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Case Number 27706: Small Claims Court

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Without Warning (1980) (Blu-ray)

Shout! Factory // 1980 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 31st, 2014

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All Rise...

Heed this warning, because Judge Patrick Naugle never does.

Editor's Note

Our review of Without Warning, published September 12th, 2005, is also available.

The Charge

It preys on human fear. It feeds on human flesh.

The Case

A group of carefree teens head off into nature to enjoy some idyllic time by the lake. Unfortunately, the teens stumble upon something more sinister than mosquitoes or ticks—a malevolent alien force is hiding deep in the forest and kills without remorse or discretion using parasitic discs thrown onto its victim's bodies. When two of the teens wind up dead, the local townsfolk are hesitant to believe their tale…except for a crazy ex-solider (Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors), who may be more dangerous than the extra-terrestrial threat lurking in the woods!

Considering how many movies I watched as a kid, it's surprising that I have zero recollection of 1980's Without Warning. Truth be told, it's a movie that most kids my age won't remember because the year 2014 will mark the first time it's been available on any home viewing format since its theatrical release. Although I absolutely love this genre—freaky aliens, mind sucking parasites, idiotic teen campers, bodies stuffed in cabins—Without Warning slipped through the cracks. I don't know a soul who has seen it, nor can I remember reading any online reviews. For all intents and purposes, Without Warning feels like some long lost '80s B-movie that is now ripe for discovery, even if it isn't very good.

Without Warning is essentially a slasher movie that features all the obvious troupes needed for a film of this ilk: young and nubile teenagers, dark forests, one-by-one kills, and a country bar that looks like it stepped right out of Smokey and the Bandit. The biggest difference is that instead of the killer being a madman with a hockey mask or a chainsaw, it's a regal alien that likes to throw crab-like parasites onto people that slink their tendrils into their flesh. Luckily for the filmmakers, horror fans are too discerning about their mindless killers; we'll take them any way we can get them, even if it means they came from outer space just to hang around Deliverance county and eat rednecks for breakfast.

One of the reasons that Without Warning is remembered at all is due to the fact that two Oscar winning talents worked on the film: Martin Landau and Jack Palance. Granted, it would be over a decade before either actor would win their respective Academy Awards—Landau as a washed up Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's biopic Ed Wood, and Palance as the comedic ranch hand Curly in City Slickers. Neither actor really shows any special abilities in Without Warning. Landau plays a crazy ex-military specialist named Sarge who bugs out his eyes a lot and thinks the teens are infected by the alien race, while Palance plays a grizzled hunter who mostly grumbles in a way that only Jack Palance can grumble. The rest of the cast is just fodder for the aliens, including a very young, redheaded David Caruso (CSI: Miami) as one of the doomed campers.

Without Warning (Blu-ray) is presented in 1.85:1/1080p HD widescreen. Director Greydon Clark notes that the film was made for only $150,000 dollars, and due to that tiny budget, the transfer isn't going to look like the new Transformers movie. There are some light defects in the image, though they are generally minimal. Colors are in good shape if a bit washed out and black levels are appropriate. While fans will overall be happy with how Without Warning looks, it's not a perfect transfer. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo in English. This soundtrack does a good job of giving an adequate representation of the original theatrical experience (surround sounds or directional effects are at a minimum). Also included on this disc are English subtitles.

Extra features for this first ever home video version of Without Warning include an audio commentary with director/producer Greydon Clark; a featurette that focuses on the film's special effects ("Hunter's Blood with Greg Cannom"); interviews with producer Daniel Grodnik, actors Christopher S. Nelson and Tarah Nutter, and cinematographer Dean Cundey (who also shot John Carpenter's 1978 classic Halloween); a theatrical trailer; a still gallery; and a bonus DVD copy of the film.

The truth is, if you're into these kinds of films—and don't hide, we know who you are!—I'm not so sure you'll find this one to be all that exciting. Directed by Greydon Clark (who helmed such cinematic classics as Satan's Cheerleaders and the arcade sex classic Joysticks), Without Warning is a plodding mess that takes forever to get to alien scenes. When he finally does show up (played by Kevin Peter Hall, who also played the hunter in Arnold Schwarzenegger's Predator), he's just a tall, bald headed guy in a robe who stands around throwing gooey discs with teeth at people. The ending is anticlimactic to say the least (the limited budget allows for an explosion that's only a few notches above fireworks), and the kills throughout the movie are repetitive. Still, Without Warning may be worth a look just to see Jack Palance fend off crab monsters with a bowie knife.

The Verdict

Not without its small charms, but a rather lackluster effort.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 93

Perp Profile

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
• English
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Blu-ray
• Horror
• Science Fiction

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Featurettes
• Interviews
• Trailer
• Gallery
• DVD Copy


• IMDb

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