WITHOUT WARNING (1980)
-- Review by Nic Brown--
A powerful alien comes to Earth, not as an invader, but as a hunter. The alien’s prey: humans. The first film that comes to mind for most people when given that kind of brief plot description is the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger bullets and bodybuilders fest PREDATOR. However, it was director Greydon Clark’s 1980 film WITHOUT WARNING that first inspired the idea of the lone alien hunter tracking and killing humans for sport.
The film opens with a father and son out in the woods to do a little hunting. The son decides that he doesn’t want to be a hunter and his father, an avid fan of the “sport”, doesn’t take too kindly to his son’s lack of enthusiasm. In fact at one point you get the impression that the father is contemplating having a “hunting accident” with the boy. The touching family scene is interrupted when a small, fleshy disk with fangs flies out of the darkness of the forest and attaches itself to the older man. It immediately digs in and makes short work of him. Unfortunately for the unnamed son, another disk comes for him and he dies a similarly gruesome death at the hands of the organic killing disks.
These deaths just set the stage though as the obligatory group of four teenagers out for a good time hops in their van and drives out to the woods to go swimming in a remote lake. The teens (among them a very young David Caruso in his first film role) stop briefly in a nearby small town to gas up. The gas station looks deserted but when they explore it they encounter Joe Taylor (Jack Palance), the gas station owner who warns them to stay out of the woods because the woods had become dangerous due to all the hunters.
WITHOUT WARNING has been called a lost treasure by Fangoria magazine and they are correct. Due to a legal dispute over the ownership of the rights, the film has never been released on DVD or video in the US. Writers Lyn Freeman and Daniel Grodnik made a film that, unlike many films of its genre, doesn’t focus on the alien hunter or the body count. The film concentrates on the characters and developing them beyond the typical meat grinder victims one might expect. In fact, much like the shark in Jaws, it isn’t until more than halfway through the film that the audience gets a real look at anything other than the alien’s weapon of choice: the blood sucking flying disks. This helps build tension, as do the many twists and turns the plot takes as we learn more about the motivations of both Landau’s Dobbs and Palance’s Taylor. Director Greydon Clark didn’t let the film’s shoestring budget prevent him from making a good film. He put the film’s budget on the screen by bringing in Landau and Palance as well as the special effects of the flying disks. The disks themselves, though not as flashy as the invisibility cloak and lasers used by the predator in the Schwarzenegger film, are original and sufficiently gross as they dig into their victims and spew yellow puss when destroyed, to please movie goers.
It is a shame that WITHOUT WARNING is so hard to find. The film is well made and unlike many films from that time, it doesn’t show its age. When asked about the possibility of a future release, director Clark said it was possible as the studio is considering doing a remake. If the remake is green lighted then it is likely that a special edition DVD of WITHOUT WARNING would find its way to store shelves shortly there after. So if you have the opportunity to check out WITHOUT WARNING, take it. The film that inspired PREDATOR (in fact, Kevin Hall who played the alien hunter also played the predator in the 1987 film) hasn’t lost anything with age and deserves to be seen. So for now look for the boot-legs and hope for a remake!