Without Warning Blu-ray Review
Directed by Greydon Clark
Written by Lyn Freeman, Daniel Grodnik, Ben Nett, Steve Mathis
1980, Region A, 97 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 5th, 2014
Jack Palance as Joe Taylor
Martin Landau as Sgt. Fred Dobbs
Tarah Nutter as Sandy
Christopher S. Nelson as Greg
Cameron Mitchell as Hunter
Neville Brand as Leo
Larry Storch as Scoutmaster
David Caruso as Tom
Lynn Theel as Beth
Ralph Meeker as Dave
The lake is usually a perfect place for kids to get away from their troubles and cool off during those hot summer weekends, but for Greg and Sandy, the trip is anything but restful. Their friends Tom and Beth have arranged for this double date, but they are not alone as something is watching. While out searching the woods, our heroes stumble upon a shed filled with corpses and they flee to the nearest town to call the police. Along the way, they discover bizarre alien creatures that look like fried eggs that are hurled like Frisbees by an unknown assailant. Seeking shelter inside the local tavern, they find it is filled with suspicious locals who have heard similar sci-fi ravings from the Sarge, a delusional war vet with emotional problems.
Sarge is his own worst enemy, as he finally has someone to corroborate his stories but is too paranoid to fully trust the kids. Instead, Greg and Sandy team up with Joe Taylor, a hunter intrigued by the possibility of an alien invader, something worthy of a challenge to the old man. The kids frequently find themselves at odds between Sarge and Taylor and are stuck either wandering the woods or investigating abandoned houses. It is no secret that indeed the thing responsible for the killings is a monster intent on collecting human corpses as trophies, but what our heroes are forced to do in order to survive the night is something audiences are just going to have to check out for themselves.
Jack Palance (Tango & Cash) stars as Taylor, the hunter eager to challenge an alien, while the always watchable Martin Landau (Ed Wood) runs around spouting gibberish as the unbalanced Sarge. These two would reunite a few years later in the horror classic Alone in the Dark (1982), and at this point in their careers both actors are closing in on winning Oscars (but not for these performances). Tarah Nutter (Chilly Scenes of Winter) and Christopher S. Nelson (Roller Boogie) are our youthful heroes Sandy and Greg, and they are both instantly likeable as they amble from one wooded location to the next. Their friends Tom (David Caruso, First Blood) and Beth (Lynn Theel, Humanoids from the Deep) are expendable, but bring some lighthearted fun to their scenes. The local bar is filled with brief cameos from a rogue's gallery of grizzled vets, including Neville Brand (Eaten Alive) and Ralph Meeker (The Dirty Dozen) and, for shits and giggles, there are also appearances by Larry Storch (F-Troop) and general bad-ass Cameron Mitchell (No Justice).
In addition to the solid performances from the cast, Without Warning has a few impressive names on the crew, specifically the legendary Dean Cundey (Jurassic Park, Back to the Future) as cinematographer. Cundey had previously teamed with Clark on a number of pictures and despite being in a solid position to leave the low-budget world following his success with John Carpenter's Halloween, remained loyal to the friends who helped start his career and shot this one last cheapie. The alien is designed by an uncredited Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) and the assorted gore f/x and killer fried-egg discs were created by Greg Cannom (The Lost Boys). This picture has enough working for it to make it a fun time viewing with friends, but is hobbled by the slow pacing and gigantic plot holes (like why the kids stick with the old creeps in the woods instead of driving off in their own truck?).
“Kids go camping and they don't come home” is one of my favorite subsets of the horror genre and Without Warning (1980) swaps the maniacal hillbilly with an evil alien and the results are just as satisfying. While it plays the material straight, it wisely never takes itself too seriously. Despite an extremely limited budget, Director Greydon Clark (Black Shampoo) puts everything he has on the screen and it shows. This low-budget precursor to Predator (1987) features a similar plot and even places the same actor (Kevin Peter Hall, Harry and the Hendersons) inside the monster suit, but this picture owes a serious debt to the old-school sci-fi invasion pictures and more closely resembles Don Dohler's low budget classic The Alien Factor (1978).
Without Warning is one of those films that debuted thirty-plus years ago and spent some time on late night cable television following a brief theatrical run. Unfortunately, that is where the story ends for this title, as it never received a legitimate domestic home video release on any format. Now, Scream Factory is correcting this omission with a Blu-ray/ DVD combo that will allow new audiences to finally discover what underground collectors have known for years: that this movie is pretty awesome...and a bit goofy.
Video and Audio:
Without Warning is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has been digitally remastered from original source elements that are in surprisingly good condition. Having only seen the film previously through bootleg video transfers, it is a real treat to be able to see Cundey's work properly represented.
The default DTS-HD MA 2.0 track offers a solid presentation that preserves the original stereo mix. While most of the action is dedicated to the center channel, there are plenty of sound effects from within the woods that cross into several additional speakers. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion and English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
I am going to be a little generous with my rating of the special features included on this disc, as this is quite a bit of material assembled for a film that hasn't been seen in decades.
Greydon Clark provides an audio commentary that is both informative and entertaining, as he begins by revealing the budget and how much of that went to his name actors. His comments never really lag, but I wonder if this track would have benefited from a moderator.
Greg & Sandy's Alien Adventures (21 minutes) with actors Tarah Nutter and Christopher S. Nelson proves that these two are just as friendly as their characters, as they bring a sincerity to their memories of the times working on this film.
Daniel Grodnick (Terror Train) sits down to discuss the origins of the project in the fast-moving featurette Producers VS. Aliens (11 minutes). He is candid in his reflections on the script and the shortcomings of the production, but generally holds positive thoughts for the film.
Make-up artist Greg Cannom offers a nice overview of his contributions in Hunter's Blood (6 minutes), another engaging interview that briefly revisits the prosthetic gags in the picture.
I found Independents Day (15 minutes) with Dean Cundey to be the most interesting section on the disc, as it is always wonderful to hear the man talk about his work in low-budget cinema.. Definitely worth checking out.
A photo gallery offers 29 production stills, many that have never been seen before.
The original theatrical trailer with the extended title It Came Without Warning markets the movie in about the way you would expect.
A DVD copy of the film is also included.