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Directed by Greydon Clark, 1980's Without Warning starts out with a great opening scene in which a middle aged hunting enthusiast (Cameron Mitchell) and his slacker/hippie son (Darby Hinton) are wandering the desert where they're quickly dispatched by weird jellyfish-like flying discs that zip through the air and attach themselves to their backs. Shortly after that, a Boy Scout leader (Larry Storch) suffers a similar fate while the kids scatter and run for their lives. With that out of the way, we know that something is out there.
From here the story introduces us to two couples, Tom (David Caruso) and Beth (Lynn Theel) being the first and Sandy (Tarah Nutter) and Greg (Christopher S. Nelson) the second, recently ‘match made' by the other love birds. They're on a trip out into the sticks for some rest and relaxation, stopping for gas along the way and there meeting a weird old eccentric named Taylor (Jack Palance) who tells them to stay away. No dice. They head up into the forest and shortly thereafter Tom and Beth head out for some alone time, after which Sandy and Greg can't find them. As night draws near, the two run into the killer jellyfish things and escape in their car. They head to the nearest place they can find, a dingy old bar, where Taylor is there along with another local weirdo named Sarge (Martin Landau), a former military guy who insists he was honorably discharged. Sarge also knows exactly what the kids are talking about when they tell him their story, and both he and Taylor wind up taking action in their own unique ways…
Without Warning (which makes its North American home video debut with this release) gets off to a strong start with the two opening kill scenes and then slows down a bit as our four teens head into the woods. From there, once we pass the half way mark, it picks up the pace again so stick with it during that slow spot, the payoff is worth it. Of course, a big part of the draw for this one is going to be seeing Palance and Landau in decent roles. Both of these talented actors excel at playing eccentric types and as you'd expect, they do fine work here. Palance is as grizzled and tough and mean as you could hope for but you know he's trying to do the right thing while Landau is kooky, possibly off his rocker, but he knows more about what's going on in the area than anyone else does, or is at least willing to admit. Both of these roles suit the two actors quite well. On top of that, some of the supporting players are pretty fun to watch here too. David Caruso is all young and baby faced but good in the part while the other young man in the lead, Christopher S. Nelson, is also quite good (he popped up alongside Linda Blair in Rollerboogie!). Cameron Mitchell doesn't last long here but he's fun as the surly hunter and keep your eyes open for cameos from Neville Brand too.
The film also features some pretty decent effects work. The flying jellyfish throwing star things are a goofy concept to be sure but once they latch onto their target and the tubes come out and go under the victim's skin, things get goopy in all the right ways. We also get some grisly ‘aftermath' imagery in a key scene about half way through that is delightfully gross and yeah, that infamous alien in the big finish (given that this guy is on the front cover art, that's not really a spoiler). Sure he looks like he just walked off the set of an Outer Limits episode but that old school sci-fi television show look is half his charm!The Blu-ray:
Without Warning arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The opening credits have got a bit of jitter going on but once we get past that, things shape up quite nicely for a low budget film made over thirty-years ago. Detail is typically quite nice though in the last half of the movie, which takes place pretty much entirely in the dark and without a lot of interior lights to illuminate things, you have to keep your expectations in check. Some minor compression artifacts pop up in the darker scenes but when the movie is playing in exterior daylight settings, the transfer is pretty impressive. Color reproduction is solid, skin tones look good and there is no evidence of any edge enhancement or noise reduction to note. The source used was also obviously in very nice shape as, while there's the expected amount of natural looking film grain, there isn't much in the way of actual print damage to discuss.Sound:
The only audio option provided on the Blu-ray is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix, optional subtitles are provided in English only. This is a solid track that offers clean, clear dialogue and properly balanced levels. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and there's about as much depth as you could hope for given the source material. The score has decent range and the sound effects have good resonance and power behind them but never bury the dialogue. The movie sounds just fine here.Extras:
The extras on the disc start off with an audio commentary featuring producer/director Greydon Clark. While this track doesn't move at a thousand miles an hour, Clark is pretty forthcoming about what works and what doesn't here and he shares some interesting stories about the shoot, the locations, the effects, Dean Cundey's cinematography and, of course, the cast members used in the picture. He also talks up the scattershot release that the film received. He also talks about working on a very tight budget for the picture, how the shots of the alien's starfish disc things were accomplished, and what was removed/restored for the version of the film included on this disc versus the theatrical cut of the movie.
From there, dig into a few featurettes starting with Greg And Sandy's Alien Adventures, a twenty-one minute long interview with actors Christopher S. Nelson and Tarah Nutter. They share some fun stories about working on the film, what it was like interacting with Landau and Palance, how they got into show business and what it was like working with Greydon Clark on the low budget film. The eleven-minute Producers vs. Aliens with Daniel Grodnik is, just like it sounds, an interview with the film's producer. He talks about how he came on board, how and why the script came to need as many rewrites as it got and how Rick Baker was talked into creating the alien's head seen in the film's final sequence. Hunter's Blood With Greg Cannom spends six-minutes with the man who handled most of the makeup effects on the movie. He looks back on it all fairly fondly and talks about how he accomplished some of the bloody effects work featured in the picture. The last featurette is Independents Day With Dean Cundey and it allows the celebrated cinematographer to spend a quarter of an hour talking about the film's he made with Clark and the low budget pictures he worked on in the early part of his career. He also talks about shooting Without Warning specifically, being on location and using Steadicams to get certain shots just right.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the film, a still gallery, promo spots for a few other Scream Factory releases, menus and chapter selection. This release also comes with some nifty reversible cover art. As this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie with identical extras is included inside the Blu-ray case as well.Final Thoughts:
Without Warning may not be a lost masterpiece but it is a really entertaining low budget horror picture that makes the most of its effects set pieces and a few notable cast members. If it takes a little while to get going, the last half makes up for that and Shout! Factory has done an admirable job bringing the film to Blu-ray. The transfer is a good one and the audio quite solid but the plentiful (and genuinely interesting!) extra features are the icing on the cake. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.