When it comes to curating weekly double features, sometimes you really have to go for it. And while I’ve previously paired up original horror movies with their remakes, and sometimes films with their sequels, this one was too fun an idea to pass up! I finally obtained Scream Factory’s release of the long-lost 1980 alien horror flick WITHOUT WARNING and decided to queue it up with John McTiernan’s pure testosterone epic PREDATOR, but not just the regular theatrical version of PREDATOR… I’m talking the recent 3D conversion! That’s right. This week’s double take is WITHOUT WARNING and PREDATOR 3D! Let’s look at the results!
WITHOUT WARNING is an interesting enigma. It was made for roughly $150000 back in 1980, played theaters and then vanished into obscurity, only seen as bootlegs at horror conventions over the years after that. It never made it to VHS, nor did it ever get a DVD release. But back in 2014, Scream Factory finally secured the home video rights and unleashed a proper Blu-Ray/DVD release of the long dormant creature feature flick.
Basically, there’s a group of kids heading out for a weekend hike in the neighboring woods. Two of them go missing, and once they find a little shack filled both with their friend’s bodies and those of the opening scene victims, our couple wisely decides to head into town to get help! They head to the bar where the local crazy Fred “Sarge” Dobbs is convinced it’s the beginning of an alien invasion. Taking charge and leading the kids back to where they found the bodies is a bad-ass hunter named Joe Taylor.
It turns out that there is in fact a giant 7 foot alien attacking the people in the woods surrounding their small town. He throws these disc like organisms that attach to their victims and then protrude sharp nails into their flesh. I’m not sure the purpose of these things; maybe it’s just to drain the would-be victims to the point of exhaustion. Joe Taylor is the only one smart enough to pull out his hunting knife and cut them off.
In fact, the honest truth is that not a whole lot happens for the first hour of the film, other than the occasional random attack by one of these live flying flapjacks. But in the final act of the film, the alien makes himself present and he does look pretty scary and imposing. There’s one shot where our lead characters are hiding out in the woods surveying the shack and we see the alien just standing still right beside it, staring in their direction as a mild fog seeps by. It’s so creepy!
A lot of other noteworthy things to mention here. Firstly, the cast! You’ve got a young David Caruso as one of the early kid victims, Cameron Mitchell in the opening scene, and believe it or not, Martin Landau is crazed conspiracy-convinced war veteran Sarge, while Jack Palance is Joe Taylor! The alien design was initially done by Rick Baker, before Greg Cannom jumped on board the project and executed it on film. So the creature looks great. Oh, and the film was shot by John Carpenter’s legendary DP Dean Cundey!
It’s not a great movie, but it’s an interesting one and worth seeing, if anything for the finale 20 minutes. And since the film not only shares the loose structural DNA of PREDATOR, but it also features Kevin Peter Hall in the creature suit for both films, making it a fitting follow-up!
Now, PREDATOR has had quite a torrid life in high definition. Previous Blu-Ray editions had fans in an uproar for the “over” digitized look of the actors. I’ve never watched any previous version and can’t attest to the accuracy of these claims, but I believe that over-cleaning an image digitally can make it look a bit off. However, we’re talking about the 3D version here. PREDATOR wasn’t shot or made in 3D, so this is obviously a conversion. And it’s a great one! The key to good 3D is that everything in the frame has to be in perfect focus for it to authentically feel like what you’d see with your own two eyes. Regular films tend to focus on where they want the audience to look and the backgrounds can be soft if need be. For 3D, the over-digitized look of PREDATOR is actually a benefit as it separates the layers in a way that makes it feel like an organic 3D image. In other words, if you’ve got your set up calibrated right, it looks awesome in a home 3D environment.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Dutch, the head of a group of commandos sent to the Central American jungles to fulfill a classified military operation. The assignment itself is a success, but then a foreign party is suddenly systematically taking out Dutch’s crew. It turns out to be a camouflaged alien being that is hunting the men for sport. Look – I’m going to assume everyone out there has seen PREDATOR, and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? It’s freakin’ awesome!
Like with any movie that deals with a fantastic or “horror” premise, if you took that element out, in this case the alien, it would still be a great, compelling action feature about a bunch of quirky and crazy commandos. It’s one of those movies where all the characters are rich with backstory. You remember Dillion and Mac and Jesse Ventura’s Blain after the fact because we get to know them based upon their short but pivotal screentime together. It’s just a great, thrilling ride and is made even greater in the 3D format.
Do the two make a great double bill? Yes. Especially if seen in this order. WITHOUT WARNING will feel like a slow start, but again, if you truck along and follow their all-star cast, you’ll be rewarded by a cool, creepy finale. And then going right into the action packed PREDATOR 3D will just be icing on the cake. Invite some friends over and head for the juggle!