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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Without Warning (1980) review


This is a section devoted to rare, obscure and as yet to be released on legitimate DVD movies. Some films may have been released in some part of the world, or on some public domain label, or some may have simply never been released at all on the digital format. This section is designed to keep these films alive and to provide remembrance to those who may have seen them in some form or other, whether it be on the silver screen, video tape, or the small screen at home.


Christopher S. Nelson (Greg), Tarah Nutter (Sandy), Jack Palance (Taylor), Martin Landau (Dobbs), David Caruso (Tom), Lynn Theel (Beth), Sue Ane Langdon (Aggie), Neville Brand (Leo), Larry Storch (Scoutmaster), Ralph Meeker (Dave), Cameron Mitchell (hunter)

Directed by Greydon Clark

***NOTE: This review of WITHOUT WARNING is representative of a broadcast from the Canadian Drive In Channel. The title on this version of the film as seen from the screencap above is one of its alternate titles, THE WARNING.

"That Alien...he came down here for the sport! He wants to get himself a few trophies, and you know what? Right now, you and me...we are the prize!"

A huge alien predator from outer space comes to Earth in search of human trophies. A group of young people try to survive the night against the intergalactic menace and his organic, flying, plasma sucking creatures.

Bad movie director, Greydon Clark helmed this interesting 1980 horror picture, the most well known on his resume. Essentially a slasher movie replacing the titular masked murderer with a tall alien hunter, WITHOUT WARNING differentiates itself with some low budget creativity. There's some very nice atmosphere most prominently during the night sequences and a couple of scenes generate some decent suspense. Clark's direction is akin to most of his other directorial efforts; lazy at times with bad dialog and an overabundance of hamminess.

The alien (played by frequent creature performer, Kevin Peter Hall) is a nice design with its blank, dead eyes and large bulbous head. The costume for the monster is a bit unusual as well. Originally, the alien was to have used a bow and arrow as its primary weapon of death. According to Clark, it was his idea to do away with the more Earthly style weapon and opted for a more creatively gruesome method for the otherworldly visitor to snatch his victims. Instead, the alien has these organic, toothy creatures that are attached to its hosts body. He rips one away and throws it like a frisbee at his prey. The spinning critters stick themselves to their victims and sprout tendrils preventing them being torn from the skin. The creatures then suck away blood and other juices from the unfortunates body.

The flying discs of death aren't realized in much of a realistic fashion, but once they latch onto a victim, the grue is quite effective (courtesy of Greg Cannom). If anything, WITHOUT WARNING contains one of the most intriguing monsters in horror cinema. I remember seeing the trailer for the film back in 1980 and shortly thereafter me and my father went out to see it at the local theater. It made an impression on me at the time, but upon seeing it again years later, it serves as little more than a curiosity piece with an occasional good moment here and there.

Greydon Clark made a career out of working in 'B' movies whether it be in front of, or behind the camera. He made appearances in many of his films as well as films from other directors. Some of his directorial work includes the blaxploitation riot, BLACK SHAMPOO (1976), SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1977), another star studded alien opus called THE RETURN (1980) the slasher spoof, WACKO (1982) and the hilariously bad mutant killer cat aboard a yacht flick, UNINVITED (1988).

Clark was good friends with a lot of old Hollywood actors and assembled many of them for this movie. The extended sequence inside the bar seems to go on forever and comes off as just a showcase for Palance, Landau and Brand to spout a lot of bad dialog and act insane for about 15 minutes. Palance and Landau (especially Landau) play their characters as completely bonkers and on the verge of a breakdown. At one point, Landau's character somehow ends up with a police vehicle and picks up the two main characters having been chased through the woods by the flying disc creatures. He then attempts to kill them when they manage to escape the car and jump off a bridge into the water below.

Jack Palance takes center stage among the more notable performers on hand. Interestingly, he plays his role of Joe Taylor in an almost identical vein to the military psychopath he played in the superior slasher movie, ALONE IN THE DARK (1982). Palance had an mesmerizing face that served him well especially in villain roles. He has dabbled in just about every genre you can think of. A very popular actor in European territories, Palance lent his talents to all manner of genre cinema in Italy appearing in horror, westerns and modern day crime pictures among his extensive resume. Palance also played himself as the host of the original RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT, OR NOT (1982-1986) television show. That series retained a more macabre horror tone than its later incarnation with Dean Cain as host.

Martin Landau, another alumni from ALONE IN THE DARK who also played a nutjob, plays a similarly unhinged character in WITHOUT WARNING. Unlike Palance, Landau is unbearably over the top. One gets the impression he really didn't want to do this movie as his acting is some of the worst in the picture. Landau was an Oscar winning actor whose career followed a similar trajectory to that of his colleague, Jack Palance. He has a massive resume filled with all manner of television and cinema roles such as THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE WILD, WILD WEST, THE OUTER LIMITS and GUNSMOKE to name just a few. Landau will most likely be best remembered for his recurring role in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1966-1969) tv series and the lead in the science fiction program, SPACE: 1999 (1975-1978).

Larry Storch was a familiar face on television and movies. He was a great friend of Tony Curtis (Jaime Lee's dad) and the two did a string of movies together. Storch, like a fair number of other old Hollywood actors and actresses, did voiceover work on cartoons and dozens of television work including two hilarious episodes on GOMER PYLE U.S.M.C. (1964-1969) where Storch played General Manuel Cortez. Storch is probably best known for his role on F TROOP (1965-1967), a goofy and fun anachronistic western comedy program.

David Caruso, who later found major fame on the popular CSI: MIAMI (2002-2009) show got his start in low budget pictures and various tv shows as well. His role in WITHOUT WARNING is the typical disposable oversexed teen who meets a gruesome end at the hands of the monster. He did get to make out with the beautiful Lynn Theel before meeting his doom. Theel was also mutilated by monsters the same year in the cult classic exploitation flick, HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980; also reviewed here).

Neville Brand was a oft seen character actor on television and had starring roles on such popular programs such as LAREDO (1965-1967) and guest appearances on shows like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, WAGON TRAIN, GUNSMOKE and THE VIRGINIAN. He had a somewhat memorable horror lead role in Tobe Hooper's EATEN ALIVE (1976).

Ralph Meeker is another familiar face on television having appeared in shows such as ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and IRONSIDE and movies like THE ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE and THE DIRTY DOZEN (both 1967). Cameron Mitchell had a recurring role on the popular western show, THE HIGH CHAPARRAL (1967-1971) among dozens and dozens of other credits. He has a brief role in WITHOUT WARNING during the outset, and his resume is littered with far too many grade Z movies (although some of them have a high fun factor of their own) when his career took a downward spiral towards the end of the 1960's.

WITHOUT WARNING (1980) has a healthy fan base and oddly enough, it's never been released on tape or DVD in America. There were VHS releases in foreign countries, but not in its home country of origin. Despite its many shortcomings, it nonetheless has a goofy charm all its own that at least makes it worth one viewing for the peculiar creatures. Old school horror fans will also get a big kick out of spotting many of the familiar faces from tv and movies.


Jack J said...

I discovered your blog thru your Dvdmaniacs link and I'm glad I did cos it's very cool!

Anyway, yes it sounds very strange "It came without warning" has never been granted a release in the US. I have it on VHS from Denmark!

venoms5 said...

Hey, Jack! How are you? Great to have you posting here! I got at least one Shaw horror on here already that I'm sure you've seen as I know you're a big Asian horror buff.

Take care,

Jack J said...

Thank you, and yes BEWITCHED sits nicely next to my BOXER'S OMEN vcd! LOL.

venoms5 said...

The Image DVD was a welcome addition to my library. I could see a big difference from the VCD and the DVD. I didn't see a major problem with the combing effects on the DVD that a lot of people complained about. A couple places, yes, but not enough for me to make much of a fuss.

I plan on posting a write up on that one as well as some others. There's one I'm looking for from Tony Lu called MAGIC CURSE (1977) that looks good.

Jack J said...

I don't know anything about the reported problems with the OMEN DVD. The reason I haven't bought it is mainly due to the wrong audio track; the VCD contains the original Cantonese track and the DVD doesn't. I'm sure the DVD look heaps better on a big ass screen TV but I have a 28" TV and the Celestial VCD looks fine on that (yes, I'm easy).

Ahh, THE MAGIC CURSE!! I believe it's quite rare. I have a letterboxed UK video of it (which is certainly very rare) and altho it's not a dark horror movie like those other two mentioned it IS very entertaining! Check the cover for my tape here:

venoms5 said...

Oh, yes, the audio issue. A lot of fans have problems with the audio. Me personally, I don't much care really considering the films were shot silently and the various actors were speaking different dialects anyways so there really isn't a definitive language when you get down to it, but I understand folks enjoy hearing a certain dialect more than some others.

I couldn't see the cover for the tape, but there was a French DVD of the film. I don't know if there was an English track on it or not.

Eibon said...

Nice write up! I can't believe this has never received an official release on any home format in the USA.

I love this film. You could say that Predator was a big budget remake... even as far as using the same actor for the alien!

venoms5 said...

Hi, Eibon. Oddly enough, Kevin Peter Hall replaced Jean Claude Van Damme of all people to don the Predator costume.

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