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Director: Greydon Clark
Writer: Lyn Freeman, Daniel Grodnik, Ben Nett, Bennett Tramer, Steve Mathis
Cast: Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Tarah Nutter
Length: 89 min
Label: Shout! Factory
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Greg and Sandy’s Alien Adventures: Interview with cast members Christopher S. Nelson and Tarah Nutter
- Producers vs. Aliens with Daniel Grodnik: Interview with Co-Producer/Co-Writer Daniel Grodnik
- Hunter’s Blood with Greg Cannom: Interview with Special Effects Make Up Creator Greg Cannom
- Independents Day with Dean Cundey: Interview with Cinematographer Dean Cundey
- Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Greydon Clark
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery
The impact of Ridley’s Scott’s Alien (1979) is nearly incalculable; and while the film had its referents—despite his incessant claims that he hadn’t seen the film, Bava’s Planet of the Vampires is present in Scott’s vision—Alien made the Sci-Fi-Slasher a mainstream reality. In the years following its release, numerous films have surfaced following suit in meshing the worlds of Sci-Fi and Horror, capitalizing on the crossover appeal. Emerging from these films is Greydon Clark’s 1980 cult classic, Without Warning (aka It Came…Without Warning). Without Warning wasn’t Clark’s first foray in the horror sub-genre. Making his first mark—alongside Without Warning Cinematographer, Dean Cundey (Halloween, Escape from New York)—with a string of Blaxploitation films, Clark first entered into the horror genre with Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977). With Cundey once again by his side, the team produced Without Warning for a measly budget of $150,000 three years later. Following its theatrical release, the film vanished into obscurity—with only a few various bootlegs available for purchase. Since their foundation, in 2012, Scream Factory has received incessant requests to unearth this absent gem; and the requests were finally heard. Now, for the first time on Blu-Ray/DVD in America, Without Warning has landed.
Without Warning’s story is as simple as it gets. A small town, along with a group of teenagers, begins to slowly be picked off by a mysterious creature that lurks in the woods. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that the deaths are likely the cause of an extraterrestrial hunter. If this is starting to sound vaguely similar it is probably because—as many have noted—Predator would play with very similar plot only seven years later. But, while many have been quick to make this comparison, any semblance to Predator, beyond an alien hunting human prey, is bare.
Without a doubt, the film’s shining feature is Dean Cundey’s cinematography. Only a year following the success of Halloween, Cundey’s lighting and camera work are nothing short of stunning. Much like his work in Escape from New York and The Fog, Cundey utilizes a thick veneer of fog to create an ominous atmosphere with little lighting. Cundey’s talent is demonstrated the clearest in the lighting of the alien. Shrouding the alien in darkness, utilizing just enough light to allow the audience periodic glimpses, Cundey hides the imperfections of the low-budget creature design. Showing great promise, even at this earlier stage in his career, it’s no wonder that Cundey would go on to work on blockbusters like Jurrasic Park and Back to the Future.
What may come as a surprise, to those unfamiliar with the film, is that Without Warning—despite of its measly budget—had a rather impressive cast; featuring Martin Landau, Jack Palance, and Ralph Meeker (his final role before passing away). In addition, you may recognize a young David Caruso (CSI: Miami) filling out the cast. But, whether it was the film’s script, Clark’s direction, or just something in the air, there is an infectious insanity among the cast. Most notable, Palance and Landau both offer rather odd performances. Landau steals the show as the town kook, with every scene he is in a delight to ingest. As far as Landau is concerned, the insanity fits his character; but Palance is another story. From the first moment his character is introduced he is seething with eccentricity. His delivery and consistent licking of his lips appears to force the viewers into believing that Palance is up to no good, possibly even inhuman. But, as you will learn, Palance becomes one of the film’s principle heroes—rushing in to save the day last minute. Because of this, Palance’s role—to no fault of his own, his performance was delightful—seems thinly written, an easy ploy to cause narrative confusion.
The film’s major flaw does not, however, come in the form of the thin characterization, but with the editing/run-time. Without Warning overstays its welcome. Only clocking in around 89 minutes, the film still feels about 15 minutes too long. This is most likely due to the fact that, with the exception of a single-shot where it can be seen for a brief moment hiding in the bushes, the alien isn’t revealed until almost the end. Prior to its appearance, the alien stalks its prey with the assistance of flying-tentacled pods. While the effect is successful, it would be interesting to know what the film would have been like had the alien been present earlier. It must be kept in mind that working with a very limited budget Clark and his team did what they could to build suspense, resulting in an entertaining, if not flawed, low-budget sci-fi slasher.
Without sounding like a broken record, those who are familiar with Scream Factory’s name will know what they are getting into with this release. Not a top-tier film, Scream Factory present an satisfactory representation of the film; and, considering it is currently the only option for Region 1 fans, who could complain. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer, in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is not without its faults. There are some artifacts, specs of dust, dirt, and other age related depreciations that one may suspect, but all in all the print—for a film that has not received much attention—is surprisingly clean. Colors are rather rich and the detail level is strong. The picture is sharpest when the exposure is at its best (during the brightest shots), but even in the darkest moments the print manages to stay solid.
In terms of the film’s audio track, there are fewer errors to report on. There appears to be no damage, such as hiss, cracks or pops present. While the audio track isn’t necessarily verbose, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 delivers a well-balanced mix, most likely an extremely faithful representation working with what the low-budget print offered.
In addition to the standard addition of the trailer and stills gallery, Scream Factory’s Without Warning has a few treats. An obvious favorite of ours was the interview with cinematographer Dean Cundey, Independents Day with Dean Cundey. Fondly recalling working on the film, Cundey gives an insider’s look into creating the aesthetic. A 15-minute film school lesson, this interview is perfect for any cinephile, filmmaker, and/or fan of Cundey. Greg and Sandy’s Alien Adventures, a twenty-minute featurette presenting interviews with cast members Christopher S. Nelson and Tarah Nutter, is entertaining but suffers from the same problems that most unknown b-film actor interviews do: it is a bit dry, focusing mostly on behind-the-scenes stories. Both Producers vs. Aliens with Daniel Grodnik, an eleven minute interview with co-producer/co-writer of the film Daniel Grodnik, and Hunter’s Blood with Greg Cannom, a five-minute interview with special make up effects creator Greg Cannom, deserve at least a watch; with Grodnik’s piece proving to be the more entertaining of the two. Finally, Scream Factory has included a full audio commentary with Producer/Director Greydon Clark. While the commentary track has some of the mundane aspects of the The Final Terror release, fans of the film will find enough worthwhile content to justify a listen.
A sci-fi-slasher hybrid, featuring three iconic actors, shot by Dean Cundey, and directed by Greydon Clark, Without Warning offers more than enough reasons to check it out. A fun, campy romp through the woods, the film transcends the typical cat and mouse chase film. While the story is a bit lacking, the great character acting and the visual innovation provide enough entertainment to drive the film home. With more care being given than one may suspect, Scream Factory’s included special features really make the package speak for itself. Without Warning is a film that will nestle nicely between Scream Factory’s other titles, and is another addition to a great run on summer creature features this year.