|Warning from Space|
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|Japanese Title: Uchujin Tokyo Ni Arawaru (“Spacemen Appear in Tokyo”)
Alternate Titles: The Mysterious Satellite, Unknown Satellite over Tokyo
Director: Koji Shima
Original Release Year: 1956
Running Time: 88 minutes
DVD Released By: Alpha Video
Audio: English mono
Extras: Alpha Video catalog
Closed Captions: None
UPC #: 089218424594
Catalog #: ALP 4245D
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|The Film: Flying saucers are widely reported in the skies above Tokyo. An observatory sights a mysterious satellite, from which the saucers are apparently dispatched. The observatory scientists, led by the prominent astronomer Dr. Komura, are at a loss to explain these strange events. What’s more, terrified citizens also begin reporting sightings of monsters in and around the Tokyo area!
These “monsters” turn out to be aliens from Paira, Earth’s sister planet on the far side of the sun. These cautiously friendly beings have come to warn humankind of an impending disaster: A renegade planet is on a collision course with Earth! If the Earth is destroyed, Paira will also suffer great disaster. However, the Pairans (who look like upright-walking starfish with a single large eye) cause fear and panic whenever people see them. Pairan #1 (apparently a prominent scientist, with a female voice) assumes human form in order to more easily approach the people of Earth. However, she chooses the form of a popular Tokyo nightclub performer, which leads to some confusion.
Initially skeptical of the warning from space, the World Congress changes its mind as the fiery planet, dubbed Planet “R,” approaches the Earth. Pairan #1 also warns physicist Dr. Matsuda that the energy formula he has developed is dangerous. It is much more devastating than even the atom bomb. When the world’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons prove insufficient in diverting Planet “R”, Dr. Matsuda’s formula may be the only hope. However, Dr. Matsuda has been kidnapped by the yakuza, who covet his formula for the international arms market! As scorching heat and natural disasters rock the planet Earth, all seems lost. Can even the combined scientific knowledge of Earth and Paira avert the end of both worlds?
Daiei’s Warning from Space was the first Japanese sci-fi film shot in color. (Toho’s Rodan was released later that same year.) Aside from that novelty, it’s an unremarkable film. The plot is influenced by both the more substantial The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the more spectacular When Worlds Collide. The film is quite slow, and some plot points don’t make sense. For example: In the first scene, the Pairans talk of conquest and “human bungling;” yet they are friendly (if somewhat aloof) throughout the rest of the film. Why evacuate Tokyo when another planet is going to collide with the Earth? How does Dr. Matsuda survive being left alone, tied to a chair in an abandoned building in the rising heat, for a month?
The special effects are also unspectacular. Some tidal waves and a tremor near the end of the film are more of a teaser than a payoff. It would be better if more mass destruction was spread throughout the body of the film. The cloth Pairan costumes with big plastic eyes inspire giggles, not awe. (Despite publicity pictures showing giant Pairans striding through the ruins of Tokyo, they are all human-sized in the film.) The approaching Planet “R” does look impressive, though. Warning from Space is likely to be of interest only to serious fans of Japanese science fiction. Grade: C
Video: Warning from Space is presented in fullscreen. Since it was shot in the standard Academy ratio (1.33:1), this is correct. The film shows its age, with speckles, lines, and blotches littering the print throughout. There is also some digital macroblocking, but it’s not a major problem. The color reproduction of this disc is hard to judge. Other versions of the film aren’t widely available for comparison (only cheap knockoffs). Most of the film looks decent color-wise, except for a general faded look that is to be expected for a film of this age on a budget-priced DVD. Scenes of the spartan interior of the Pairan spacecraft have a yellowish tint. Since the rest of the film looks normal, let’s give Alpha Video the benefit of the doubt and assume these scenes were filmed this way. The last twenty minutes are tinted red, but this is due to the approach of Planet “R.” While the overall picture isn’t particularly sharp and detailed, it is acceptable for an older, obscure film at this price. Grade: C
Audio: The English mono audio isn’t very good. In places, the soundtrack has quite a few hisses and pops. It sometimes sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies! The English dubbing is distracting, with slurred dialogue and faux Asian accents. Again, it’s too bad the film is so obscure. It would undoubtedly play better in the original Japanese with subtitles. That might clear up some of the plot holes as well. Grade: C-
Extras / Menus: All of the menus are still images with no music or sound. The only “extra” is the Alpha video catalog. It includes over 200 images of other DVDs available from Alpha. It doesn’t include any of their kaiju eiga titles. Alpha does come up with some cool, colorful cover art. As the sole extra however, this really doesn’t add much value to the disc. Grade: D-
Final Analysis: An obscure early Japanese sci-fi film on a budget-priced DVD. The film isn’t spectacular, but it’s still great that it’s available. While the video and audio quality won’t win any awards, this disc is an interesting relic for fans of classic Japanese sci-fi. Final Grade: C
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