“We have been keeping track of a runaway planet from another galaxy. Now we are positive it is on a collision course with Earth.”
[Original title: Uchūjin Tokyo ni Ararwaru (Spacemen Appear In Tokyo)]
[aka The Mysterious Satellite]
Director: Shima Koji
Starring: Karita Toyomi, Nanbu Shozo, Yamagata Isao, Kawasaki Keizo, Miake Bontarō, Nagai Mieko, Obara Toshiyuki, Watanabe Tetsuya
Screenplay: Oguni Hideo, based upon a novel by Nakajima Gentaro
Synopsis: On his way home from work, astronomer Dr Komura (Miake Bontarō) is waylaid by an acquaintance, the reporter Hoshino (Obara Toshiyuki), who tries unsuccessfully to get him to say that the mysterious objects seen recently in the skies over Tokyo are flying saucers. Meanwhile, Dr Komura’s daughter, Taeko (Nagai Mieko), a schoolteacher, has dinner with her father’s cousin, the physicist Dr Matsuda (Yamagata Isao), and his wife. At the observatory, Dr Komura’s assistant, Isobe Toru (Kawasaki Keizo), watches through the telescope in disbelief as a hovering object appears in the night sky. Several other, smaller objects emerge from it and disperse; as they do so, all over Tokyo the lights flicker and there is interference with radio reception. Toru goes to Dr Komura’s house to describe what he has seen. Hearing on her own way home that Toru is there, Maeko hurries in, but is rebuffed by her father, who is deeply disturbed by what Toru has told him. As Maeko withdraws in discomfort, the two men resume their conversation, agreeing that the objects in the sky are artificial. Toru wonders if they could actually be flying saucers, but Dr Komura cannot accept this. However, even as he speaks there is a cry from outside. All around, the people hurry into the streets and stare up at the strange objects streaking across the sky…. The following day at the observatory, reports of the objects are received from all over the world. Dr Komura consults with Dr Matsuda; they agree to ask the help of Professor Isobe (Nanbu Shozo), Toru’s father, who is attached to the rocket program. Professor Isobe agrees to try and use a rocket to get a photograph of one of the objects. However, the resulting image is too blurred to be informative; although the intense luminosity suggests that the object did not originate on Earth. Across the Tokyo area, people begin reporting sightings of mysterious creatures, always near the water and accompanied by a strange, flickering light; a glowing residue is found at the scene of each. Professor Isobe finds some of the residue outside his own house, while Taeko, noticing a glowing light outside of her home, opens a door to find herself confronted by a human-sized, starfish-shaped creature with a single glowing eye in the middle of its body. The dance act of entertainer Aozora Hikari (Karita Toyomi) is startlingly interrupted when, upon seeing one of the creatures peering at her from nearby, she screams hysterically… Meanwhile, a flying saucer emerges from Tokyo Bay and returns to space, where it enters its mother-ship. Inside, the aliens, a people called the Pairan, bemoan the failure of their attempts to make contact. One of them, known as Number One, proposes taking the form of a human being: the alien shows a photograph of Aozora Hikari, taken from the theatre. The other Pairans object that Number One is too valuable to them as both a scientist and a leader to undertake such a dangerous plan, but Number One counters that only a scientist will be able to convince other scientists. Stepping into the transmutor machine, Number One assumes the form of Hikari… With no further sightings and the objects gone from the sky, everyone relaxes. The scientists and their families have a day in the country. As Toru rows Taeko in a boat, he suddenly notices a form in the water nearby: it is an unconscious woman. Toru rescues her and hurries her to shore, calling for a doctor. As a crowd gathers, one of them exclaims that the woman in Aozora Hikari. Regaining consciousness, the girl claims to remember nothing, including her name. The friends take her back to Tokyo, agreeing that she can stay with the Matsudas until she recovers. Slipping away from the others for a moment, the disguised alien transmits a message to its mother-ship, reporting that infiltration has been a success…
Comments: Toho’s success with Gojira and, to a lesser extent, Godzilla’s Counterattack did not go unnoticed by the other Japanese studios—nor, finally, unchallenged. The Daiei Studios had been founded in 1942, and its early days were devoted to propaganda films (including the, shall we say, speculative drama, The Day England Fell.) Subsequently, the studio expanded its horizons, producing the controversial Kurosawa Akira / Mifune Toshirō collaboration, The Quiet Duel. It also made Japan’s first post-war science fiction film, 1949’s The Invisible Man Appears. Loosely based upon H.G. Wells’ novel, the film has a scientist who has discovered an invisibility formula being kidnapped by a gang of jewel thieves, who want to use it to their own ends. Unfortunately, as in the original story the formula drives those who use it insane.
However, this low-key, black and white production is as much a crime drama as it is genre film, and Daiei did not pursue this avenue any further at the time; although the studio did make a number of horror movies during the early 1950s, chiefly ghost stories based upon local folktales, including two ghost-cat films (neither, alas, still surviving) and Mizoguchi Kenji’s Ugetsu.
Meanwhile, over at Toho, the way that the Japanese thought about science fiction was about to change forever.
In the wake of the success of Gojira, it is surprising neither that another studio began to pursue the science fiction audience, nor that while doing so, it showed a certain reluctance to take on Toho at its own game. Rather than dabbling with cryptozoology, Daiei entered the fray with two daring original strokes: it made Japan’s first alien invasion film, albeit featuring aliens of a benign persuasion, and it made the first ever Japanese science fiction film in colour.
Despite these innovations, Warning From Space doesn’t quite work. In particular, its pacing is off: there are far too many scenes of people just standing around and waiting, or looking on; a flaw compounded by the fact that the human characters aren’t very interesting. There’s certainly some enjoyable stuff mixed in, though. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the film is the fact that even if you didn’t know it wasn’t a Toho film, you’d know it wasn’t a Toho film: the underlying philosophy is quite different. Most startling, perhaps, particularly in the wake of Gojira, is its tacitly positive attitude to the atomic bomb, which when combined with scenes of Japanese scientists pleading for their use lends a slightly uncomfortable feel to the proceedings.
Someone didn’t watch the film first…
In parallel with this, we have a far more negative view of humanity as a whole, along with just a hint of xenophobia (or at least a persecution complex), with world leaders responding to the impending crisis by ignoring the Japanese experts and burying their heads in the sand until it’s very nearly too late. In this respect, Warning From Space makes for an interesting comparison with Toho’s own take on When Worlds Collide, 1962’s Gorath, which in contrast finds humanity putting aside its differences and working as one when confronted with a similar disaster.
The film’s attitude to its aliens is also a little suspect. Whether it was deliberate anti-intellectualism or just careless writing is hard to decide, but it has to be said that when you get right down to it, these “highly intelligent” aliens from a “much more advanced” society just aren’t very smart. For one thing, their attempts to warn mankind of its impending doom amount (in effect) to finding some isolated spot, landing right by some unsuspecting souls that no-one’s ever going to believe, and strutting up and down in front of them making beep beep noises. And to top it off, our potential saviours don’t seemed to have grasped the fact that in order to make contact, you actually have to—well, make contact.
However, Warning From Space makes up for nearly everything by conjuring up some of the most adorable aliens ever to grace the silver screen: mono-ocular starfish in long-johns. Granted, they aren’t the towering monsters promised by the advertising art; but the fact that they’re only human-sized really just makes them all the more unbearably cute. That’s the good news. The bad is that, alas, the aliens are onscreen for about five minutes out of the film’s eighty-seven, after which they “assume human form”. And yes, I’m sure that was more comfortable for the actors involved, but—
Oh, let’s face it: the film-makers stiffed us.
Trust me, they get by on their looks alone.
For a film about an alien invasion and the impending end of the world, Warning From Space is oddly domestic: we see and hear little from “world leaders”, and spend most of our time with the three scientists who first react to the presence of the aliens, and with whom the aliens make contact—and we spend as much time in their homes as we do in their working environments (I can’t really say “laboratories”). This makes for a pleasant change from most Western science fiction, which likes to imply – if not say outright – that scientists aren’t capable of normal relationships and home-lives.
Indeed, we open with a scientist behaving with quite extraordinary normality, as we find Dr Komura getting off the train on his way home from the observatory, and stopping in at his favourite watering-hole for a sake.
On his way, Komura is waylaid by an acquaintance, the reporter Hoshino, who tries to lure him into saying something he can use about the mysterious objects seen recently in the skies over Tokyo. Komura refuses to be drawn, however, and gives Hoshino that old line about scientists never guessing.
The cosy nature of the story is then further emphasised by the appearance of a young man called Sanchichi, who has a deal with Hoshino to get his photographs of the mysterious objects published – assuming he can take some – and who is also a neighbour of Dr Komura. Sanchichi brings Komura a message from his daughter, Taeko, who has been kept late at work (she’s a teacher), and plans to dine with her uncle and aunt, leaving her father to get his dinner at the bar.
(Two lovely art direction details here: the cheerful flying saucer cartoon on the wall of the bar, and the even more cheerful maneki-neko sitting next to the radio—with its left paw raised, naturally.)
We prefer to examine the entrails of an okapi.
Unsurprisingly, Warning From Space works a couple of young lovers into its story; but in truth, they’re so extraneous to the plot that it’s actually a little irritating. The uncle and aunt with whom Taeko is dining are in fact her father’s cousin, Dr Matsuda, and his wife, the latter of whom does nothing but fret over the possibility of Taeko not catching a husband. She needn’t worry: Taeko is way ahead of her, having set her sights on her father’s assistant, Hotoru (or Toru) Isobe.
Toru has been left on duty at the observatory, and through the huge telescope watches as a clearly artificial object moves across the sky, stops, and releases a fleet of smaller objects from within it, which streak off. Their movements cause lights to flicker and radios to go static all over Tokyo—as well as the needles on some unidentified “instruments” at the observatory to jump wildly from side to side. Toru decides that he must speak to Komura in person, and asks a colleague to phone ahead to let the scientist know he is coming.
Yet again we observe an odd interconnectedness: the colleague knows to phone a shop in Komura’s neighbourhood, although the owner reports that Komura has not stopped in. Meanwhile, it turns out Toru knows Sanchichi too, and sends the boy from Komura’s house to see if the scientist is still at the bar. He’s not, but Taeko happens to be passing. When she hears from Sanchichi that Toru is at her house, she nearly sprains an ankle rushing off home to primp, as the matronly owner of the bar chuckles approvingly. Taeko’s pains win no pay-off, though: even as she is greeting Toru, her father asks her brusquely to leave the room, so that he and Toru can confer in private.
Komura won’t concede the point, but a panicky Toru begins to contemplate the fact that the flying saucer brigade might be right. The next moment, there is a cry from outside the house. Taeko – interrupted in the middle of more primping – runs out and sees that Sanchichi is up on his roof with his camera equipment. It is he who raised the cry of, “Flying saucer!” As the residents of the neighbourhood step out to gaze up, an object streaks across the sky. Toru tells Komura that it is the same as those he observed earlier, and Komura concedes that it might indeed be a saucer.
If you can believe a word those guys say.
The next day, the papers are full of sighting stories; while at the observatory, further reports of the objects are received from all over the world. As Toru tries to fend off reporters, Komuda is visited by Matsuda. The two scientists agree to seek the assistance of Professor Isobe, who is attached to the rocket program, hoping to use one of his rockets to get a photograph of one of the objects. Thus is our central trio of alien-contactors and world-savers assembled. No dashing young two-fisted hero for this film, no sir! – instead we get three introspective, glasses-wearing, middle-aged men with identical taste in suits.
Meanwhile, a wave of “monster sightings” breaks out, always near the water. We will later learn that the aliens are trying to make contact with our scientists…which doesn’t really explain why they appear before:
- two fishermen
- some dock workers
- a drunk
Professor Isobe is summoned to the scene of one of the sightings, where some organic material has been found deposited on a wall. Isobe first calls for a Geiger counter, then takes a sample, which he examines at home (!)—doing the usual absent-minded professor routine of working right through dinner-time, so that Toru eventually has to call him to supper. However, the two of them then find several strange, glowing patches out on the verandah, as if something luminescent had been deposited there. Isobe again calls for the Geiger counter (!!), but we cut away before getting any sort of answer.
There’s a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician.
We stop next at the Komuras’ house, where Taeko is having to deal with a tired and grouchy father. She is hanging up some clothing when she notices a glowing blue light in the next room. She moves hesitantly across the room and opens the door…and screams when she sees what’s in there. Dr Komura comes rushing in, finding her crouched and staring in terror. He urges her to tell him what’s wrong, but she can only point dumbly. Komura hurries into the kitchen, where everything seems normal—except for the glowing blue patches on the window-frame…
Okay—two things about this. Granted, the mere existence of aliens who look like mono-ocular starfish in long-johns is enough to tell us that there’s just something…different…about the Japanese imagination; but all the same, I’m having trouble accepting that the aliens are honestly supposed to be so terrifying. I mean, c’mon!—those things are adorable! Frankly, if I had Taeko’s experience, I think my impulse would be, not to scream and collapse, but to run up and give my visitor a great big hug.
Oh, well…maybe there’s something different about my imagination, too.
Be that as it may, what on earth [sic.] are we to make of the aliens’ behaviour? First they show themselves to a bunch of screaming strangers, and then, when they succeed in tracking down the scientists they’re supposedly here to contact, they run away without doing so!
On the other hand, one of the aliens does succeed in infiltrating the matinee show of entertainer Aozora Hikari, frightening her in the middle of her act and swiping a publicity photo.
Close encounters of the fourth kind: ogle the girl, then run away.
Honestly—the aliens’ behaviour here is so bizarre and self-defeating that when they return to their ship, you expect them not merely to report failure, but to start talking about how they’re going to have to resort to Plan 9.
Newspapers inform us of the international situation in the wake of the sightings. We first learn here of the “World Council” (or World Congress: the subtitles seem very uncertain on that point), which seems to be in charge of all space exploration, as it now issues a directive that all satellite launches are to be suspended. Later it will turn out that this “World Council” (or Congress) is also in charge of the planet’s nuclear weapons. Given that these people apparently hang out in something called “the Supreme Headquarters”, I don’t find that thought the least bit comforting.
On the other hand, some of you may be relieved to hear that Egypt isn’t going Communist. Says so right there in the News Herald.
Disheartened by the fact that their complete failure to make contact has resulted in a failure to make contact, the aliens take off in their flying saucers – which have been submerged in Tokyo Bay – and return to their mother ship, up in orbit.
We are momentarily distracted here from the idiocy of the aliens’ behaviour, initially by our first proper look at them—SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!—and then by perhaps the film’s cleverest idea: the aliens speak their own language amongst themselves, and are subtitled!
Speaking of Plan 9…
Sadly, this imaginative touch has been removed from the Americanised version of this film (which for decades was all many people had access to): the Japanese subtitles run, of course, down the edges of the image, and were cropped off—which is why this section of the film seems so visually squeezed.
The leader of the aliens’ mission concludes rather optimistically that the return of the landing party means that their mission was successful. One of them, known reasonably enough as “Number One”, must report failure; adding that, “Even their scientists regard us as monsters.” Well, hey—maybe you should have hung around long enough to demonstrate to them that you’re not, brainiac.
The aliens are discouraged, but agree that they cannot give up. Number One then proposes infiltrating in human disguise (boo! no!), and offers up the stolen photo of Aozora Hikari to be used as a model, volunteering to take on her form. (The photo is explained on the grounds that the aliens didn’t want to capture a human being to use as a model…but no explanation at all is offered for why that particular photo.) The leader objects to this, on the grounds that Number One is “too valuable a leader and scientist” to undertake such a risky mission. However, Number One gets his way, arguing that it’s his idea, he knows the area best, and that “only a scientist” will be able to communicate with Komura and the others. Oh, really? So why didn’t you— Oh, never mind.
(His way? Her way? We really can’t tell. Amusingly, the dubbed version of the film makes Number One explicitly female, so that when the alien assumes human form, it isn’t—well, you know.)
And so Number One steps into the “transmutor”, emerging as a facsimile of Aozora Hikari.
“Does it involve resurrection of the dead?”
And this, by the way, is the last we see of the aliens in this form.
(We do learn later that the long-johns are merely the aliens’ “protective suits” and not necessarily their actual form, but that does little to ease the disappointment.)
Anyway, having assumed human form, does Number One walk up to Komura’s front door, knock, and introduce himself? He does not. Instead he arranges a cute-meet so unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming, it almost makes Plan 9 seem sensible in comparison.
With the withdrawal of the aliens, all sightings cease, and things return to normal. The scientists and their families celebrate with a day in the country. Toru and Taeko are rowing on a lake, enjoying what passes in Japanese science fiction of the 1950s for a flirtatious conversation (“Look at that mountain.” “Just grand, isn’t it?” “Yes.”), when Toru spots a woman floating in the water. He rescues her, and drags her to shore, announcing that she is unconscious but still alive.
A swarm of people gathers around, staring, including a reporter. One of the gawkers remarks that the woman looks just like Aozora Hikari. This is apparently so startling that another reporter later tracks down the real Hikari and asks her what she thinks of “the accident”. When he explains that “a girl who looks like you” nearly drowned, Hikari faints dead away.
I think it’s supposed to be funny.
I bet you thought they only did this in Bollywood films.
Fake-Hikari travels to Tokyo by train with her rescuers, claiming total amnesia. The senior members of the party discuss the situation, with Mrs Matsuda offering to take the girl in until she recovers her memory. Professor Isobe, meanwhile, is clearly having Deep Thoughts. Further down the same compartment, Fake-Hikari nearly gives herself – herself? himself? oh, herself, for simplicity’s sake – away by betraying her complete lack of understanding of earthly female rituals: when she stands up, Taeko – misinterpreting her action – blurts, “Want me to come along?”—and Fake-Hikari declines her company.
She’s obviously an alien!
Fake-Hikari’s destination isn’t the washroom, but only the corridor, where she uses a transmitter ring to report, “Infiltration a success.” Indeed, Fake-Hikari is apparently so pleased with herself that she proceeds to waste endless time finding new and exciting ways to make herself conspicuous. First we find her playing tennis with Toru, and jumping about ten feet in the air to hit a smash. Later, in the clubhouse, she is beset by a horde of screaming schoolgirls who think she is Aozora Hikari, and escapes them by dematerialising and passing through a closed door. Toru and Taeko, who witness all this, are understandably gobsmacked.
The increasingly suspicious Isobe asks Toru to bring to him Fake-Hikari’s tennis-racquet and hat. Alas, in those pre-DNA days, Isobe is merely in search of “cellular material”, which he recovers and mounts on a slide, comparing it to the material recovered earlier from the dock by holding the two slides side by side.
Toru tells his father about the incidents at the club, which confirm his suspicions. Meanwhile, Fake-Hikari is pulling the door stunt again, for no readily apparent reason, passing into Matsuda’s study. There, her eyes fall upon a hand-written formula in Matsuda’s notebook. She gives a horrified gasp and snatches up the book, ripping out the page and lecturing Matsuda about the danger of his discovery, which she calls Urium 101: “An explosive so strong that even the H-bomb in comparison is a toy!”
Matsuda is more than a little bemused by this (as are we: she recognised a Japanese-annotated formula that by her own account was forbidden on her home world “years ago” at a glance?) but shrugs off her warnings. And instead of using this opportunity to explain herself – which is, we might recall, what she is there for – Fake-Hikari exits via the door trick as soon as Matsuda turns his back.
But never mind. Isobe’s on the case, and he calls the others to the observatory, where he summarises the evidence and announces that Fake-Hikari is an alien. At this, she puts in a personal appearance, doing an odd floating zoom across the room (all the junior scientists retreat in shock), and confronts our heroic trio sporting the stern, slinky, slicked-back-hair look so favoured by invading female and pseudo-female aliens in Japanese science fiction films of this era—and which makes some human males I could mention just want to surrender to them.
So what is this about? It turns out that the aliens are from a planet we don’t know called Pairan; and the reason we don’t know it is because it’s in the same orbit as Earth, but on the other side of the sun (an extremely scientifically dubious idea that will show up again in Gamera Vs Guiron, and which is also the premise of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun). So how do they know about us? Oh, they’re superior…as you can tell from their highly intelligent behaviour so far.
Nothing frightens a group of scientists like the sudden appearance of a woman.
Anyway, the Pairans have detected a “rogue planet” – Planet ‘R’ – that has broken away from another galaxy and is on a collision course with Earth; and given that Pairan travels in the same orbit as Earth, the debris field from the collision that will destroy the Earth will also destroy Pairan. (Presumably. They don’t actually spell this out.) The humans and the Pairans, therefore, must work together to destroy or deflect Planet ‘R’. The Pairans’ suggestion is that Earth uses its stockpile of nuclear weapons to accomplish this.
So…let me see if I’ve got this straight: on top of the aliens’ other brilliant behavioural strokes, having come to Earth to encourage the use of nukes against the rogue planet, they then choose to make contact with the one nation in the world guaranteed not to have any?
Oh, they’re superior, all right.
The three senior scientists appeal for help to the World Council (or Congress), and then arrange to go on the radio to explain all about the aliens, and the rogue planet, and the nukes, yada-yada. The announcement is greeted with varying degrees of scepticism, including complete disbelief from a group of wild and kooky kids who hear the news on their portable transistor radio and who just know they’re going to live forever, and proceed to demonstrate just how wild and kooky they are by shouting, “Pairan!” to the sky and laughing hysterically.
Tragically, we do not later get a scene of a chunk of Planet ‘R’ falling from the sky and crushing their jalopy.
They’d better stay off my lawn…
Not believing the scientists’ story, the World Congress (or Council) rejects the plea for nukes. Our heroes take this with stoicism, to say the least, admitting that they’re disappointed, but insisting that they’re sure they’ll ultimately be vindicated. You know, when the Earth is destroyed.
The scientists add that according to the Pairans, in fifteen more days Planet ‘R’ will be visible to Earth’s puny instruments, and then everyone will know the story is true. Fourteen days later, as a still doubtful populace shakes its head over newspaper stories of impending doom, Komura reiterates the nukes plan to a swarm of reporters, and also mentions Matsuda’s formula for “an explosive energy source even more powerful than the A- or H-bomb”.
This piece of loose-lippiness has immediate consequences, as Matsuda gets a visit from someone we instantly recognise as EEE-vil, on account of his sunglasses, and because he has a moustache and one of those little under-the-lip beard things—although for Mrs Matsuda, the tip-off seems to be the fact that his first name is “George”. This gentleman doesn’t believe in Planet ‘R’ for a moment, but he does believe in Matsuda’s explosive, which his [*cough, cough*] clients would like to buy. Matsuda is outraged:
Matsuda: “What a traitor you are!”
George: “Traitor? But I’m not Japanese.”
Matsuda orders George from his house, and he goes muttering dire threats. The next day, sure enough, Planet ‘R’ becomes visible through the observatory’s telescope. Komura then calculates that the collision will occur in a further fifty days, but that before then, the increasing proximity of the rogue planet will cause wild weather and increasing heat—heat that will kill everyone before the collision does, unless something is done. This news sends a shockwave around the world, and prompts the World Council (or Congress) to “reconsider” the request for nukes. In the meantime, the officials gathered at the observatory react to the situation as only Japanese officials in a time of crisis can:
Oh, that’s your answer to everything.
Sure enough, the next thing we know hordes of panicky people are stampeding through the streets of Tokyo as if Godzilla had dropped by for a visit. Otherwise, those who have shelters take refuge in them as things start to heat up. At this point we learn that the school at which Taeko teaches is next door to the observatory, and that the parents of her young students have decided to leave them behind while they evacuate (!!!!), to find refuge in the observatory’s shelter—which turns out to be a basement with above-ground windows. Um…
(And yes, we do get to spend the entire crisis in company with a swarm of adorable small children who—just—keep—being—adorable…)
Meanwhile, Dr Matsuda is abducted off the street, although in the midst of the panic, no-one notices. Matsuda gives his abductors – including George – the, The world’s about to blow up, you idiots line, but they’re not buying. Matsuda remains obstinately silent about his formula, and ends up being roughed up and then tied to…a comfy arm-chair!!!!
Matsuda’s failure to show up at the observatory worries Komura and Isobe, but mainly because if the World Congress (or Council) doesn’t get off its arse soon, Matsuda’s explosive will be the world’s only chance—even though Matsuda has already explained that no-one on Earth has the technological capacity to manufacture it. Back at the abandoned building, Matsuda’s abductors seem to have given up trying to make him talk rather easily, but have left him tied to his chair. As Matsuda struggles to free himself, the sky outside the window begins to change. Matsuda, of course, realises the significance of this…
The cinematography of Warning From Space really comes into its own here, as the sky progressively changes colour with the approach of the rogue planet; although the location photography during the earlier scenes in the country is also very lovely. The interpolated sequences of Real-Hikari’s stage-act are pointless except to add some further splashes of vivid colour via the costuming.
Anyway, a mere twenty days to the end of the world, the World Council (or Congress) finally reconsiders its “no nukes” stance, and announces that “an atomic barrage” will be launched that night, although it doesn’t say how or by whom. The barrage is launched on schedule, and as the world holds its breath and the scientists observe…it fails utterly.
It’s very hard to get a grip on Warning From Space’s attitude to nukes. There’s certainly nothing here to match the emotional stance taken by the early Toho science fiction films; but on the other hand there’s the fact that when asked to do something for the good of humanity, the weapons are a total failure. Then again, it’s finally Matsuda’s explosive, to which “the H-bomb in comparison is a toy”, that saves the day. (Oops! Hope I didn’t spoil anything for you there.) I just don’t know.
As Planet ‘R’ comes nearer, the temperature begins to rise, and we get a series of shots (which I for one could have done without) of various animals collapsing, including a horrid shot of some unfortunate goldfish in an overheated bowl. The weather grows increasingly wild, as does the behaviour of the water around Tokyo as it is subjected to this new cosmic force. A river breaks its banks, flooding the surrounding countryside, including the locale of the observatory – uh, shouldn’t that be up on a hill? – and we learn for certain what we already suspected: that in a crisis, particularly a flood crisis, shutterless, above-ground windows are not entirely desirable.
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
Then a series of earth tremors begins, and we finally cut back to Matsuda, who is still tied up in his arm-chair…and to the best of our knowledge, has now been so for a month. With a tremendous effort, Matsuda succeeds in tipping his chair over, which seems pretty pointless. The next moment another tremor hits, and the face of the building drops away, leaving Matsuda tied up, gagged, on his side, inches from a thirty-foot drop, and exposed to the elements.
Back at the observatory, the water levels have receded enough to allow people to retreat from the scorching heat upstairs back into the basement, I mean, shelter. As they sit and gasp and sweat, who should show up but the Pairans?
Well, hello. And where exactly the hell have you guys been for the past month? A nice cool spaceship, huh?
Fake-Hikari comments calmly that she thinks they’re going to be able to help, but stops short when she notices that Dr Matsuda is missing. When the others explain, she responds even more calmly that they’ll be able to find him easily, because he’s wearing one of their rings, by which he can be tracked.
Okay. Not to labour the point or anything, but— Where exactly the hell have you guys been for the past month!?
Sure enough, the Pairans track Matsuda down in a matter of moments and materialise beside him. As one of them unties him, Fake-Hikari explains that they have (somehow) arranged for the facilities to manufacture his explosive, but that they need his formula. You know—that formula that Fake-Hikari recognised at a single glance?
Dr Matsuda is not having a good month.
And having been given it, the Pairans depart to begin production, leaving Dr Matsuda – who has, I feel compelled to remind you one more time, been tied to an arm-chair for the past month – to walk home. On the way, he nearly gets brained by falling debris after a nearby oil refinery blows up. But if we know anything about Matsuda, it’s that he’s a trouper; and sure enough, he eventually stumbles into the observatory.
He has barely been greeted by his wife and friends than he is buzzed by the Pairans, who announce that the “new super-weapon” is ready to be launched from their ship. They proceed, and the thing wobbles through space like a tadpole in an effect that I sincerely doubt was intentional. However—
The force of the explosion nearly brings the ceiling of the basement down on its occupants, but apart from this minor contretemps, everything returns to normal in a ridiculous amount of time—except, presumably, for the goldfish. Under a clear blue sky, everyone emerges from the observatory, and we get one more burst of the adorable little children being, you guessed it, adorable.
Sometimes you have to wonder if saving the world is really a good idea…
And that debris ends up going where, exactly?
Footnote: For some reason, Warning From Space didn’t make it to US shores until 1967, at which point it was dubbed and slightly altered for local consumption. The main change made is that the film has been forcibly twisted into a bad rip-off of The Day The Earth Stood Still, with the Pairans lecturing us on our war-mongering ways—and this in spite of the fact that they’ve dropped in to borrow a few nukes as they might a cup of sugar.
In reality, although they think we’re nuts to pursue Matsuda’s dangerous new explosive (and anyway, we’ve seen how that plot-thread ends), the Pairans are here to encourage our use of nukes. They do mention that their species “doesn’t recognise aggression”, but they don’t make a song and dance about it, merely explain that way why they don’t have the “super-weapon” themselves. How odd that, given the knots that the Americans tied themselves in to de-anti-nuke Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, they added non-existent anti-nuke material to this! But perhaps that’s the difference between 1956 and 1967…
Apart from this philosophical shift (granted, a pretty significant one), the American version is not too much altered from the original, except that it moves the footage of the Pairans conferring amongst themselves to the beginning of the film, and has them declare their intention of contacting Dr Komura specifically—which makes their subsequent behaviour even less explicable. (Also, showing your aliens up front? Tsk!) This version concludes with Fake-Hikari transforming back into her alien form – by running the earlier footage backwards – which at least means a few more seconds of the visitors. For this reason, the American version is slightly longer.
And while the Japanese version of Warning From Space does contain a mock-up newspaper or two, “one or two” just wasn’t enough for the Americans…
Want to know more about the American version of Warning From Space? Visit 1000 Misspent Hours – And Counting.
This one’s for you, Keith!
You echo my thoughts on this one almost exactly. I kept wondering where the “superior” aliens had got themselves off to, what the heck the Professor had to eat after Gangster Steve left him tied to his chair, and how nuclear missiles could launch from earth and almost immediately hit a target that was still nearly a month away from Earth…still, the aliens were adorable. I’m surprised no one has made plush figurines out of them.
It’s pretty obvious that this is a film made by people just going through the motions, rather than really buying into their premise; but yeah, those aliens… Surprised? I’m crushingly disappointed! 🙂