Without Warning is seen by many as the inspiration for Predator (including Arnold Schwarzenegger). As someone who had never heard of this movie before watching it, this naturally came as quite a surprise. Can this mostly forgotten B-movie possibly be anywhere near as good as the sci-fi/action classic it supposedly helped create? Surprisingly, yes.
A group of teenagers (including a young David Caruso) drive out for a weekend at the lake. They of course ignore the warnings from a local gas station owner Joe Taylor (Jack Palance) and continue their trip. Unsurprisingly, this turns out to be a bad idea and they are soon attacked by an alien (played by the original Predator Kevin Peter Hall) who kills his prey by throwing venomous jellyfish like creatures shaped like Frisbees (naturally). They try to get some help from the locals but no one believes them apart from Taylor and Fred Dobbs (Martin Landau), a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD (who ends up doing more harm than good).
This will probably come as a surprise to no one but Palance and Landau are easily the best parts of the film. By regular movie standards they both give solid performances, so by the much lower B-movie standards they’re incredible and make Without Warning much more entertaining than it has any right to be. Palance gives us the tough bad ass performance usually seen in his movies and like many performances he gave before and after this film, he’s the coolest character in the film by far. As for Landau, he gives a more interesting performance as an emotionally and mentally unstable ex-soldier and actually does such a good job with it, it’s easy to forget that a little over a decade later he would be yelling expletives at Boris Karloff.
As for the production values, they’re actually pretty impressive given the limited budget. Sure, the evil jellyfish Frisbee creatures can sometimes be seen hanging by strings but I’m willing to let this slide since even blockbusters have been guilty of this problem on occasion. It also helps that there was some first class talent behind the scenes. Rick Baker lends a hand creating the alien costume and Dean Cundey (whose future credits would include all three Back to the Future films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Jurassic Park, and Apollo 13) agreeing to be the cinematographer despite his career beginning to take off after working on Halloween a couple of years before. We also have special makeup effects artist Greg Cannom (who would go on to win three Oscars) in one of his earlier works.
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot going in but thanks to some nice performances from Palance and Landau as well a talented crew, I was pleasantly surprised by the end result. Without Warning isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but all things considered, it’s a surprisingly well made film.
The most notable feature is of course the audio commentary from producer/director Greydon Clark, though that can be very hit and miss at times. He gives us some interesting tidbits like half of the film’s $150,000 budget going to Palance and Landau’s salaries, another 19,000 was given to Baker to construct the alien costume (all money well spent in my opinion) and that this was actually the film the got David Caruso into SAG (you’re entitled to your own opinion as to whether or not that’s a good thing). The problem is that there are several times where Clark will run out of stuff to say, leaving the commentary with so much dead air, that I thought I was experiencing sound problems more than once.
Apart from that, there’s some interviews with Cundey, Cannom, co-writer/co-producer Daniel Grodnik, and actors Chris Nelson and Tarah Nutter. There’s also a theatrical trailer and a still gallery to round things out.