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Without Warning (Blu-ray Review)

Without-WarningFor me, Without Warning is one of the most exciting releases of 2014.  No, its not Twin Peaks or Batman 1966 finally coming out, but its up there.  Had I heard much about it before this release?  No.  I really dig the fact that Scream Factory has gotten this 34 year old film that’s never seen a home video release and are putting it out on Blu-ray and putting bonus material on it to boot.  I’m all about film preservation and restoration.  I’m not one who likes films to be forgotten no matter how bad they could be.  Without Warning has pretty much been forgotten for a long time.  How many people have been able to see this one since 1980?  I’ve heard there have been bootlegs over the years, but the answer is not many.  And of those, who remember it?  Well, paint me with excitement as I finally got to see one of those truly “lost” films of horror yesteryear.

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Film 

In a small town within the mountains, weird tiny alien creatures are slowly picking off residents.  Some teens go out for a weekend camping getaway and two of them are killed.  The surviving two find their friends’ bodies along with the other victims we’ve seen picked off.  When the go for help at a townie bar, the patrons laugh them off except for a town crazy name Sarge, who then begins to think they are aliens themselves.  So now, not only are they escaping a supernatural force, but Sarge is out to kill them as well.

Without Warning is a slasher film, but instead of a masked killer or mongoloid, its a big ass alien killing people in extraterrestrial sort of ways.  Its a slow, stalking creature and it doesn’t just stab people, it kills them with its little creatures and other ways.  I also found the film to be sort of like a low budget version of Predator.  Except, it predates that film by 7 years.  If you look closely at how this alien works and that its main place of attack winds up being the woods, you can see some real similarities between the two.  I’m not sure if it influenced that film but I can see if it did.  But then again, Kevin Peter Hall played both the Predator and this alien so I really might not be far off here on this assumption.

While this is a cheap thrills, fun movie, there is a load of talent behind the scenes.  Director Greydon Clark was a big time B-movie director so his name went hand in hand with this.  Rick Baker created the alien head and Greg Cannom did the design of the alien.  And I must say, this alien still looks really menacing and pretty fantastic still to this day.  Yes, there’s a couple distance shots before an explosion where you can see its a dummy, but that’s incredibly minimal.  Assisting on that end and making the movie look great is Dean Cundey in a follow up to Halloween.  Cundey immediately classes this thing up and makes us take it more seriously than we would have had someone else shot this movie.  This is a really competent, well made fun, B-movie thriller and its all thanks to some great minds and talent behind camera.

I don’t want to see this cast short though.  Martin Landau and Jack Palance are both pretty great in this movie.  Palance gives you his normal bravado and really has no problem taking charge and handling the movie when need be.  We have two relatively unknown newbies in the lead here and both he and Landau help to enhance each situation they’re in.  Landau brings an “all in” crazy performance to the table, but its not without weight.  It actually works in more ways than just the camp factor.  Oh, and for a couple minutes of this film we get a very young David Caruso.

Without Warning was fun enough for me.  Its a competently made B-movie slasher and I’m surprised this never hit VHS because it would have KILLED.  I really enjoyed the effects, make up and cinematography in this one.  There was a section of the film where I found myself a little bored (otherwise would have gotten a 3 instead of 2.5), but it was successful enough for me nonetheless.  Plus there was the extra special feeling of watching something people haven’t seen in decades.  Like opening up a little secret treasure.  I hope more people check this one out, because its pretty fun.  Especially for horror/sci fi/slasher fans.  Its kinda slasher, kinda 50s B-movie throwback all in one.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Knowing the background of this film, I was stunned at what good shape it was in.  Its sharp enough and pretty loaded with detail for what it is.  You can see texture and folds on clothing.  There plenty of detail on things like the bar’s counter and tables.  You can see dust, cigarette ash and scuffs.  Its pretty cool.  Also the nature areas look pretty good with their leafy detail.  And I’m impressed that in a lot of shots the alien looks actually really good where you’d think high definition might ruin the creature.

Depth:  There is some solid depth in a lot of the woods scenes.  Many of the shots in the bar have some good depth between the seated patrons.  I really liked the sense of place when Greg and Sandy are in the abandoned house.  There is not only good depth between them and the house interior but outside the window looks cool too.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty jet black with minimal crushing.  Some dark interiors get a bit on the grainy side, but for the most part the black enhances the atmosphere.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty pronounced and bold.  Reds and Greens pop out off the screen.  The greens are also impressively varied and shaded.

Flesh Tones:  A little warm and consistent.  Plenty of detail.  There’s a guy with a red trucker hat at the bar that you can make out every bit of scarring on his face from a medium shot.

Noise/Artifacts:  Grain, film dirt/specs.  Its got character and I like it!

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Like the picture quality I was pretty surprised at how clean the audio is for this movie.  Effects, voice and score are all relatively well balanced out.  It features no real distortion of any kind and has a real nice crisp sound to it.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is surprisingly loud and clear.  I expected some analog distortion, but none was present.  Well done.

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Extras 

Without Warning comes with a DVD copy and reversible cover artwork featuring an alternate poster design.

Audio Commentary With Producer And Director Greydon Clark – This is a pretty boring commentary.  Its not the content though, its the presentation.  Greydon is by himself and sounds as if he’s reading, unrehearsed, from a script.  His speech is really slow and has breaks within sentences.  There’s also plenty of silent spots throughout the film.

Greg And Sandy’s Alien Adventures (HD, 20:45) – The actors who played the roles reflect back on their acting careers and getting involved with Without Warning.  Also discuss working with such talented people on the film.

Producers Vs Aliens With Daniel Grodink (HD, 11:25) – Grodnik also produced Terror Train, so we also are given a bit of insight on that film while he talks about producing Without Warning.  He mentions a script being written by a guy named Bennett Tramer…who also happens to be the name of a guy unseen in Halloween (later killed being mistaken for Michael Myers in Halloween II).

Hunter’s Blood With Greg Cannom (HD, 5:56) – Esteemed special effects desinger talks about his work on there and what it was like working on those types of films back in the day.  He also credits Rick Baker, not himself with coming up with the alien.

Independents Day With Dean Cundey (HD, 15:06) – The man who shot my childhood discusses how he was hesitant to go back to doing an independent film after some doors opened for him following Halloween.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:42) 

Still Gallery – 28 images of posters and behind the scenes photos.

More From Scream Factory – Trailers for Dark Angel, Motel Hell, The Beast Within, Schizoid

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Summary 

It must be state that while this film doesn’t have the words Collector’s Edition written on the box anywhere, Without Warning certainly got some fantastic treatment on its first Blu-ray release.  There is a load of interviews, a commentary, stills and reversible cover art.  The film also looks beautiful on Blu-ray.  Oh, lets mention the fact that Without Warning being on home video in the first place is a feat within itself.  A bare bones edition would have been a massive triumph in itself, but no, Scream Factory won’t just let it go at that.  They truly showed some love to this title and its a fun and splendid addition to their incredible catalog.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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