Warning from Space (1956)





Trivia for you: What was the first science fiction film made in Japan to be shot in color and in anamorphic widescreen? A Godzilla movie? No. That's right, Daiei Studio's Warning From Space. Almost totally forgotten now, this movie is a gem of the early days of sci-fi, full of dodgy special effects and heavy-handed moral messages.

As you watch this movie you will clearly see that it was strongly influenced by several American sci-fi films of the same era. Chief amongst these are When Worlds Collide and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Stirred into the pot with these films is the unique Japanese obsession with nuclear weapons and their dire consequences. Add a dash of UFO hysteria and a few pretty girls and you have a fairly entertaining, if uneven, movie.

First shown in Japan in 1956 under the title of Spacemen Appear In Tokyo, it beat Toho Studio's excellent color Rodan to screens that year. It was released in America the same year under the title of Warning From Space, dubbed in English but otherwise barely tampered with.

For this review I will be using a brand new 2005 BCI Brentwood Home Video DVD of the American version. It's full screen pan-and-scan, which is ok, but I wish I could see it in the original widescreen. It's dubbed and has no subtitles (why the hell not?!?!?) so I had to guess on some of the names. It runs 87 minutes long, though it seems longer at times. The sound quality is abysmal, with hissing and sparking throughout and the dialogue is often so masked that I had to crank up the volume. The actual film quality is what can be expected from a 50-year old movie, with frequent scratches, blurs and faded colors. The digital transfer is not the best, either, with some blocking that can get noticeable.

The production crew would mostly work on Daiei's sci-fi movies and the Gamera series over the next twenty years. There are no really worthy stories to tell with them.

I should say right here that this movie pleasantly surprised me. I was expecting terrible acting and cliched dialogue, but I was very impressed by the quality of the acting and the crisp and meaningful dialogue. There are numerous scenes where the acting is on par with much more sophisticated and mainstream movies. Little bits of flair show up in most scenes, with some excellent camera work. It's a well-paced movie, with few dead spots and a real sense of trying to make the characters seem as realistic as possible despite the fantastical elements of the plot.

And now on to our show...

The opening credits are quick and lame. I assume that these were created exclusively for the American version as they are just the names of the crew and cast over a solid color background.

We open out in space, where we get our first indication of the low-budget special effects we'll have to get used to. Far out in the cold depths, we see a space station. We go inside where we meet our aliens, who are the most laughable extraterrestrials this side of the beach ball in Dark Star.


Even worse than this!

They are basically star-shaped brown cloth costumes with a single huge eyeball glued onto the center. The actors inside simply stand there, holding their arms and legs out to make the star shape. I want to die laughing, but at least they tried to come up with a design that wasn't overused. So many "aliens" in Japanese movies are just guys with funky helmets and flashy capes. These spaceship interior shots are filmed through a yellow filter, giving it a spacey alien feel. Monochromatic filters will be used in several sequences in this movie, especially towards the end.


I told you so.

The aliens talk about the Earthlings and how they are messing with sciences they do not understand. The aliens are going to send down a scientist-type named "Number 1" to check on one Professor Kimura. I guess this is one of those worlds that gives numbers to everything, like the Devo aliens from Godzilla versus Monster Zero released a decade later. We will learn later that they are mostly interested in the superweapon formula recently discovered by a certain Doctor Matsuda.

We now go down to Japan, to a train station. For the next few minutes Daiei reminds us this is indeed a color film by showing us opening umbrellas, outdoor lamp covers and women's clothing, all in splashy bright color.


Ok, we get it.

Here we meet Professor Kimura, a professor of astrophysics working at a large observatory near Tokyo. He will follow a long tradition of scientist heroes who are PhDs in twenty different fields and seemingly know everything. Professor Kimura is played by Bontaro Miyake, a regular working actor with some 51 movie roles over a long 50-year career. The only other thing he has been in that I've seen is 1970's Tora! Tora! Tora!.


Professor Kimura.

Kimura has a conversation with a reporter friend of his at a small café after he gets off the train. This is an opportunity for some exposition to give us some background details. It seems that there has recently been a wave of UFO sightings across Japan and the press is clamoring for answers from the scientific community, who should have an explanation, of course. Kimura declines to give any quotes as he's unsure of all the facts. Good scientist.

We follow Kimura back home to a nice house in the suburbs, where his loving wife dotes on him and makes him a sandwich. I made that up, but I'm sure she does. I love his house, full of ornate furniture and lots of manicured plants. The sliding doors are wonderful and I still wonder why they haven't caught on over here.


Seriously, I want these doors.

We now leave Kimura to go to his astronomical observatory. It has a large telescope and lots of white lab coat-wearing smarty-types wandering around with clipboards. We meet here Toru Isobe, who will be our film's Dashing Young Hero.

Toru is played by 23-year old Keizo Kawasaki. This was his first real movie role, and he would have steady work with Daiei for the next decade or so. He has a PhD (he is called Doctor several times) and works at Professor Kimura's observatory. He's the son of Doctor Isobe, who is Kimura's cousin. He's in love with Kimura's daughter Taeko. Got all that? Toru is a thin, gangly young man with good looks and perfect hair.


Toru Isobe.

Toru is looking through his big telescope when he spies what he's sure is a UFO! Amazed, he calls in others to check and sure enough they all see it, too. Toru then comes immediately to Kimura's house to discuss the sightings, because Kimura is his boss, I guess.

Here we should also introduce Professor Kimura's hot young daughter Taeko, played by Mieko Nagai. This is strangely her only movie credit on IMDB. She's a pleasant-faced young girl in her early twenties probably, not beautiful, but pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. She's a teacher (I think) at a school and is in love with Toru.


Taeko Kimura!

While the menfolk talk, Taeko does busy work around the house. She came in from her job wearing a pretty business suit and skirt combo, but has now changed into a silky kimono. Suddenly, a voice from outside yells, "A UFO!". They all run out into the street to see a flash of light streak by. This they are sure is a genuine UFO. Toru heads back to the observatory.

Now, I have a fetish for newspaper frontpages in these types of movies, and this is what we will get on several occasions in this film. These are all added for the American version, of course, and they are very fun to read. "Unidentified Flying Object Sighted!" screams the Japan Express, "Flying Saucer Falls in Tokyo Bay!" yells the Tokyo Herald. "Observatory Scientist Without Comment!" bellows the Tokyo Times. You can usually read some of the finer print beneath the headlines, even some parts of sidebar stories if you are lucky. Here we get lines like, "Panic in New York..." and some blurry photos of lights in the sky.

Back at the observatory, we see that Kimura has called in famed scientist Doctor Matsuda for consultation. Later we will learn that Matsuda is working on a "superweapon formula" that the aliens are very worried about. Matsuda is played by 41-year old Isao Yamagata, who might be the most prolific actor in our cast, having stayed working into the mid 1980s. He's a distinguished looking man with black-framed glasses and a high forehead.


Doctor Matsuda.

They discuss the UFO reports and agree that something very strange is going on. Matsuda suggests that they use a small sounding rocket to get a better photo of the UFOs in space. So they call the "university rocket range" where they are running some tests, and arrange to mount a camera on the rocket. They fire it off and when the pictures come back they show just a brightly glowing dot. Clearly, that didn't help a lot. Hmmm...what were they hoping to take a picture of? The UFOs move pretty fast, and unless they have some way of controlling the camera's aim from the ground, I don't see how it could have worked. I think they got extremely lucky to get the photo they did.

So Number 1's ship indeed landed in Tokyo Bay and she now emerges. I'm going to refer to the alien as a "she" because her voice is feminine and she later takes the form of a girl. First she is spotted by some six-tooth fishermen and later by some sailors on the docks in the Shibuya District. For some reason, she then appears to a bunch of drunken party-goers. In this last scene, watch as a drunk dude chases a poor girl before they see the alien. If the alien hadn't shown up then, we might have had a nasty sexual assault.


Extra.

I should note here that the box art on the DVD case is very, very misleading. It shows the alien starfish as being forty-stories high, striding through the streets of Tokyo as crowds flee. In the movie, however, they are human-sized and I think that they were trying to capitalize on the "giant monster" buzz that was sweeping Japan at the time.

The next morning, a media circus has developed at the Shibuya docks where the sailors saw the alien. A smartyhead scientist rolls up and proceeds to take samples from a "handprint" of a gooey substance on the wall of the concrete dock. Rumors of aliens in the city, "monsters" even, reach the scientists.

The alien then attempts to either make contact with or just spy on Toru's scientist dad at his home in the evening. Toru is here as well, and they both run outside when they see something. Nothing is there, but a Geiger counter reading shows that something strange was.

The alien then visits Professor Kimura that same night. It's Taeko who spots something outside the house late at night and starts to scream hysterically. The professor runs outside, but the alien is gone, leaving only some trace residues.

For some completely nonsensical reason, the alien now visits the Metropolitan Theater dance hall (!!!) during the day, where a showy Can-Can number is going on. The lead singer is the famous Hikari Aozora, who will be a major player in our movie...or at least her body will. The show is full of brass horns and choreographed dances, and reeks of Big Band Swing.

Hikari Aozora is played by Toyomi Karita. Most oddly, this is the only credit listed for her and I wonder if she really only acted once or if her resume is just incomplete. A thorough Google search failed to turn up anything so maybe she was a one-hit-wonder. She's a tad on the big boned side, with a pleasant plumpness that was considered more attractive in the 1950s than today. Her face is round and pretty in certain lights.


Hikari Aozora!

The alien surprises the lead singer by appearing in the shadows backstage. What the hell? I thought the alien was here specifically to talk to scientists, not singers. And how could the alien have made it backstage in the crowded music hall anyway? I understand the need to somehow get the alien and Hikari together, but couldn't they have come up with something more plausible? Maybe Hikari could be dating one of the scientists and they ran into each other at the scientist's house? I could be a screenwriter...

So now we see a UFO emerge from the waters of Tokyo Bay and fly back into space. Inside is Number 1, her mission a failure. Back aboard the space station, she reports to her bosses that meeting the scientists was damn near impossible due to the fact that she looks like a big starfish with one eye. I could have told you that... The "leader" says that two more will go down now and try again, but Number 1 protests. She's a top scientist and is more suited for the mission than anyone else.

The solution is to "transform" Number 1 into the appearance of an Earthling. There's some concern that there's no human template for the transformation, but Number 1 has brought along a glossy 5-by-7 photo of Hikari Aozora, the singer! From this photo, and this photo alone, they will convert Number 1 into Hikari. The actually mechanism for this involves a round chamber, flashing lights and frame-by-frame takes of a clay model of the girl's face taking form and shape. The aliens in The Arrival did it much better, but none of them took the shape of a hot Asian girl.

We now cut to a pleasant summer day out in the countryside, some days or longer after all the hubbub with the UFOs and aliens before. Our gaggle of scientists is all here, with its wives and kids apparently, so maybe they are on holiday to the country. They talk about how the UFOs have all disappeared for a while, easing the world's nerves.

We see that Toru and Taeko are out in a rowboat on a nearby lake, him rowing, she just looking pretty. They are having a pleasant float together until Toru spots a body (!!!) floating in the water.

They pull the body into the boat and row her to shore, where a crowd gathers around. She is unconscious but alive. For some reason a reporter is here (maybe following the scientists around?) and recognizes the girl's face as Hikari Aozora. Later we see some people going to check on the real Hikari, so they all know that this is just a girl with an uncanny resemblance to her.

Hmmm...a few things here. We get a shot as they lay the girl down, it certainly looks like she is naked, or at least topless. When we had the scene where Number 1 was converted into Hikari, she clearly had clothes on, so what happened to them. And why would she choose this method of insertion? Wouldn't it be much easier just to walk up to them in a coffee shop or come round to their house?

So now we see all the scientists and their families heading back for home on the train. Hikari is with them, dressed in a long overcoat. They talk about how the poor girl can't remember anything and she must have amnesia. Mrs. Matsuda says they have a spare room and the girl can stay with them until her memory comes back. I sure hope they plan on contacting the police at some point to see if anyone is looking for her. Who just takes home a lost woman and makes her part of the family?

Anyway, Hikari excuses herself and goes out between the cars. She opens this little ring communicator thingie and reports back to base that she's in. Hmm...and why the amnesia bit? Why would the aliens not just have her walk up and start talking to them? I realize that the first time they didn't have much luck, but that was 100% because she came here as a starfish-shaped alien with one eye! Of course she was going to fail. But now, in the body of a hot Japanese chick, she could very easily just strike up a conversation with anyone. Why go to all this trouble if you are here specifically to keep Matsuda from creating something wickedly dangerous?


Not bad, not bad at all...

Ok, I'm confused. We cut now to a school out in the country, which I think is where Taeko works (I think...). This must be some days or weeks after the train scene as Hikari seems to have integrated nicely by now into the Matsuda family. We see there are also tennis courts and a rec center of sorts, and you get the impression that this is a fancy expensive girl's school, like Vassar. Taeko is here, as are Toru and Hikari. Why Hikari is here is anyone's guess but she seems to be adjusting fine. Note also that you can see just a hint of jealousy on Taeko's part as this strange and attractive woman has become the center of attention, even intriguing her beau Toru.

We see that Hikari is playing tennis with Toru, wearing these extremely unflattering red shorts. [Editor Pam: They do make her hips look chunky, but I think they might have been considered fairly racy in 1956, since they're so tight.] Two times Toru hits a high return lob to Hikari, who each time leaps like six feet off the ground to hit it! Other than an astonished look, Toru doesn't say anything, despite the fact that it's humanly impossible for her to jump that high.


"I know, I just finished filming one of those old school Lacoste commercials..."

Why would Hikari do this? Is she trying to get caught? Is she really so competitive and egotistical that she would risk exposure just to win a tennis match? This makes no sense.

Anyway, we see that Toru has a phone call from his father the scientist. His father wants him to see if he can get some "samples" from Hikari and bring them to him ASAP. Toru is confused, but manages to get her racket and hat.

As they chat, a gaggle of young school girls sees Hikari, and thinking she's the real Hikari, they swarm her. The editing is choppy here, but it seems that Hikari suddenly disappears and materializes again outside a closed door! The school girls seem unfazed, and Toru only cocks his head curiously. Does nobody in this world react to such weirdness in a normal way? And again, why would Hikari risk exposure by doing this? I hate this movie.

So Toru takes the racket and the hat back to his dad's lab. They pull tissue samples and fingerprints using some dodgy methods. [Editor Pam: To say the least. I was expecting them to monitor the objects for radiation, since they found traces of radiation left by the alien when it was at their house before, and because they keep a Geiger counter available at home (!!!), but they don't.] They match the samples with what they gathered from the residue from the docks, and they match. The fingerprints are also weird, with no recognizable pattern. Toru also passes on his stories of her disappearing through doors and jumping like Spud Webb.


Doctor Isobe, Toru's dad.

A bit later, or maybe the same time as the above scene in Toru's dad's lab, we see Hikari back at Matsuda's house. The doctor is in his study doing paperwork when Hikari "phases" through the door, and begins talking to the man. Why didn't she just knock on the door? He noticed she was there quickly, so why all the sneaking around?

As they are talking, Hikari notices Matsuda's notebook with the formula for the super weapon (the reason she is here, remember?). She freaks out and tears the pages from the notebook. Matsuda is understandably upset, but Hikari rages that he doesn't know what he is getting into with this formula. The scene ends as, unseen by Matsuda, Hikari phases out of the room again as the doctor's wife comes in.


The Formula!

Armed with a lot of compelling evidence about Hikari, Toru and his dad now call in all the other scientists we've seen in this movie, including Professors Kimura and Matsuda, for a pow-wow at the observatory. They discuss the evidence, the pros and cons, and just what the hell this woman is. The come to the conclusion that she is an alien (duh).

Just then, who would arrive, but Hikari herself. She is dressed in a baggy shiny black jumpsuit and her hair is pulled back tightly. She "glides" down the stairs and approaches the shocked scientists with a severe look on her face. They wisely get to their feet and back up.


Hmm...yum.

Hikari gives it up now, telling them that she's an alien (duh) and is here to keep Doctor Matsuda from creating a super weapon of ferocious power. She's a "Pairan" and they are an ultra-advanced race of space-faring aliens who have traveled the solar system. Some 4,000 years ago, she says, they came to Earth and left a monitoring satellite in orbit to watch over the development of the planet. There was no need to interfere until now, when they detected Doctor Matsuda's project. Hikari tells them that she came here to make sure Matsuda's super formula stays secret. Apparently, Pairan scientists figured it out long ago and realized that it was too dangerous not to forget about. For the sake of everyone on the planet it has to remain theoretical.

Ok, whoa, whoa. Stop right here. This should have been our movie right here. Alien comes to earth as a hot chick to prevent us from developing a super weapon, maybe falls in love, maybe runs from a mob, yada yada. Great plot, sure it's a clear rip-off of The Day the Earth Stood Still, but it still would be a serviceable movie. But there's still an entire half yet to watch, we're just 48 minutes into an 87 minute long movie, and it seems like we now step into a different film.


Great movie.

It's as if the screenwriters had two separate, really good ideas for a movie, and instead of making two movies, they tried to mash one onto the end of the other and hold it tight with duct tape. The second part of the movie, dealing with the approaching planet, is right out of When Worlds Collide, but that is ok as that movie was cool.


Pretty cool movie.

So, Hikari tells the men that the Pairans have discovered that a rogue planet is bee-lining for Earth and the collision will destroy both planets. The first time she specifically calls it a "comet", but all other subsequent mentions are "planet". I think that a comet might more astronomically plausible, but an entire planet coming headlong at you makes for better theater.

She says they have named it "Planet R", which sounds very Japanese and very lame. What is with the Japanese obsession with single-letter designations? Planet R, Planet X, Type S, Operation B, Spaceship P, these movies from Toho and Daiei are rife with examples like these. I guess it's not a problem, I just wonder why.

Normally the aliens wouldn't care, but it seems that if this Planet R hits Earth, then it will have grave consequences for Paira. Paira shares an orbit with Earth, though on the exact opposite side of the sun, thus why we have yet to discover it. Hmmm...I'm not an expert on astral mechanics, but can two bodies really have the same orbit? Wouldn't they have to have EXACTLY TO THE OUNCE the same mass or the sun would pull one of them closer to itself and thus change the orbit? And how would this even happen, how would two planets coalesce from gas and dust way back when in the same orbit but on different sides? And even if Earth were blown to bits, how would that affect Paira? Wouldn't the remains of Earth still be traveling around the sun at the same speed as before, and thus not a danger to Paira on the opposite end of the orbit? And couldn't you detect the presence of Paira even if you couldn't see it by the effect it has on the orbits of other planets? I hate this movie.

Ok, double what the hell? Why didn't anyone mention this Planet R before now? We have had two lengthy scenes on the Pairan homeworld and not once did they say anything about this. Did they just in the last five minutes realize the danger? Is this another sign that the script was written in two separate parts and forced together with crazy glue? Anyway, Planet R is headed for a collision course with Earth and they better figure out what to do about it.

Hikari says that the only way is to get all the nuclear powers of the world to nuke the hell out of Planet R and alter its path. Now, in 1956, the only nuclear powers were the USA, Russia, England and France, and with the nasty politics of that time, getting all those nations together would be impossible.

And that's exactly what happens. We see a press conference held by Doctor Matsuda, announcing that the "World Congress" (the UN? NATO?) has turned down their request. It seems that they don't believe the claims of the Japanese. They will have to go it alone. Hmmm...what just happened here? Why can't Hikari go herself to the UN and state her case? Why not have a whole shipload of starfish aliens land at The Hague and give a speech? Why just one alien/hot chick warning a small group of Japanese astronomers? If Paira is really all that worried about Planet R, then they sure aren't acting like it. But the world will soon have its proof as in just 15 days the planet will be visible from telescopes.

We now get another bunch of newspaper frontpages. "Planet R: Impending Doom of World!" screams the Yokohama News. "Planet R Visible in 15 Days--Say Scientists!" proclaims the Tokyo Times. "Experts Doubt if Space People Exist!" says the Tokyo Herald. "World Congress Denies Japan Request for Action!" yells the Japan Express. Strangely, one of the papers has a grainy photo of what looks like an American Navy jet fighter on an aircraft carrier's deck.

In the meantime, Japan alone is making preparations for the day. We see that word of Matsuda's super weapon formula has reached the press. The press proclaims this as a potential savior if nuclear weapons are not to be used.

We now go to Matsuda's house where he's talking with his wife about the newspaper reports of his super weapon. He is discouraged because, while he has the theoretical formula, he has no way of constructing the mechanical apparatus to test and utilize it. This is the common problem of science. Far-thinking ideas can be imagined, but the engineering problems involved with making them come true are often insurmountable.

A visitor is admitted to see Matsuda, a greasy looking man wearing sunglasses. This will turn out to be a middleman for the Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia), and he wants to buy Matsuda's formula! The doctor wisely throws him out, but we just know that this is not the last we will see of him.


Sunglasses=evil.

And so two weeks pass and the scientists all gather around the big telescope. As predicted, the glowing speck of light that is Planet R appears. The room buzzes with concern and worry, everyone is convinced that the end is here if the world can't get its act together soon. Reports start coming in from observatories all over the world, and now everyone knows that the danger is real. An announcement is made, and the World Congress has reconvened in an emergency session to consider the joint use of nuclear weapons.


Bigass telescope.

Calculations show that impact will be in 50 days. Much ado is made about the heat from Planet R roasting the Earth long before that. And so the Chief of Police orders that Tokyo be evacuated. We get a series of evacuation shots of people loading cars and getting on busses. All very well, but why abandon Tokyo? Where are all these millions of people going? Underground to escape the heat, I presume, but is there a place in Japan large enough to hold all these millions of people?

We now reconnect with Doctor Matsuda, who is in deep trouble. He has been kidnapped by the Yakuza, who want his super formula. They drag him to an abandoned building in Tokyo, empty now that everyone has evacuated, and tie him to a chair. They offer to pay him well enough "to live like a king in South America". Matsuda refuses and they have to get rough with him. I guess they fail to get the formula, because later we see him still tied to the chair and alone.


Tied up and left to die.

Back at the observatory, we see that all the kids from the school in the country where Taeko works are being led down into the shelter in the basement. Ah, now I see. The school is close by the observatory, so before when they were out in the country, they really didn't have to go very far.

News is passed that Doctor Matsuda has disappeared on his way from his house to the observatory. Everyone is concerned as they are counting on his formula now. But more immediate concerns are pressing as Planet R begins to affect the weather. For some reason, the planet's approach accelerates at rapid rates every now and then, advancing the impact time dramatically without warning. How is this happening? What would make the planet's velocity increase at rates that were not expected? You would think that velocity would increase at a constant rate as gravity increases the closer it comes to Earth. I think this is just a way to add dramatic tension to the plot.

Outside, we see that the sky has turned a bright orange and the weather has become violent. I still just don't understand how a planet approaching could cause such effects. Sure, there would be tidal effects from the gravitational pull, but where is all this ambient heat coming from? Maybe they meant it to be a comet when they were writing the script, thus having the heat from the comet cause all this mess, but then changed it to a planet later? But comets don't produce heat, just dust and ionized gas. Bad science.

And just where did Planet R come from? Hikari said that it was from "another galaxy", but how is that possible? Something must have ejected it from its own solar system and sent it flying out into open space towards our system. Maybe it's Nemesis, coming back into the area after a long orbit out in space?

Anyway, I am getting off track here. The revised estimate of impact is now just 20 days. The World Congress now announces that they are going to launch all their nukes at the planet tonight.

I'm not sure the whole nuclear weapons plan will work. Assuming that it's really as large a body as the visuals would have us believe, by this point Planet R is so close to Earth that it's being pulled in large part by the gravity of the sun and in a smaller part by the gravities of the Earth and moon. I can't imagine that any explosion would alter its path enough to counteract gravity and momentum. I guess they could maybe shatter it, if it was small enough a body, but many of the fragments would still be following the same trajectory as before and Earth would still suffer impacts. I also guess they could try the Armageddon thing or the Deep Impact thing and put an explosive physically into the crust of the planet, but they don't have the ability to do that.

Hey, but the Pairans do, right? Or at least they should. They are so advanced to have had space travel for at least the last 4,000 years, certainly they have some sort of way to help with Planet R. They say they have disavowed war and weapons, but can't they whip something up for a special occasion? They have the spaceships to bring any solution directly to the planet, which allows more possible solutions. I am beginning to think that the Pairans want the Earth destroyed.

Anyway, they fire off the nukes as the scientists watch through the telescope. We see their view as little spots of white erupt all over the face of the incoming planet. They have no effect on the planet's path, which is not a surprise. If the intent was to deflect it wouldn't it have been better to try and hit the planet on one side to maximize the weapon's effects? If they were trying to blow it up, then they need a bigger bomb.

Hmmm...Doctor Matsuda had a formula for a bigger bomb, right? Too bad he's dead. He's been tied up in a chair for "over a month" in a building with no food or water, as the air gets hotter and drier by the day. Tough luck for him.

Time passes. Back at the observatory, we learn that it is now just five days to impact. Tidal forces are wracking the planet, flooding entire nations. Water even reaches the observatory up on its hill, flooding out the basement levels. Down below, the group of children and the scientists have now just resigned themselves to their fate. They lie around sullenly and reflect on their lives.


Blood orange sky.

Suddenly, Hikari materializes in the room! What the hell? We last saw her at the 48 minute mark, some 30 days ago in movie-time, and now it is at the 78 minute mark. Where they hell were these all-powerful aliens for the last 30 minutes? Who wrote this script? Hikari tells them that "now they can help them" and wants to know where Doctor Matsuda is. They tell her he has been missing for a month. She then says that Matsuda is wearing a Pairan homing beacon ring (he is?) and they can track him. She leaves to do so.

Ok, what the hell? Why did you all wait so long before coming to help us? Were you frantically working on a way to utilize Matsuda's formula? Couldn't you at least have called and said, "We're working here, hang in there."? These aliens are bastards.

Now that just can't be...Hikari finds Matsuda STILL ALIVE? But he has been tied up for a month without water! He has to be dead! But no, he is alive enough to give her the secret formula. Sure hope he isn't delirious from the heat, he might miss an element or a drop a subscript.

He's also alive enough to stumble all the way back to the observatory! We see him working his way through the burning streets, dodging falling rubble and dust storms to get back. Hey, thanks aliens, thanks for assuring Matsuda got home safe. Back at the observatory, Matsuda is greeted like a hero, and rightfully so.


Run, Matsuda, run!


His homing ring (he must have known what it is as it's so big and obvious) is also a radio. We hear Hikari tell the scientists that the formula is now up and running and they have put the warhead on a rocket and are preparing to fire it from the space station. Ok, ok, I guess that's why they took so long, they were building the rocket and all that.

Accompanied by some terrible miniature rocket visuals of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger quality, we see the Pairan missile smack into Planet R. The planet cracks and explodes in a massive boom! Yes!


Lame.

No! Wouldn't many of those chunks still be headed for earth, and now at increased velocities? Indeed, we see Earth shaken by shockwaves and small impacts. The observatory is rocked, debris falling on everyone. The screen fades to black.

And then lightens slowly, showing us that survivors are coming out of hiding to blue skies and chirping birds. The children run out of the observatory cheering and laughing, all is well! I love happy endings.

The Japanese version ended here, with rabbits and cats coming out of hiding and into the sun. The American version adds a few minutes of Hikari transforming herself back into starfish form. They just took the footage from before of her turning into Hikari and ran it backwards. I guess that helped to bookend the film better.

And there you go, not a bad movie for the price. Go buy it. The end.

[Editor Pam: Somebody didn't work hard enough putting the plot together for this movie, but it still has a certain vintage charm. The starfish aliens are original, and after you've seen them a few times, don't seem quite as laughable. I can overlook most of the problems with this movie, but the one really glaring one is having Dr. Matsuda tied up for a month and finding him still alive. That one really needed to be fixed before the movie was released. Nevertheless, it's worth watching.]

Written in April 2005 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.



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