Warning from Space (1956)
WARNING FROM SPACE
WRITER: Screenplay by Hideo Oguni
DIRECTOR: Koji Shima
STARRING: Keizo Kawasaki as Toru
Toyomi Karita as Hikari Aozora/Ginko
Shozo Nanbu as Dr. Isobe
Bontaro Miake as Dr. Komura
Mieko Nagai as Taeko
QUICK CUT: Starfish aliens come to Earth for mysterious reasons, cause a panic in Tokyo, and decide to turn one of their own into a clone of a popular dancer to communicate with scientists with less screaming and terror. Oh, and also, there's a planet about to crash into us.
Kimura - A scientist working to discover what the heck that weird blinky light in the sky is! He's dedicated to his work, and won't believe anything without rigorous testing and mountains of evidence.
Hikari Aozora - Which one? We got two! Want more? We'll make more! The real one is a stage performer and very famous dancer. The starfish turn one of their own into a clone of her. The clone is the one that's really involved in the plot, and the original is just there to show that yes, they copied someone. Fakekari is a bit cold, and determined to get through to the humans any way she can.
THE GUTS: Welcome back to another review, and uh, I somehow stumbled into another scifi movie. I intended to have another 50-packer somewhere during the summer, decided I should grab one from the scifi box, and didn't really think that The Clones was happening. I always seem to stumble into "Summer of Scifi" situations. I always intended to space these things out, and then they somehow end up clumping together when I'm not looking...
ANYways, what we've got here is Warning from Space, a Japanese alien invasion movie, with the notable distinction of being Japan's first colour film.
The movies opens up, naturally enough, in space. Aboard a starship, inhabited by starFISH, I shit you not. They declare that us pesky Earthlings need to be stopped, and that Japan is an ideal place to begin their campaign.
And yes, those are our aliens. The Pairans. I am anything but terrified. I figure they're coming to Japan, because they're used to silly people in sillier costumes, right?
Now, you're probably looking at that image going, wait, you said this was in *colour*! And yes, I know, everything aboard the Pairan vessel is fairly monochrome, and I love this bit, they go from that, to a long sequence on Earth where they are REALLY showing off that yes! Colour!
It's almost the Wizard of Oz trick all over again, save for that the Pairans *are* in colour, its just that they decided to go with grey to contrast and really give a big BOOM when you hit Earth and all its brightly lit stuff.
On the upside, they do work in character introductions during all this showing off. It could have been a lot of boring, "Look what we can do!" but they wisely mix things together. And I am getting way too in depth into the cinematography of this silly movie.
We first meet Hoshino and Dr. Kimura, whom the Pairans are most interested in talking to for their dastardly, clearly evil plans. And I just know someone's name is going to end up being misspelled at some point, so roll with it.
Hoshino does his best Freddie Lounds to try and get any information about the mysterious flying saucers that have appeared around Japan. But Kimura isn't budging, and claims to know nothing about the objects that are flying and unidentified.
Meanwhile, some astronomers are watching a blinky light in space launching other blinky lights, clearly as part of the Pairans obviously dastardly plot to do whatever they want to do.
Anyways, Kimura heads home and meets up with his daughter Taeko, and fellow scientist Toru. He and Toru discuss the strange lights in the sky, convinced they are not natural. Yeah, stars don't normally barf up baby stars at us.
Kimura is dubious that there are really flying saucers though, needing proof, so cue one whooshing right by overhead, making everyone rush outside to comment on it. And he saw the ship, now he's a believer.
Reporters rush to the observatory to get some answers, but scientists being scientists, they remain cautious and couch their statements behind not really knowing anything. All they do know is SOMEthing crashed into Tokyo Bay. For all we know, it was Rodan flying home drunk.
Meanwhile, Number One bubbles up out of the water, scaring some fishermen, and I am not going to repeat all my Riker jokes from the Embryo review.
The Pairan ambassador of doom doesn't like that spot though, and comes up out of the water again, closer to the city, and spooking more people. "Panic" is not the first emotion I think of when I look at the Pairans, sorry guys.
Anyways, humans being humans, we launch a rocket at the blinky light in the sky, because we like to poke things with sticks when we don't understand them. Okay, in fairness, it's just a flyby to take pictures, but the aliens probably don't take kindly to being shot at with a warning from Earth.
Meanwhile, the Pairan (Whose name is apparently 'Ginko'), is wandering around scaring people, leaving residue for the scientists to clean up and analyse. Great, cosmic snot detail.
Eventually, it finds its way to Kimura's house where she finds it trying to take a leak in the bathroom or something. It scares the crap out of his daughter, because seeing a giant floating, glowing eye on the darkness is always a fun time.
As the governments around the world decide to stop launching satellites until we can find the mysterious object, the plot takes a major detour into a musical number, starring Hikari Aozora. Because every alien starfish invasion movie needs a song and dance bit.
Hikari too sees the eye of Staron, and lets out a scream. In a panic, she rushes off stage, taking her entire show and audience with her. Is it illegal to yell STARFISH! in a crowded theatre?
And somehow during all that, she gets hospitalised for shock. Riiight. This is like when Lindsay Lohan goes into rehab for 'exhaustion', right?
So, after a lot of wandering around in the dark, and scaring a lot of people, Ginko Biloba returns to the Pairan spacecraft to declare their mission is an utter failure. Because no one would talk to them. BECAUSE THEY ARE A GIANT STARFISH. Maybe if you bothered to come out of the shadows and stop scaring people, and actually said something, or sent a message beforehand, we might've been okay.
"Hey, yeah, I'm one of the aliens people are seeing, but it's cool, I just wanna talk, let's meet at Meiji Shrine. Oh, and dude, I am totally a giant starfish with an eye on my stomach. But it's cool, don't freak out. You'll know me when you see me, lol."
But don't worry! Number One has a plan! They will use their advanced alien technology to transmute their form into a human's, thus making it easier to walk amongst us, and stop with the screaming!
And just which human will they use, why, Hikari Aozora's, of...of course? Yeah, that kinda came outta left field. Oh, and this is apparently dangerous, because they've never attempted transmutation based off a photograph before, rather than a three dimensional object.
...I'm just gonna let this sink in for a bit. Since humans panic at the sight of space starfish, the Pairans decide that the next logical step is to become a famous dance star (minus the fish), and communicate with scientists that way? If you say so.
Back on Earth, people are wondering what the aliens wanted, now that they seem to be gone. Naturally, the first thought is conquest. I mean, what else could they POSSIBLY be here for, right??
Which is when they find the floating body of Not!Hikari in a lake. People flock around her, and she is *immediately* recognised as the performer. They try to get a statement from the real Aozora, but she immediately passes out when she hears she has a double. Back to the hospital for 'shock' I suppose!
And we're not going to go with any sort of mixed identity confusion? We're clearing that all up immediately? That's a lot of setup to do for a plot that they brush right aside.
But she is gonna do a fake amnesia plot. Because reasons. I thought we were on a timetable here? Is this necessary? Why not just get the ball rolling already?
For some reason, this leads to Fishikaru on a tennis court, where Taeko comes along to watch. It's all perfectly normal, until the alien launches into the air like Michael Jordan trying to slam dunk a basketball.
That...that might not go unnoticed. Quick, call the Justice League back, Starro is at it again!! Her dastardly plan to ruin Wimbledon is revealed!
Some of our normal humans make plans to try and identify the fishy double, and grab her hat and tennis racket, just in time for some schoolgirls to recognise Miss Aozora. Yeah, this is the flaw in the plan to duplicate a star, isn't it? Sure, you won't be a giant starfish, but you're gonna get mobbed by the fangirls.
They take the items to Dr. Isobe, and he declares, "Hmm! The girl is strange!" What...what was your first clue, doctor? Her teleporting outside when mobbed by fangirls?
Or her leaping ten feet in the air to hit a tennis ball?
Maybe her amnesia?
Or her striking resemblence to Hikari?
What could possibly make you think she is in any way strange?! I for one do NOT see it! What could the tennis racket possibly reveal??
Ahem. Toru tells his father he lobbed a tennis ball over her head, and she jumped to hit it back. The elder Isobe asks, How high? Well, I dunno, to see a girl jump like that he must have been at least two or three joints in...
Later, Hikaru Starrozora appears in a Dr. Matsuda's study, and sees he's working on some energy formulas, and tears them up. Because they're dangerous. How rude.
The scientists gather and discuss all the evidence, deciding that Not!Hikari must also be not!human. So...also just brushing aside the whole amnesia thing, I guess.
Which is when the fishy clone appears, and confirms their theory. Oh, and that she's from a planet directly opposite us on the other side of the sun, and that's why we've never discovered it. Damnit, High Evolutionary...
Oh, and the Pairans have been observing and landing on Earth for thousands of years. You'd think they would A) have found a way to not draw as much attention. B) already had some human templates on hand to transmute into. C) noticed that we like to scream at giant starfish before. D) probably would've had a far less half-assed plan.
She reveals that she tore up Matsuda's notes because the formula is for explosives more dangerous than atom bombs, and nearly impossible to control, even in tiny quantities, and has no other use except for warfare. Sigh, just like an alien to come down here and act like they know better than us. But now we know why they're here, right? They want us to not make bombs and attack them!! Right??
NOPE. Why *are*the Pairans even here? Time to get their world domination plan out in the open. Then we can get to stopping these fishy bastards...
It turns out they are here to warn us about a rogue planet heading straight for us, that is a threat to both planets. Don't worry, we'll just put the planet out of phase and keep it handy until the Incursions start and need a backup planet to destroy!
So, uh, the aliens are actually here to help us, and stop the incoming planet from destroying us. That...that's a pretty big plot shift, over midway through the movie. Shouldn't THAT have been the focus? Did we have to spin wheels for 45 minutes as we thought it was an invasion? I mean, I actually LIKE the swerve of no, they're not invaders, but man, they really needed a better plan to tell us.
And her big plan for stopping the global destruction is to have everyone launch their nukes at the planet to change its trajectory. Boy, I sure hope it's not inhabited, that would be mean. And why not just use the superformula? Or oh no, right, it can be 'only used in anger'. Pfff.
This is obviously not Armageddon, or we'd just send Bruce Willis up there while Aerosmith plays us into the end of the world.
Can you imagine going to the UN or whatever to try and explain that the lady next to you is actually a space starfish, and she says a planet is about to collide with Earth, so it would be swell if everyone launches their nukes into space?
It goes about as well as you might guess, and they get laughed off and refused aid. They probably should've just stuck with, "Look, see, there's a planet comin' right for us, let's nuke it good," and not mention the starfish. I'm sure the US would have been down with nuking something for fun, at the very least.
Oh, and they drop in that the whole starfish look is actually just protective suits, and we never see a REAL Pairan. Yeah, no, I don't buy it, they're space starfish. Otherwise why always have your arms outstretched at your sides. Nice try, Paisans.
So, the World Congress doesn't buy it, but eventually Planet R will reveal itself, and the scientists are sure THEN they will give the okay for nukeapalooza. Five bucks says it'll be too late!
And it is, except for Matsuda's discovery of the superexplosive. But isn't that supposed to be USED ONLY IN ANGER??
Someone shows up to try and buy Matsuda's formula, because a superexplosive would be valuable and dangerous in the wrong hands.
Two weeks or so pass, and finally Planet R shows up on telescopes, giving us only 50 days until collision, although the heat the rogue planet is giving off will bake us long before that time.
Suck it, World Congress. Now, where's our nukes?
After a lengthy panic of people running around seeking shelter, somewhere along the way, Matsuda got kidnapped, because he wouldn't sell his formula. Well, if he doesn't use it soon, NO one is gonna get it, so this is a terrible plan.
Planet R draws closer, the heat and light it gives off turning everything a shade of red, another great use of colour in this film.
The rogue planet keeps accelerating, and the World Congress does nothing, making the scientists wonder what they're waiting for. Have you guys never dealt with bureaucracy before?
So uh, the help from Pairan kinda disappeared, huh? Are they actually doing anything? DID they actually do anything? Wouldn't we have noticed Planet R eventually? Surely by this point, since it's baking everyone like a pot roast, and the skies are red. The starfish just kinda up and disappeared, and didn't really tell us anything we wouldn't have found out.
Oh, and the nukes did nothing anyways, so we're still screwed.
With Planet R only five days away, animals start dying, fish start boiling, and the gravity isn't exactly playing nice with our world either. Things are looking pretty bleak.
People are having trouble keeping cool, as fans can only do so much, and the threat of massive waves increases. But hey, that flood crashing into the basement of the observatory? Don't think of it as a disaster, think of it as welcome, cool relief from the heat! Kids, play in the water!
With nine minutes left to the plot, Hikari Fishsticks finally returns announcing that they might be able to help us! MIGHT! Where were you two weeks ago??
She asks where Matsuda is, thinking he can help, which everyone else figured out months ago. But he's missing! But wait, he's wearing a Pairan ring which they can track and WHY DIDN'T YOU DO THIS MONTHS AGO??
Oh, and once again, they've shown up and said that Matsuda can help with his superexplosive formula. *USED ONLY IN ANGER*.
ANYways, they bamf in to Matsuda's location, where he was left tied to a chair as a building fell apart thanks to Planet R's gravity. They free him, and Matsuda stumbles back to the observatory, trying not to pass out from heatstroke and dehydration, and not get crushed by everything falling apart around him.
I start to ask why they didn't just get the formula there, or teleport him back to his friends, but as he stumbles his way back across the crumbling town, trying not to get crushed, die from heatstroke or dehydration, they eventually reveal that the Pairans DID get the formula before freeing Matsuda.
Still kinda dickish to make him walk home.
The Pairans launch the superweapon, and the rogue planet goes boom, saving everyone and yay happy ending!
So, the planet is destroyed, the tinting goes away, someone turned down the thermostat, and nobody died that we saw. Yay!
Oh, and we end with Hikari being reverted back to her less pretty starfish form. I personally would've stayed as the dance performer...
Video: Okay, this is a bit of a weird one. My *actual* copy of this, from the Scifi Invasion 50 pack is terrible. TERRIBLE. And almost every version out there uses that selfsame print, because the movie is public domain, this is what's available, and no one is going to spend a lot of money to make this better looking. I really wanted to find something better, but wasn't going to buy endless DVDs trying to find one that MIGHT look better. BUT, I remembered! Public domain! So I ran over to archive.org, searched for the movie, and YAY someone put up a MUCH MUCH better copy of the movie, which I used to watch the movie again, and get my images. So it's terrible, but I found a copy I could work with. That still has flaws, it's colours fluctuate a bit, especially in the later half. You can see the weirdness in the cap of sunglasses dude, there's a weird chromatic wavering effect. But, for a movie from 1956? The archive.org copy looks pretty good, considering. The 50packer is, as I said, barely watchable. How bad is it? Well...
While far from unwatchable, it's not a pleasant experience, and everything is so dull and washed out, and almost monochrome. A movie that is such a pioneer of colour filmography deserves better. Note: Both of these images were taken from some commentary on the movie from http://madara-blog.livejournal.com/
Audio: A solid enough mono track, with some decent sound for the Pairans' voices and signature sound effects of whenever one is nearby.
Sound Bite: "All that colour!!" because meta commentary amuses me.
Body Count: No one dies! Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!! And...I actually have a problem with that. There is a gigantic discussion about death in media, and showing people dying, and if it's just a cheap trick, or important. I generally fall on the side of 'important'. Especially in war stories and disaster tales, like this one. The idea that no one dies in such dire circumstances completely breaks the story for me, and no one dying here just feels false. Now, we could discuss on handling killing characters with respect, but THAT is another rant entirely. And with that, I'll be skipping the Best Corpse section, and Blood Type. There's no real special effects to speak of, save for some cool makeup fades when Ginko Balboa becomes Hikari.
Sex Appeal: *swoons wistfully* Hikari Aozora is all I need...
Drink Up! every time you hear the signature Pairan sound.
Video Nasties: I almost shared with you Hikari's musical numbers, but that's just dancing. Instead, the aforementioned transmutation of a starfish into her is actually pretty neat.
Movie Review: Keeping in mind this is a foreign film, made in the mid 50s, I actually kinda ended up liking this? I'm sure some bits get lost in translation, and it may be a bit slow, and let's be honest; the plot is just plain *weird*. But it's got charm, the swerve that the aliens are here to HELP us is actually a great twist, even though it doesn't make much sense in them wasting time scaring us. It was a fun little movie, that had a clear idea, and told it well enough, without getting mired down in the "Oooh, we can do colour!" of it all at the same time. It's not great, and it's super dated, but I liked what I got, based on its own limitations. Three out of five rogue planets.
Entertainment Value: Clearly, this movie has some cheese laughs to it, but not as many as it could have had. It's played mostly straight, which is amazing for a space starfish movie. The acting is decent enough for voiceovers. But what you get is nicely entertaining, and watchable, even if it's not quite the heights of what Trisk can show for cheese. Honestly, I'd love to see a remake of this, and focus more on the star as a primary character, and the awkwardness of a double running around. Three out of five fingers on a starfish...FROM SPACE!