Sunday, 6 September 2015

Warning from Space (1956)

An atmospheric sci-fi film with rather comical special effects but possessing a sincere message

(Uchûjin Tôkyô ni arawaru)

Directed by Koji Shima
Produced by Masaichi Nagata
Screenplay by Hideo Oguni
Based on a novel by Gentaro Nakajima
Music by Seitaro Omori
Cinematography: Kimio Watanabe
Edited by Toy Suzuki
Production Company: Daiei Film
Distributed by Daiei (Japan) AIP-TV (USA)
Release dates: 1956 (Japan); 1957 (UK); 1963 (US)


Keizô Kawasaki: Dr. Toru Itsobe
Toyomi Karita: Hikari Aozora / Ginko
Bin Yagisawa: No. 2 Pyran
Shôzô Nanbu: The Elder Dr. Itsobe
Bontarô Miake: Dr. Kamura
Mieko Nagai: Taeko Kamura
Kiyoko Hirai: Mrs. Matsuda
Isao Yamagata: Dr. Matsuda
Gai Harada: Yûzô Hayakawa - Policeman
Kanji Kawahara: Dr. Takashima
Sachiko Meguro: Mrs. Tokuko Isobe
Toshiyuki Obara: News Repoter Hoshino (USA) / Hideno (Japan)
Fumiko Okamura: Bar' Ucyû-ken' Madam Ohana
Shiko Saito: Mystery Man

In the last post featuring “The Mole People,” we delved deep beneath the earth under our feet and were confronted by some of the more eternal darkest recesses of our human nature. Now with the film, “Warning From Space,” we once again turn our gaze upward and outward to confront oncoming threats to our very survival and in the process discover something about ourselves…. 

Just to get you thinking, read and watch the following recent incident that occurred on 7th. September 2015:

It all begins when UFO's are seen around Tokyo causing a great deal of panic and concern for some people and indifference and ridicule from others. The UFOs contain aliens from the planet Pyra, which is on the same orbital plane as Earth but on the opposite side of the sun to the Earth. The aliens resemble giant starfish and because of their appearance they cannot approach us without creating panic. One of the aliens therefore takes the form of a popular female singer and its mission is to warn mankind that a planetoid (Planet R) will collide with the Earth. The aliens fear that when our planet is destroyed, their own planet will be destroyed as well.

What can mankind do to avert destruction from this celestial intruder?

Movie clip

Spoilers Follow......

The 1956 film, Warning From Space is based on Gentaro Nakajima's novel, which was itself in turn based on the Japanese folktale Kaguya-hime. The film was the first full-colour Japanese science-fiction film, just beating Rodan to the line by a matter of months.

Warning from Space was made by Japan’s Daiei studio which later gave us the Gamera series of movies.

The film seems to borrow ideas that were contained in the 1950s sci-fi classics, The Day the Earth Stood Still and When Worlds Collide, both of which feature in this blog.

Note: I have use the word “Pyrans” and “Pyra” for the aliens and their planet. “Pairans” and “Paira” could also be used. Tomartoes – Tomaytoes…


Warning From Space opens with a small spaceship heading towards a rotating space station. Aboard the station, we witness a group of beings that resemble starfish. They are discussing the best way to warn humans of the Earth of an impending disaster and they decide to contact Japanese scientist Dr Kumara played by Bontarô Miake. He is the scientist to be “conquered first.” It is settled that “No.1 will be responsible for this initial penetration.”

OK, so the aliens in the film are rather laughable and cringe-worthy. The official film posters showed the Pyran aliens looming over buildings, but in the film version the aliens appear to be the same size as humans. Remember though, they are supposed to be wearing a protective covering so their true natures still remain a mystery to us. The star configuration at least serves to remind us of the extra-terrestrial origins of the aliens and the large single eye reinforces the idea of their being “all-seeing” creatures. Besides, the potential diversity of life-forms (“intelligent” or otherwise) throughout the universe probably could never be envisioned by our imaginations or by terrestrial-based concepts of convergent evolution. Humanoids? Monsters? Star-fish shaped creatures? We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Meanwhile on Earth, Dr Kamura meets for dinner with a newspaperman who shows the scientist an article he is writing about the flying saucers that have been seen over the city recently; “No official comment……Secret missiles of some kind” The reporter tries to get the scientist to provide more information apart from official silence and popular speculation, but Dr Kamura tells him nothing and states that there is not enough evidence to formulate a hypothesis.

At the local observatory an astronomer observes a series of lights in the sky. The lights move in over Tokyo and begin causing power disruption and radio broadcast interference.

Later at Doctor Kamura’s home, he and Dr Toro Isobe (Shôzô Nanbu) discuss the recent UFO sightings. Suddenly a cry goes out that a flying saucer has been sighted. Isobe and Kamura both observe the object. Isobe concludes that it may indeed have been an actual flying saucer. Kamura responds with scepticism,” Really, Toro! Don’t you think you’re jumping to conclusions?” Isobe observes, “that was no meteor!” Kamura having had his orthodox scientific view of reality shaken can only retort with the comment, “I must have more data before I can formulate a theory.”

Next day news reports suggest that the object may have fallen into Tokyo Bay.


Unidentified Object Sighted!

At the observatory, reports of “luminous bodies” from both London and Delhi confirm what was seen in the skies over Tokyo. 

“There is no longer any room for doubt”

As if to confirm this observation, a couple of men fishing by the river catch sight of one of the Pyrans (“It’s a monster!”) before it sinks back into the water. This is followed by a similar encounter that same night at the docks.

Isobe had earlier been discussing his findings with Kumara and a physicist, Dr. Matsuda, who suggested that they should obtain photographs of the object by means of a rocket. The photographs they did eventually retrieve, however were unclear. They were able to at least infer that the object has a “tremendous energy release.”

At a meeting of the World Congress it has been decided that an attempt must be made to shoot down one of the objects as well as to cease all satellite launches.

At the Metropolitan Theatre nightclub, one of the Star Creatures makes an appearance and attacks the famous singer, Hikari Aozora (Toyomi Karita). She is now in deep shock and further performances are cancelled as a result.

The flying saucer that was reported to have crashed into Tokyo Bay suddenly takes off and heads toward the base ship. Star creature N0.1 has returned and reports on its failure to communicate: “I made no contact.” This is due to the fact that the humans “either run in terror or attack us.” The need for effective infiltration, surveillance and communication leads to the suggestion that the Pyrans undergo a transmutation in order to take on human form and attempt once again to contact Dr Kamura. The transmutation will involve morphing into the likeness of the human entertainer Hikari based on a photo of her. However, “transmutation has never been attempted using a 2D pattern.” The process does in fact prove to be successful and the alien infiltrator (No.2) is informed that “the fate of Pyra rests with you!” (No pressure!)

The idea of foreign infiltration and surveillance reflects the kind of Cold War fears that were prevalent at the time. It would be very easy to apply this principle to an advanced alien race wishing to establish contact or even dominance over humanity. This would prove to be especially the case when being confronted by a planet full of hostile, divided, xenophobic, neurotic, parochial and fear-driven human beings.

“All that colour!” “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

We now move to an idyllic and tranquil natural vista where some profound questions are being asked since the UFO incident seems to have passed:

Why did they come here?
What was their purpose?
Conquest perhaps?

Ostrich-like, heads are then thrust into the sand as it is concluded that there is “Nothing more to worry about…Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” since days have passed without further sightings of the creatures or the UFOs. People begin to relax and assume that since they can no longer see any danger then the crisis no longer exists. Therein lays one of the biggest problems facing our species: a mentality which accepts the notion of something being ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ sprinkled with a liberal dose of self-denial. Cue dubbed laughter: “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

A couple boating on a local lake come across the unconscious body of the Hikari look-alike floating in the water. Surely this cannot be since Hikari is performing in Tokyo! It is later assumed that the young woman who persists in remaining silent is suffering some form of amnesia. Kamura arranges to take the mystery woman back to Tokyo.

The clues as to the identity of the strange lady begin to mount:

  • Being able to jump 10 feet to return a shot during a tennis match 
  • Vanishing from the midst of a crush of adoring young fans of Hikari and materializing elsewhere 
  • Suspicions necessitating the examination of her racket and hat. 

When the mystery lady meets Kamura after materializing through a door, she sees some of his notes containing his formula for the super H Bomb and proceeds to destroy them.

The question remains: Can a theory or an idea once it has come into existence, simply be erased? If not, then it depends on what practical use the idea or theory is put to: peaceful constructive application or evil destruction?

The clues sounding the mystery woman’s nature and origins continue to mount leading to the conclusion: “I’m convinced she’s not human!” First, there’s the “abnormally high white blood cell count.” Secondly, there’s “no pattern” on her finger prints and lastly, cellular material that was obtained matched the specimens retrieved earlier from the dockside.

Suddenly the alien Hikari makes an appearance at the observatory. She explains that her planet is unobserved and “unknown to the Earth” as it is situated on the far side of the sun. Her race has been watching Earth for thousands of years using the asteroid Hermes as an observation satellite and they even made landings on our planet as long as 4000 years ago. (You can just picture Erich Von Daniken leaping for joy at this point!)

Alien Hikari goes on to reveal that both planets are under threat from a “runaway planet from another galaxy,” and both planets need to cooperate In order to prevent the impending catastrophe. She proposes appealing to world leaders to make use of their combined nuclear arsenals to deflect the danger by altering the trajectory of the rogue planet.

An interesting conflict or contradiction has arisen: On the one hand, we have the evil destructive power of nuclear weapons which the advanced race of Pyrans have renounced or rejected. They once had something called “Urium” which could only be handled in a magnetic field. And now on the other hand, they are appealing to barbarian Earthlings to save the Earth and their own planet by using such evil taboo power! So even aliens can be motivated by good old self-interest! Perhaps on another level it is indicative of a feeling or desire for something good to come out of Japan’s own then recent war-time experience?

It soon turns out that The World Congress has rejected the request for the use of the global stockpile of atomic weapons due to a lack of proof. In the face of foreign recalcitrance, Japan decides to steadfastly go it alone. It is felt that once the rest of the scientific community becomes aware of the rogue planet, the nations of the world will begin to combine their forces and act.

As for the wider population? Well, we have a scene involving young Japanese enjoying a picnic. Their assessment of the situation? For them it’s just “science fiction.” They then proceed to shout out the word “Pyra!” in a burst of gay abandonment and delight in hearing it echo through the hills. It sounds like something out of toothpaste commercial!

In another dig at foreigners, Kamura is visited by a stranger (dark glasses makes him look evil and hides his eyes suggesting non-Japaneseness!) who wishes to purchase the formula for the new explosive. He informs Kamura that he wishes to “sell it to one of my clients.” Kamura orders him to get out, and says that he is not Japanese but is instead the devil himself. Nothing like a bit xenophobic hysteria, stereotyping and scapegoating to explain away problems, deflect attention and get people on board! 

“Planet R: Impending Doom of World!”

Around the country people wait expectantly for confirmation of planet R’s existence. as it has now been designated. All eyes are turned skyward as the search for the planet continues. The eerie silent vigil creates an almost palpable and breath-holding atmosphere of tension.

Who can say for certain that there isn’t some celestial body out there right now with our planet’s name on it? Sure, we can pride ourselves in our improved ability to detect such planet-destroying objects and are reaching a stage in our scientific progress to be able to do something about it such as deflecting their orbits before they impact. Can we be certain that enough resources are being devoted to having every sector of the heavens monitored for such potential hazards to our planet? Once they are detected, do we have the means to destroy or deflect them if they prove to be of substantial size and mass?

Billions of years ago, our own planet and our moon’s very existence was the result of a planet smashing into the Earth. It is also widely accepted that some 65 million years ago, a mountain-sized asteroid struck the Earth and played a major role in the extinction of the dinosaurs and the eventual rise of the mammals, including us. In the early 20th Century, it is said that an object entered the atmosphere and exploded above the Siberian region of Tunguska, flattening forest trees and killing wildlife. Finally, a year or so ago camera footage captured a meteor entering the atmosphere in broad daylight over Russia and many people were knocked over by the concussive effect of the shockwave. So, who can say for certain……?

Finally, after days of searching, the planet is spotted through the observatory telescope. “It seems to be travelling very fast” and it is predicted that there will be an impact in 50 days. Ominously, it is also believed that the Earth will be scorched long before this occurs. The Japanese scientists decide to go to the World Council in an attempt to have it reconsider Japan’s proposal to deflect the rogue planet’s course. 

“Collision Within 20 Days!”

Eventually the World Council agrees to launch “an atomic barrage against the intruder” that will hopefully prevent disaster. Later that day it becomes apparent that “nothing at all happened” as a result of the missile attack and that the world is ultimately doomed. 

5 Days Till Collision!!

As Tokyo is being evacuated, we see an island of calm in the form of Doctor Matsuda walking along the street against the tide of public panic. Suddenly he is abducted and his captor turns out to be none other than our sunglass- wearing foreign devil mystery man. In order to entice the good Doctor to hand over his formula, he tries to present Matsuda with an offer that is too good to refuse: “You could live like a king in South America, for instance.” No chance of that ploy working!

Meanwhile, a massive heat wave is being generated by the approaching rogue planet which in turn is producing destructive coastal storms. (Modern audiences familiar with predictions surrounding global warming might be feeling rather uncomfortable about now!) On top of all this, earthquakes strike Japan causing more devastation, something Japanese audiences would be familiar with considering their country’s location in relation to tectonic plate activity.

In the observatory’s basement shelter, we see an English sign” No Smoking.” Hardly a matter for concern in the face of the inert inoperative cooling fan signifying the cessation of any working infrastructure….

Amidst climactic ravages, scenes of deserted residential, business and industrial areas, dying animals, as well as people trying to survive the ever increasing heat, the Pyrans finally appear on the scene. In an odd and almost inappropriate manner they materialize and jovially greet the human sufferers with, “Hello everybody! Cheer up, we’ll be able to help you.” It appears that they have brought together all the equipment needed to build the super bomb, but need the Matsuda formula to complete the process.

They soon manage to locate Matsuda and obtain the formula for the super bomb. The new super nuclear device is shot from the space station and destroys Planet R, which leads to the cooling of Earth’s atmosphere and saving it from destruction. Finally we see the alien Hikari undergo reverse transmutation that returns her to her original form.

What If?

What if the answer to the age old question, (Why are we here?) is not unanswerable at all or at least not what we expect it to be? What if the very planet we live on is like a kind of living organism governed by its own intelligence? Somehow through the influence of past violent occurrences, that intelligence might enable it to be aware that its very existence could be snuffed out at any time in a cosmic cataclysm such as a collision with an asteroid or planetoid. If so, is it conceivable that a means to avoid this happening has already been put into effect by our planet’s governing intelligence? Could this means be in the form of a single self-aware intelligent species that through the process of natural selection has reached the stage of development that will enable it to detect and potentially avoid any celestial threat to the planet? The short term trade off might be the pain of ecological damage that human progress has caused to the earth in order for human beings to reach this stage of development. The long term payoff for the planet might that human sapiens will use their intelligence to repair the damage they have caused, save the planet from cosmic annihilation and carry the little blue planet’s legacy throughout the universe………..

©Chris Christopoulos 2015

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