Without Warning – USA, 1980

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

Without Warning is a 1980 American science fiction horror feature film produced and directed by Greydon Clark (Uninvited; Wacko; Satan’s Cheerleaders). The movie stars Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Neville Brand and Ralph Meeker. Cameron Mitchell makes a cameo appearance.

Many observers have noted that thematically, this movie predates yet is similar to Predator (1987). In fact, the same actor, Kevin Peter Hall, plays both aliens. It is also known as It Came… Without Warning, The Warning and Alien Shock, its German title.

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Special effects designer Greg Cannom, who was later involved in major studio productions such as Jurassic ParkHook and Titanic, created the memorable aliens. Cinematography was provided by Dean Cundey (The Thing; The Fog; Halloween).

Plot:

A father and son go into the mountains. Before they can begin hunting, which the son does not want to do anyway, they are killed by flying starfish-like creatures, which penetrate their skin with needle-tipped tentacles.

Some time later, four teenagers, Tom, Greg, Beth and Sandy, hike in the same area, ignoring the warnings of local truck stop owner Joe Taylor (Jack Palance).

A group of cub scouts is also in the area; their leader (Larry Storch) is killed by the alien creatures, while his troop run into an unidentified humanoid and flee…

Reviews:

” …Landau and Palance are both highly entertaining, both because it’s fun to watch younger versions of these venerable actors slumming in such silly material, and because they bring some dignity to roles that are, admittedly better-developed and deeper than most horror-movie-death-fodder characters. That said, it’s an awfully slow, dry ride between meaningful scenes…” Tasha Robinson, AV Club

“Despite its many shortcomings, it nonetheless has a goofy charm all its own that at least makes it worth one viewing for the peculiar creatures. Old school horror fans will also get a big kick out of spotting many of the familiar faces from TV and movies.” Cool Ass Cinema

” …Clark does a nice job of building up tension […] With its impressive cast and retro style (retro in that the film itself harkens back to 1950s sci-fi and that its oozing special effects are of the organic kind in the days before modern CGI was the norm), Without Warning is now perfectly ripe for rediscovery…” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

Without Warning is an interesting little horror picture not only because of thematic consistency but because it also adopts without question the slasher paradigm […] Some reviewers have complained about the special effects, but given that they’re 1980 vontage, the creatures in Without Warning remain pretty frightening.” John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1980s

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Without Warning may not be a lost masterpiece but it is a really entertaining low budget horror picture that makes the most of its effects set pieces and a few notable cast members. If it takes a little while to get going, the last half makes up for that…” Ian Jane, DVD Talk

“It starts off OK enough, with some little alien things (that look like the result of a mating between Alienfacehuggers and starfish) flying around and killing folks like Mitchell, but then it just falls apart after they find Caruso’s body (poor sod doesn’t even get a death scene). The alien frisbees all but completely disappear until the closing reel…” Horror Movie a Day

Without Warning’s biggest enemy is its pacing. Director Greydon Clark never latches onto a tempo to help build momentum or suspense. Sure, he creates a foreboding atmosphere here and there, but true terror is never achieved. (The most effective element is composer Dan Wyman’s spooky blend of piano tinklings and early ‘80s synth). FilmFather

Without Warning Blu-ray

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Greydon Clark never does much to generate suspense and tension out of scenes […] Moreover, the alien is only an intermittent menace – for much of the middle of the film, Martin Landau’s bug-eyed crazy becomes far more of a threat than the alien. We only ever get to see the alien’s appearance in the last ten minutes and for the rest of the film it is represented by its discs.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“The gags are effectively gooey and gory, plus the actual alien (who is withheld until the climax, so Clark at least has some understanding of showmanship) feels like a cool throwback to 50s B-movie monsters with its bulbous head and blue skin. Clark never quite finds the right tone, though—there’s a certain severity to his handling of the film…” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

“Perhaps the trouble here is that later in the decade something like this would have been injected with an air of fun, but here it’s played too straight: fine for unintentional humour, but not much for real thrills.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

“Greydon Clark directs from a script with no less than four writers listed for some reason. He gives the flick a rather pedestrian pace but, he treats his material seriously as do the cast, especially Palance and Landau who properly chew up the scenery with Landau especially cranking up the nuttiness.” Tomb of Nostalgia

without warning poster

Cast and characters:

  • Tarah Nutter … Sandy
  • Christopher S. Nelson … Greg
  • Jack Palance … Joe Taylor – Alone in the Dark; Tourist Trap; Craze; Bram Stoker’s DraculaTorture Garden; Man in the Attic; et al
  • Martin Landau … Fred ‘Sarge’ Dobbs – Ed Wood; Sleepy Hollow; The Being
  • Neville Brand … Leo – Evils of the Night; Eaten Alive; Killdozer
  • Ralph Meeker … Dave – The Food of the Gods; The Dead Don’t Die
  • Cameron Mitchell … Hunter – The Tomb; The Demon; The Toolbox Murders; Blood and Black Lace; et al
  • Darby Hinton … Randy
  • David Caruso … Tom – Session 9
  • Lynn Thell … Beth
  • Sue Ane Langdon … Aggie
  • Larry Storch … Cub Scout Leader
  • Kevin Peter Hall … The Alien – Predator; One Dark Night; Prophecy

Filming locations:

Paramount Ranch – 2813 Cornell Road, Agoura, California
Malibu Creek State Park – 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, California

Running time and aspect ratio:

97 minutes (restored) | 1.85: 1


without warning greek vhs sleeve

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5 Comments on “Without Warning – USA, 1980”

  1. Great film with an equally great guest cast. Landau and Palance are wonderfully over the top. Tarrah Nutter is quite appealing. Love how the rug is pulled out from under you near the end. You really think Greg is going to make it, but no. It also leads to a great reveal of the alien. And how about all the similarities it would have with the later Predator films? Kevin Peter Hall, plus the not so subtle hints that the hunts have been going on for a long time.

  2. Just saw this and immediately Pedator came to my mind. So this is the movie Predator ripped off😋😁; I’ve been trying to figure that out for a while now.
    Anyway, Palance and Landau worked well together and the FX used are farout for the times. Gold movie indeed!

  3. Been watching my Blu Ray. Time has been good to this one. Dean Cundey’s camerawork is top notch. He was using an early steady cam for many a shot and the movements are very smooth. Landau and Palance going over the top actually works well in the context of the film. Tarah Nutter is one of my favorite final girls ever. The connection to Predator makes for great trivia. I mean how cool is that Kevin Peter Hall played 2 totally different types of aline big game hunters? A wonderful B film.

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