Without Warning / It Came Without Warning (1980)

Without Warning / It Came Without Warning (1980)

“No Chance… No Help… No Escape!”

A pair of teens (Tarah Nutter and Christopher S. Nelson) on a camping trip fight for their lives against flying alien discs; meanwhile, an insane veteran (Martin Landau) and a determined hunter (Jack Palance) try to track down an alien (Cameron Mitchell).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Aliens
  • Cameron Mitchell Films
  • Horror
  • Jack Palance Films
  • Martin Landau Films
  • Ralph Meeker Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Veterans

This low-budget sci-fi/horror/slasher flick — most notable as a thematic predecessor to Predator — starts off as a standard teen exploitation flick, with a small group of horny, scantily-clad teens placing their lives in mortal danger while Just Trying to Have Some Fun. Fortunately, the two most obnoxious teens (David Caruso and Lynne Theele) are killed off right away; the remainder of the film focuses on Nutter and Nelson (slightly more appealing protagonists):

fending off flesh-sucking alien-frisbees while simultaneously sussing out whether they can trust either Landau (wackily insane):

or Palance (grimly determined):

to help them escape with their lives. Upon its release, the New York Times referred to the film as “wretched”, and it’s really not much better than that — but it does possess some effectively creepy atmosphere, and has earned a small cult following over the years. It’s sure to appeal to those who enjoy this type of fare — like Peary, for instance, who lists it as a Sleeper in the back of his book. The rest of us can stay away.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Martin Landau as Sarge
  • Plenty of creepy atmosphere

Must See?
No; this one’s strictly for fans of the genre. Listed by Peary as a Sleeper.


One thought on “Without Warning / It Came Without Warning (1980)

  1. A once-must, surprisingly. It plays into and against conventions of the genre and is compelling enough to merit a watch.

    It’s certainly not boring. I was reminded somewhat of ‘Silent Scream’; in part, given that it’s an ’80s horror flick (well, they’re both from 1980, and both have Cameron Mitchell). But, unlike ‘SS’, this one has rather natural dialogue throughout – I rather believe people here would talk this way. ‘WW’ has more than a slam-bang up its sleeve. In truth, the last part of ‘SS’ is perhaps better than the way ‘WW’ wraps, but ‘WW’ is the more satisfying film from start to finish.

    ‘WW’ has assembled an unusual cast, to be sure – not only Palance, Mitchell and Landau, but Neville Brand, Ralph Meeker (who I don’t think I recognized), Larry Storch and Sue Ane Langdon. They may be slumming but they’re all on-board.

    To me, I don’t think the quartet of teens is necessarily a horny group (as they would normally be, to fit the genre mold). Certainly David Caruso’s character is dumb and a weasel, but the girl he is blind-dated with isn’t. And the other two are actually pretty intelligent survivor-types.

    ‘WW’ is occasionally silly when it adheres to genre rules (i.e., when the ‘hero’ boy leaves the ‘hero’ girl in the truck while he goes into the bar for help – I mean, they *could* both just leave the vehicle), but I find the film appropriately muddy in terms of where lines are drawn – and that makes for a good watch.You don’t always know where to put your loyalty here, so that makes for appropriate tension.

    I like the pressure cooker aspect of the extended bar scene – and it’s a nice touch later when the girl we’re hoping will survive has a delayed-reaction response to exactly how much she will miss her dear, dead friend.

    Pretty good score; responsive to the various moods.

    Fave moment: “Try the windshield wipers.”

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