Considering how popular science-fiction is in Japan it’s hard to believe that there was a time when a film about visitors from another world would be unheard of in Japanese cinema. But this was the case in 1956 when director Koji Shima released Warning From Space through Daiei Studios.
One of the first colour films in Japan, and the first science-fiction film since the release of Gojira the year before, Warning From Space is something of a strange watch. It doesn’t really have a central character, but follows several people within the scientific community, as well as their immediate families.
READ MORE: Unearth – Grimmfest 2020
The story begins with several recent sightings of UFOs around the world, with most happening over Japan. Despite initially being sceptical about this supposed alien craft, a number of scientists soon discover that they’re real, and wonder as to what these alien visitors want.
The aliens, the starfish shaped Pairans, try to make contact with a number of Japan’s scientific elite, but because their form is so alien anyone who sees them flees. Desperate to warn the people of Earth about the impending disaster heading their way they make a plan to disguise one of their people as a popular singer. Having assumed human form this Pairan warns of a rogue planet that will soon intersect with Earth, wiping out all life.
Looking at Warning From Space now, compared to many science-fiction films that have come since, the film does seem kind of slow, and moves with a leisurely pace that might put some people off. It takes that long for the Pairan’s to turn up on screen that by the time they do appear I was over the moon that something had finally happened. The fact that they were people in ridiculous starfish costumes with a big glowy eye in their body made it even better.
Whilst the creature design is definitely one of the highlights of the whole film, the creatures are featured far too little for my liking, and it’s easy to understand why they were pushed up to the beginning of the film in the US version. Outside of the creatures the film does have some great model work when the rogue planet’s proximity to Earth starts to cause global destruction, and these effects were used to really hammer home the awfulness of the event.
Despite these moments of great 50’s effects work, the film was too dull to keep me completely interested, and the lack of a single lead character to follow definitely harmed it. However, this isn’t all that this new home edition has to offer.
READ MORE: The Special – Grimmfest 2020
As well as both the original Japanese and US versions of the film, there’s also a brand new commentary from Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo! author Stuart Galbraith IV, which was honestly more interesting than the actual film. Galbraith offers insight not just into the film, but the actors, directors, and historical significance of the film and the effect that it had on cinema. I had no idea how groundbreaking the film was, and the commentary made me realise that Warning From Space isn’t just a kitschy sci-fi film, but something that was a big deal when it came out, and went on to inspire a number of other great films.
Warning From Space is out now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.