|Review||Without Warning (1980)||Director||Greydon Clark|
|Writers||Lyn Freeman, Daniel Grodnik, Bennet Tramer and Steve Mathis|
|Cast||Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Cameron Mitchell, Neville Brand, Ralph Meeker, Larry Storch, Lynn Theel and David Caruso|
“Aliens ain’t human you know!” – Fred Dobbs
An alien has come to earth to hunt humans for sport. Youngsters Sandy (Nutter), Greg (Nelson), Beth (Theel) and Tom (Caruso) travel to a lake somewhere in California and cross paths with the deadly visitor. Local gas station owner, and hunting enthusiast, Joe Taylor (Palance) and former soldier, and now certified nutcase, Fred Dobbs (Landau) know of the alien and are out to get it for themselves. Problem is that Fred is more of an obstacle as he comes to believe that Sandy and Greg are conspiring with the alien.
“Without Warning” is a fun cross between gruesome sci-fi and slasher flicks that were doing good business in the late seventies and early eighties. The film plays it relatively straight and is all the better for it as it honestly goes for thrills and an ominous mood. A real coup was getting two terrific old timers Palance and Landau to headline the proceedings and inject real intensity into their wacky characters. They certainly help distinguish “Without Warning” and raise it from being of interest to only genre fans into being also a real curio.
Most will also recognize that the film is quite similar in theme to the classic “Predator” (1987) and maybe served as a bit of an inspiration (it’s even got the same actor/stuntman playing the extra-terrestrial – the late Kevin Peter Hall). It’s quite low-budget and not very graphic as such but there’s a nifty icky gadget the alien uses to subdue it’s prey; miniature carnivorous flying disks that attach themselves to the victim and drain them slowly of their blood. Now if that’s not a vivid imagination I don’t know what is!
There’s an old school charm to “Without Warning” that makes it attractive today. It blends in with it’s sci-fi terror the unshakable formula of attractive no-name youngsters who serve as both slaughter fodder and protagonists and employs relative has-beens Palance and Landau (years before late career comebacks) for name appeal. Mayhem is a bit on the light side and evidently there were some add-ons shot late in the game; the prologue with Mitchell was reportedly an afterthought. In fact “Without Warning” does drag a bit in the middle section but it never becomes boring thanks to a solid established mood and appealing lead performances from Nutter and Nelson. Credit also for it’s casting includes the likes of Brand (“Eaten Alive” – 1976) and Meeker (“Paths of Glory” – 1957) as bar patrons who make fun of Landau’s character. Palance is genuinely weird as Joe Taylor but he sure as hell ain’t boring to watch and Landau goes completely overboard as Fred Dobbs but, again, he’s not boring to watch.
The craftsmanship of “Without Warning” has to be applauded too. Lensed by maestro Dean Cundey (“Halloween” – 1978, “The Thing” – 1982); the film’s look is very appealing with some very nice framings and the night scenes do look splendid. The alien make-up looks fine especially when the creature is a bit covered in shadows. The limited special effects do their bit well enough although you can clearly see the wires on the flying disks when they approach their targets in broad daylight. But that’s part of the charm of low-budget genre filmmaking. Director Greydon Clark keeps things moving along nicely especially since the four people screenwriting team isn’t able to properly fill in the 90+ minutes with enough material and set-pieces are generally well staged; particularly some nasty encounters with blood sucking flying disks. For cult enthusiasts “Without Warning” is an easy recommendation.