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Articles & Reviews by Mike Bogue



A DVD Review by:  Michael Bogue

Region:  1

Retail Price:  $6.98

Manufacturer:  Alpha Video

This is one of those curious examples of 1950's Japanese science fiction that once played the late night TV circuit, but has since been unceremoniously retired to the Old Cinema Home for Lost Obscurities.  

Warning from Space is a thoroughly enjoyable if somewhat outlandish Japanese SF outing.  I saw it again recently thanks to this low-priced DVD from Alpha Video.  But I originally saw the film in June 1968 on a Saturday night Late Show (by the way, the second feature was Varan the Unbelievable).

The plot involves starfish shaped aliens from the planet Paira who come to Earth to warn us of the perils of nuclear weapons and our impending collision with a celestial object.  Both When Worlds Collide and early fifties Western SF seem to have inspired the story, whose benevolent aliens owe more to The Day the Earth Stood Still's Klaatu than to violent E.T.'s such as The Thing From Another World

Of course, if you start to think about it even a little, the movie's story doesn't really hold up:

With no fingers or other manipulative appendages, how do the starfish aliens build anything?  Why do they sporadically appear to humans at the film's beginning and fail to tell us that they are aliens with friendly intentions?  Why is it necessary for some of the aliens to convert themselves into humans and dwell among us before they tell us a planetoid is headed towards earth?  Wouldn't it have been more logical to broadcast their intentions, land their flying saucer in front of the U.N. building, and then warn us of our dire peril?  

But, aliens being aliens, perhaps they have motivations and psychologies we mere humans can't fathom.  

The film's special effects are mostly good for the time; for example, back in '68, I was quite impressed with a sequence (shown twice, the second time in reverse) of one of the aliens transforming into a human being.  Other sequences feature nicely detailed miniatures and scattered cel-animated visuals.

Overall, the movie has an undeniable if slightly naive charm.  For example, the one-eyed starfish aliens are interesting, but unconvincing -- they are obviously actors in cloth costumes who would probably be more at home on a Saturday morning children's show.  (In 1968, I was somewhat dumbstruck by the obvious and undetailed nature of the alien "suits.") 

Of course, this is just the sort of movie that modern-day smarty-pants  scoffers love to mock, people who are only interested in how "real" a movie looks, but haven't a clue (and couldn't give a kaiju claw) about a movie's heart or soul.  

Such Philistinian naysaying notwithstanding, Warning from Space is still a nice little film, and I'm glad Alpha Video has rescued it from the void by releasing it on DVD.  That's the good news.  The bad news:  Alpha's DVD of the movie appears to have been transferred from a battered 16mm TV print that looks as though it was ground zero at a kaiju stomp.  In fact, if a character has dark hair, the color has bled so badly that it looks as though the person has a gray forehead!

But, beggars can't be choosers.  Better to have obscure Japanese SF available on sub-standard DVD than not to have it at all.  If you purchase and watch this low-priced DVD in that spirit, you'll probably have a good time.

 



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