during the scenes in which the Earth heats up to unbearable temperatures as the rogue planet draws nearer – I’ve been wondering if the makers of 1961 British sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Caught Fire saw Warning from Space before going into production.
Interestingly, the film was the first made in Japan to contain ‘visitors from space’; what’s more, Stanley Kubrick is said to have been influenced by it while making 2001: A Space Odyssey – and if for no other reason than that, it’s worth checking out.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio
• Optional newly translated English subtitles
• Brand new commentary by Stuart Galbraith IV, author of Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo!
• First-ever HD transfer of the American release version of the film, including a newly restored English dub track
• Theatrical trailers
• Image galleries
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
Warning From Space is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £24.99