Blu-ray Review: Without Warning

There’s a normal routine to how a movie gains a cult following. First it has a low profile theatrical release that gets botched by the studio. The movie gets shown often on UHF channels in the early ’80s. It becomes a hot rental on VHS at mom and pop video stores. It comes out on DVD in numerous special editions. Finally gets put out on Blu-ray because the cult is avid to upgrade. Without Warning didn’t have that path to Blu-ray. The film was one of the last acquisitions by American International Pictures, but wasn’t released with the AIP logo since the studio was bought and shuttered by Filmways. When it did come out, there was little hype. The movie ended up on HBO and The CBS Late Movie that existed before the arrival of Late Show With David Letterman. Shockingly enough, there was no legit VHS release during the ’80s and ’90s. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray/DVD release of Without Warning is the first time you could buy the film in nearly 35 years. How could this be? Without Warning is an amazing piece of work filled with plenty of major talent on both sides of the camera.

The movie opens up with Cameron Mitchell (The High Chaparral) taking his reluctant son hunting in the wilderness. The kid is being a great big pain when it comes to waking up and getting out of the RV. Cameron isn’t having any of his excuses. He’s ready to go hunting. Little does he realize that he’s the hunted. Weird alien creatures that fly through the air like ninja throwing stars land on him and suck his blood. So much for their fun. Unknowing of this situation, two teen boys (CSI: Miami‘s David Caruso & Roller Boogie‘s Christopher S. Nelson) have their van ready to take two ladies (Tarah Nutter & Lynn Theel) up to the lake for summer fun. The kids have no cares. They won’t listen to the warnings given them by numerous elderly character actors. Jack Palance does his best to scare them off at the gas station. But the kids won’t be stopped. They can’t get dissuaded by the slightly nutsy Martin Landau. They have no idea what happened to Larry Storch (F Troop) and his cub scouts that were victims of an alien attack. For the first part of their time at the lake, it’s all fun in the water. But then the alien arrives. Things get nasty in the wilderness. Will the kids and the character actors survive the night?

This movie needs to come with a warning that the higher resolution makes the pasty skin of David Caruso turn your HDTV white hot. I don’t how the alien could keep its eyes open while aiming to throw the star critters at Caruso. Although his brightness is dimmed by the over the top acting from both Palance and Landau. They are like King Kong versus Godzilla when they share the screen. Neither man is going to leave an inch of scenery uneaten. It’s brilliant to watch them go after each other. They play the bar scene so huge that the normally over acting Neville Brand (The Untouchables) is considered a minimalist in his performance. What’s amazing is that both Palance and Landau would go on to win Oscars for their respective work on City Slickers and Ed Wood. Director Greydon Carter (Satan’s Cheerleaders) doesn’t have a problem with them tearing up the screen so the duo obscure the giant alien. Luckily he has Dean Cundey as the cinematographer. Filming Palance and Landau must have prepared him for T. Rex vs. the raptor in Jurassic Park.

Without Warning does a fine job of keeping up the chase while allowing so many of its older cast show off their talent. The kids don’t completely get overshadowed by the showbiz vets. But Landau and Palance try their best to make you forget who the alien is truly stalking.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The high resolution transfer brings out the detail on the blood sucking aliens. There’s a lot of night scenes so the film was pushed. The audio is DTS-HD Master Mono. You will hear every chew swapped between Landau and Palance. The movie is subtitled.

DVD has all the stuff featured on the Blu-ray.

Audio Commentary with Greydon Clark is filed with plenty of detail. He explains how the film only had a budget of $150,000 and nearly half of that went to Landau and Palance. They shot the film in three weeks.

Greg & Sandy’s Alien Adventures (20:45) catches up with Christopher S. Nelson and Tarah Nutter. Both had to buy a ticket to see themselves in the film.

Producers VS. Aliens (11:25) focuses on co-producer Daniel Grodnik’s work on the film. He was also making Terror Train. Once Greydon Clark came on board, Grodnik didn’t need to do much.

Hunter’s Blood (5:56) gives special make-up effects man Greg Cannom a time to chat about the his time pumping blood around the set.

Independents Day (15:06) allows cinematographer Dean Cundey to reflect on his fifth collaboration with Clark. Cundey was getting major offers after shooting Halloween. But he made the film with Clark. He speaks of the low budget.

Theatrical Trailer (1:42) was probably not shown at a theater near you.

Still Gallery has dozens of pics from the production including various posters.

Without Warning is an obscure gem from 1980. The mixing of teens, bloodsucking aliens and veteran characters actors keeps the action hopping. The interaction between Landau and Palance should be legendary.

Scream Factory presents Without Warning. Directed by Greydon Clark. Starring: Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Cameron Mitchell, Larry Storch and Trah Nutter. Rated: R. Running Time: 96 minutes. Boxset Contents: 1 Blu-ray & 1 DVD. Released: August 5, 2014.