Peter’s Retro Reviews: Without Warning (1980)

October 10, 2014

Without Warning posterby Peter Nielsen

”You think we’re the only living creatures in this universe? Do you think with all those stars out there, we’re the only things that exist? Well, I got news for you… We ain’t. We ain’t alone!”

We’re now in week two of the 2014 Spooky Flix Fest and I hope you’ve all enjoyed yourselves so far. Maybe you’ve even picked up a movie-tip along the way; something that you haven’t watched before and would like to check out? If not, don’t feel discouraged, because we have plenty of horror related stuff headed your way in the upcoming weeks. I’m sure you’ll find something scary to watch as the nights grow increasingly darker and longer.

But now…

please, come inside! Have a seat and help yourself to whatever snack or beverage you prefer! Are we all ready and comfy? Ok! Then let me tell you about the movie I’ve chosen for this week…

The four friends Beth, Sandy, Tom and Greg

The four friends Beth, Sandy, Tom and Greg.

August 5, 2014 saw the release of a movie I’ve been looking for, for a very long time. Sure you’ve been able to find pricey tapes or shitty versions online, but now it’s finally available in a nice-looking and affordable Blu-Ray/DVD combo, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about the movie Without Warning from 1980, so you see I’m sticking to the sci-fi/horror theme for one more week, but this time we’re back on Earth.

The movie starts with a hunter going on an early hunting-trip with his son. The son isn’t too keen on it though, but his father is a very persistent man, so he reluctantly goes along anyway. The father is played by a very recognizable actor, namely Cameron Mitchell, who’s been in Kill Squad, The Toolbox Murders and the TV-show The High Chaparral to name a handful of titles. The hunting trip quickly comes to an end, when the two men are killed off only minutes into the movie, so this isn’t so much of a spoiler. It seems that they’re killed by small starfish-like discs flying through the air, attaching themselves to their victims using sharp tentacles that penetrate the skin. It’s all very messy that’s for sure!

Joe Taylor warning the teens!

Joe Taylor warning the teens!

We next meet the four friends Tom, Beth, Sandy and Greg, who are going on a hike in the same area. Tom and Beth are already an item and are kind of setting Greg and Sandy up on a blind date for this trip.

Beth is played by Lynn Theel (Humanoids From the Deep) and Tom by a young David Caruso, in his feature length debut. You’ll, of course, recognize Mr. Caruso from movies such as Session 9 and First Blood among many, but also from the TV-show CSI: Miami as Lt. Horatio Caine. Greg and Sandy are portrayed by Christopher S. Nelson (Roller Boogie) and Tarah Nutter (Bitter Harvest).

Sarge: "You've seen those flying critters? Feisty little things aren't they?"

Sarge: “You’ve seen those flying critters? Feisty little things aren’t they?”

When they stop to get gas for their van, they’re warned by the gas station owner, Joe Taylor, not to go up to the lake! (There’s always a lake, isn’t there?) He’s actually very persistent about it and the four friends kind of go: “Yeah, sure… ok! We won’t go!” But, of course, the do anyway! At the lake, Tom and Beth get a little intimate, so the two others decide to go for a walk to give them some privacy. When they return, the lovers are nowhere to be found, so Sandy and Greg goes to look for them. Things quickly take a nasty turn and they too are attacked by the mysterious flying discs.

The discs are actually just used as weapons… biological weapons with teeth, no less, but still just weapons. They’re thrown by a bulbous-headed alien who’s, as is explained by Joe Taylor, not here for food or to start an invasion. Nope, it’s here to hunt! Earth is a hunting ground and humans are just trophies! Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does because, as far as I know, Without Warning was kind of the inspiration for 1987’s Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But the similarities don’t stop here though, since the actor portraying the alien in Without Warning also plays the alien in both Predator and Predator 2. His name was Kevin Peter Hall and he was quite an imposing figure. Standing about 7 feet 3 inches tall, it’s maybe not surprising that he was cast as a “creature” in many roles. He appeared as the mutant bear in the movie Prophecy, for instance and also as Harry, the gentle bigfoot creature, in the movie Harry and the Hendersons as well as the subsequent TV-show with the same name. Mr. Hall tragically passed away at the, all too young, age of 35 in 1991.

The director of Without Warning was Greydon Clark and the director of photography was none other than Dean Cundey. They worked together on five of Mr. Clark’s  movies… Hi-Riders, Angel’s Brigade, Black Shampoo, Satan’s Cheerleaders and Without Warning.

It's not hunting for wabbits...

It’s not hunting for wabbits…

Dean Cundey would go on to work on titles such as Escape from New York, The Thing, Back To The Future, Jurassic Park and Apollo 13, just to name a handful.

Other noticeable names in this movie are the two screen legends Jack Palance and Martin Landau, who play Joe Taylor and Fred “Sarge” Dobbs respectively. I enjoyed watching these two actors together; they’ve actually only appeared in one other movie together, as far as I know, which was Alone In The Dark from 1982. Mr. Palance is the gas station owner, Joe Taylor, who warns the teens at the start of the movie. He’s a hunter himself and knows what he talks about, which makes me think that maybe he’s tangled with this alien before. I’m sure you’ll recognize Jack Palance from movies like The Professionals, Shane, Batman and City Slickers.

Martin Landau, from North by Northwest, Ed Wood or the TV-series Mission: Impossible and Space: 1999, is the crack-pot Vietnam War veteran, who sees alien conspiracies and invasions left and right. Mr. Landau nails this perfectly and as the movie progresses, he slowly looses it more and more.

As you probably understand by now, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and it’s certainly one I’ll be coming back to from time to time. I actually had only seen bits and pieces of it before, so I was very pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was, and you know what..? I kind of like the look of the alien too!

So until next time, my friends, why not share any thoughts you might have on Without Warning in the comment section below?

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