Blu-ray Review: Without Warning (1980, Dir, Greydon Clark)

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I was in 7th grade when this kid I knew told me about Without Warning. Rob was also the one responsible for clueing me in to the existence of Fangoria. His father pretty much took him to all the new horror movies coming out and in turn the following Monday in school he would tell me all about them.

This was the era of the slasher, so I heard more about those kind of movies than any other, but occasionally a “monster movie” would come along, like The Boogens (1981), The Being (1983), The Beast Within (1982), Alien (1979), or Without Warning and I’d be absolutely amazed at what he would tell me about the creatures skulking about in those movies.

With Alien he described a strange creature I couldn’t wrap my brain around. He drew a picture of it, I remember laughing at its hammer shaped head, but the three mouths he drew (in reality two and a mouthed tongue, but that was the power of that movie, you had no idea what the fuck you were looking at) and this bizarre killer tongue fascinated the hell out of me.

When he told me of the ET from Without Warning (yes, I had him draw me a picture of that one too. I usually had him do this every time he saw a monster movie) and those flying organics it whipped at people I became obsessed. He also drew me a photo of those things, which I then took and drew one of my own. I worked on it throughout the day at school. I remember what he said when I finally showed it to him. He took my pencil and said, “That’s pretty good, but you gotta make it cummy all around here,” and then drew in his version of cummy ooze all over it.

10351525_478553022281714_4272806273067980177_nEither Rob inferred or I misunderstood him but until I saw the movie I was under the assumption these flying organics were part of its body. Of course the movie doesn’t imply it one way or the other, all you see is one moment it has one in it’s hand, it throws it and in the next moment its got another, so, yeah, they could be part of it’s body. I like to think they are. Makes the whole movie creepier.

When the weekend came I got the idea of trying to make one out of cardboard. It was pretty descent and it flew like a Frisbee when I tossed it, I just couldn’t come up with any way to make it stick to things.

When I finally saw the movie on cable some time later I had missed a good chunk of it. I was channel surfing and came upon the scene with Martin Landau having his ‘Nam flashback as the sheriff he accidentally shot is carted away; he’s lit by the red light of the ambulance, saluting and uttering his serial number. From what Rob had told me I just knew this was Without Warning and cursed myself for not knowing it was on sooner. I watched the rest and told him the following day in school that I had seen it and I thought it was kind of boring but I loved the alien and his flying organics.

The next time I ran into this movie was in 2008 or 2009 when Showtime aired it this one and only time, though I have this vague memory while playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school (I was mostly the DM) that I may have created stats for those flying organics and put them in an adventure.

Again WIthout Warning was another movie I had seen once and then not again until decades later, and also one that I wasn’t all that impressed with, but when I saw the listing for it in the TV guide for that Showtime airing it was like seeing the name of a dear old friend I had forgotten all about. Oh, yeah, I recorded it, too, but on tape, I had yet to get a DVD recorder. This time out I was immediately struck by Jack Palance’s acting. The only movies of his I was ever really familiar with were his later comedies (City Slickers, City Slickers 2, Cops & Robbersons) and his bad guy role in Tango & Cash (1989), but seeing him in his younger years (on the commentary Greydon Clark says he was in his 60s when he did the movie) playing this serious-everyman-hero, Joe Taylor it abruptly reminded me just how good this man’s acting was back in the day.

The second thing I was struck by was seeing now famous David Caruso in a small role as one of the doomed kids (according to Clark on the commentary this was his very first role), and the last thing that struck me was that Lynn Theel had an equally small role as his girlfriend. I think we all remember Theel better from her more memorable stint in Humanoids From The Deep (1980)

The next time I bump into this flick was when the MGM-HD channel came into being and they had remastered it for an airing, and it aired repeatedly on that channel for a while afterwards, too. I had someone record it for me and chucked out my tape immediately when I finally got it.

When Without Warning starts we get a prologue of a father (Cameron Mitchell) and son (Darby Hinton) on a hunting trip that isn’t going as planned. The son doesn’t want to hunt, but the father does and, well, they run into the alien, actually the alien’s flying organics run into them, and that’s all we see of the alien menace.

The movie then focuses on two couples, Tom (David Caruso) and Beth (Lynn Theel) and Greg (Christopher S. Nelson) and Sandy (Tarah Nutter), all of who are headed into this new town and down to the lake for some good ol’ fashioned “fun in the sun.” Along the way they bump into Joe Taylor (the late Jack Palance) who runs Taylor Gas, the gas station the kids stop at which coincidentally is where Sandy runs into Fred Dobbs (Martin Landau), a not quite right in the head Vietnam vet, in the restroom. Taylor doesn’t waste any time in warning them not to go down to the lake when he finds out that’s exactly where they’re headed. He doesn’t say why, he’s just overly aggressive in making sure he gets some kind of promise from them that they won’t, which they give, but obviously break once they’re back on the road again.

At the lake both couples separate once Greg and Beth, who are just meeting for the first time on this trip, clearly see their friends are eager to do some hip-slamming.

This is where our alien hunter strikes, killing Tom and Beth, a scene that was shot (see Fangoria #171 for photo evidence) but cut from the film. All we know in the final cut is what Greg and Beth know when they get back and can’t find either of their friends, which is nothing. Best guess, they went for a walk after doing the beast with two backs.

After a decent amount of time goes by and they don’t show up both of them go looking for them and stumble upon a Water Department shed out in the middle of this field. Looking inside they find hanging on hooks the mutilated remains of their friends, as well as the father and son from the prologue and Larry Storch from another cut away segment.

By the time Taylor and Dobbs come back into the picture we get the sense this alien hunter has been around for a time and that both men have previously encountered those flying organics of its before. Taylor even shows Sandy the scar on his arm where one latched on to it. Dobbs on the other hand has been digging pits in the woods to see if he can trap the thing.

Dobbs eventually becomes our human villain, thinking Beth and Greg are aliens and Taylor tries to become the movie’s hero. All this leads up to a nocturnal confrontation with the seven foot tall bulbous-headed ET out there in that field next to that shed.

The alien FX is impressive and so are its alien organics; at night their edges light up in a couple of scenes, and in another there looks to be a tuft of pubic-like hair on top. In a couple of shots you can just barely see the wires used to make them fly and spin.

This is one of those rare movies that never came out on VHS or laserdisc here in the States. Bootleg or wait for one of those once in a blue moon cable airings was the only way you could see this for a long, long time. Well, here we are 34 years later with an actual legitimate home video release (a DVD/Blu-ray Combo) having occurred earlier this month from Scream Factory (Shout! Factory’s genre sub-label).

I’d rank the blu-ray 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen remaster up there with Scream’s other two restorations, Deadly Eyes (1982) and The Final Terror (1983), I reviewed recently. The colors and vividness are extraordinary.

General audio for the blu—2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio only.

There are also subtitles—English only.

Extras are as follows:

  • Audio Commentary with Producer and Director Greydon Clark
  • Greg and Sandy’s Alien Adventures (20:45)
  • Producers vs. Aliens with Daniel Grodnik (11:25)
  • Hunter’s Blood with Greg Cannom (5:56)
  • Independents Day with Dean Cundey (15:06)
  • Still Gallery (29 photos; screenshots, publicity shots, posters)
  • Theatrical Trailer

The best featurette on this disc is Greg and Sandy’s Alien Adventures, here you get current interviews with actors Tarah Nutter and Christopher S. Nelson. I’m not surprised they couldn’t get David Caruso or Martin Landau, but I am where Lynn Theel is concerned. Anyhow both Nutter and Nelson have got a couple of good anecdotes about working on the movie that director Clark doesn’t share in his commentary. Daniel Grodnik’s interview is pretty good as he goes about telling how the concept came together. He also revealed Rick Baker created the alien’s head. I had no idea Baker was involved in any kind of capacity on this film. I was not all that impressed by Greg Cannom’s short interview, for he didn’t really have a lot to say. I don’t know, I just expected more from him, Cundey’s interview was good, and he seems to really like the film.

I read recently in one review that Without Warning feels like an Outer Limits episode, now that I think about it, yeah, it does. A full length, gory Outer Limits movie.

This is the kind of edition I always hoped it would get when it hit disc, but never really thought it would, so I’m glad it found it’s way to a distributor that loves this film as much as I do.

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REVERSE COVER ART ON THE FAR RIGHT

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