Planetary Calamity

To an audience composed of post-war Japanese, Warning from Space likely struck a nerve. Although cribbing the nuclear fears from Godzilla (even a plot point concerning a scientist inventing a new doomsday weapon), there’s a greater desperation to Warning from Space. The movie calls for a total, complete elimination of warheads, pleading with a fictional world council to save Earth by letting go their arsenals.

Warning from Space is a decidedly us-versus-them story, where Japan, amid a looming global catastrophe as a rogue planet enters a collision course, cannot convince anyone to save all of existence. The request seems logical, but feeble; Japan’s place as a world power seemed nearly irrelevant (they weren’t yet part of the UN), and reliant on other nations. No wonder Cold War countries resist losing their status – atomic weaponry gave them power.

Warning from Space’s ponderous narrative offers little beyond the dated messaging

The threat comes from the sky, initially as UFOs, a pervasive fear after firebombings and other wartime attacks. It wasn’t only the west succumbing to alien paranoia, although the cause for UFO culture differed between nationalities. Here, those fears play less into an overt enemy attack; a scientist admits if these visitors sought to destroy Earth, they’d have done so. Rather, the message is more to accept outsiders and those who cause mistrust, a problem after American occupation. Warning from Space’s odd starfish-creatures only visit to offer advice, with an empathetic understanding for Japan’s circumstances.

Decades beyond 1956, Warning from Space doesn’t connect like it once did. It’s historically interesting in exploring reasonable fears, but now, Warning from Space’s ponderous narrative offers little beyond the dated messaging. A broken subplot about a kidnapped scientist feels utterly truncated and useless, the wonky alien costumes (aside from their glowing eye) look like eccentric snowsuits, and the minimal destruction as disasters strike Japan hardly exciting.

After Earth is saved (because of course it is), the camera pans over a rabbit, some crabs, and other life. Kids burst free from an underground bunker, cheering. It’s as if the sweltering heat, floods, and earthquakes seen seconds before did nothing. Given the correlation to Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Warning from Space’s transition to tranquility feels utterly rotten, as if the after effects of such tragedies evaporates immediately. That’s a misstep (and that’s a softened word choice) sapping the final credibility from a movie lapsing in such early on. One look at the invading force is enough to fail this one.

Video

Previously available only in cruddy public domain prints, Arrow’s disc is undeniably an improvement. Then again, that’s up against low standards.

Likely licensed from Daiei (as with the early Gamera films), the master looks dated at the outset. Crummy grain replication suggests something only hovering near HD, possibly struck for DVD and left untouched ever since. Marginal detail furthers that thought, fidelity low throughout, perking up only during the third act as close-ups on sweaty faces produce needed definition.

Old mastering is one issue, but the print suffers too. While only a few scratches leave a mark, starting around 35-minutes, an incessant discoloration/flicker begins, and comes back multiple times. An early color effort, Warning from Space lacks hefty saturation as is. Add in the inconsistent, failing palette and there’s not much left. Faded primaries falter, leaving images stuck in murky brown-ish hue. As heat rises, red turns into a dominant color, and even this lacks intensity. During a tennis match, translucent black splotches pop up around the frame.

Clipping saps detail on white overcoats, a common issue. Black levels handle their end better, if only because they never reach true black. Warning from Space stays in a murky gray zone.

Note the US version follows the same pattern, with some of the reedited footage (especially those shots with burned-in Japanese subtitles) looking even worse.

Audio

PCM mono struggles, the dialog dying in a raw, harsh pitch. Band music at a club is downright painful to hear, the piercing treble off-key and obnoxious.

Some skipping, popping, and other defects indicate a faltering source. Like the video, this was most likely left alone minus remastering.

Extras

Stuart Galbraith provides an informative commentary for an hour of this 86-minute feature. An image gallery (including the wild promo photos showing giant aliens destroying cities) comes before some trailers. Also, to reiterate, the US cut is included too, notable more for the dub than any changes. It came Stateside (directly to TV) mostly intact.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Warning from Space
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
2

Movie

Of historical interest, Warning from Space offers a few moments worth seeing, but it’s mostly a slow, sluggish sci-fi drama.

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