Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sci-Fried Double Bill: WITHOUT WARNING (1980) and EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1985)

Steven Spielberg made extraterrestrials chic again with his CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), but – despite some scary moments – they turned out to be the nice kind of aliens who just liked to abduct average middle-class people.  I ain’t having that. Thankfully, Don Dohler burst onto the scene with THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978) and reminded audiences of the 1950s edict that “aliens are the enemy” and provided plenty of working class folks to blast their shotguns at these galaxy invaders.  Now that’s more like it.  Two examples of AVR (Aliens Versus Rednecks) cinema are Greydon Clark’s WITHOUT WARNING (1980) and Mardi Rustam’s EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1985).

WITHOUT WARNING opens with a hunter (Cameron Mitchell) out on an excursion with his son.  After berating him for being a sissy cuz he reads books and stuff, Mitchell is attacked by some flying sucker monsters that dig into his skin.  And we are off!  Cut to a group of teens (including a young David Caruso in some criminally short shorts) heading up to the lake for some R&R.  They stop at a gas station and encounter county crazy “Sarge” (Martin Landau) and station owner Joe Taylor (Jack Palance).  Surprisingly, it is Taylor who gives the “you don’t want to go up there” speech and not the town loony.  Of course, Taylor just might have a screw loose as well given his ulterior motives involving the love of hunting.

Naturally, the teens don’t heed the warning and continue on. Greg (Christopher Nelson) and Sandy (Tarah Nutter) decide to go for a walk while Caruso macks on his lady, but are surprised their friends aren’t around when they return.  The go searching and eventually discover their melting bodies stored inside a watershed (along with the hunter, his son and a doomed Cub Scout leader).  The helpless teens run into town for aid and think they find it at a local bar. Sarge is excited to finally meet someone who believes his stories of these tiny alien things he’s been seeing, but the revelation quickly sends him off the deep end and he shoots the law enforcement that arrives.  Thanks pal.  Instead the kids inexplicably hook up with Taylor, who is thrilled because chasing a malevolent alien represents the ultimate predator-and-prey hunt.


In terms of RVA cinema, you can’t beat WITHOUT WARNING as it pretty much has it all. This was back when low budget flicks could corral some great actors and production crew on a tiny budget. You have some great unhinged performances by both Palance and Landau (they re-teamed on ALONE IN THE DARK) and there is some fine supporting work by Larry Storch, Ralph Meeker and Neville Brand (as the world’s bitterest bar patron). Additionally, director Clark got top-notch cinematography from John Carpenter regular Dean Cundey. Most importantly, the film didn’t skimp on the alien stuff and made sure to deliver the gory goods. The tiny flying flesh discs – designed by Greg Cannom – will actually gross you out with their suckers, tentacles and teeth. The bulbous headed evil alien is pretty cool too. A lot of people have pointed out the similarities between this and PREDATOR (1987) with the “alien on intergalactic hunt” plot. I don’t doubt screenwriter Shane Black saw this film and it is interesting that Kevin Peter Hall played the aliens in both films. I’ll take Jack Palance screaming “allllllllllllieeeeeennnn” any day over that dumbass Schwarzenegger though.


On the complete opposite side of the galaxy from WARNING in terms of quality is the alien invasion non-classic EVILS OF THE NIGHT.  This one opens with a spaceship landing in the woods and – wouldn’t you know it – there are some couples making out nearby.  The aliens grab them (offing one girl’s guy while she is taking it doggy style and she continues) and take their bodies to a hospital. There Dr. Kozmar (John Carradine), Dr. Zarma (Julie Newmar) and Cora (Tina Louise) explain that they are draining the bodies of blood because it allows their alien race to “survive for hundreds of years.”  One of the kidnapped kids tries to escape but gets zapped with a green laser to his nipple for his trouble.

We now meet our lead players via a lakeside montage set to the totally 80s “Boys Will Be Boys.”  Not only do we learn about who is dating who, but we also learn that chicks will think you are funny if you stuff seaweed in their bikinis…as long as you have hot abs. That night the group sits around a campfire before Ron and Nancy take off for some place more private.  Of course, that means they are totally going to get abducted by the aliens. Instead, they get taken by some guys in ski masks.  What the hell is going on here?  Ah, seems the aliens have learned to work with rednecks this time around and have recruited dimwitted auto mechanics Fred (Aldo Ray) and Kurt (Neville Brand) to bring them nubile young bodies in exchange for gold coins.  What will they do with their wealth?  Frank plans to go to Tahiti (“where the women are nude all day, every day”) while Kurt plans to buy a castle (“with nude maids”).  As the pop track said, boys will be boys.

This dynamically dumb duo didn’t count on this latest batch of kids being so darn pesky though.  Brian, Heather and Connie show up looking for their friends, but the mechanics say they saw them hitchhiking (“probably going to Reno”).  These kids aren’t easily fooled so they grease monkeys have no choice but to take them captive too.  The teens keep trying to escape and Connie gets drilled by Kurt for her attempt.  Meanwhile, Nancy escapes from the hospital and makes it to the gas station just after Heather killed Kurt.  She catches Fred trying to kill Heather so she sticks an air hose in his ear (no joke, blood shoots out his opposite ear).  This all breaks down into an extended stalk-n-slash style chase before the aliens split Earth and zap Fred from outer space for his troubles.  No nude Tahitian ladies for you, my friend.

If you are looking for z-grade aliens complete with silver jumpsuits and washed up actors from every medium, look no further than this one.  Director Rustam originally was a producer for Al Adamson and on films like PSYCHIC KILLER (1975) and Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE (1977).  Interestingly, he was also one of the producers on THE BAD BUNCH (1973), the first feature for WITHOUT WARNING’s Greydon Clark. So perhaps he saw Clark’s alien flick and thought, “I could do that.”  We’ll, he can’t. This definitely falls into the “so bad it’s good” category.  You have to laugh at how hard he tried to throw in every exploitive element. The gore is there and the nudity is aplenty.  In fact, porn stars Amber Lynn and Jerry Butler have a couple of unrelated scenes shoehorned in to up the nudity ante.   Unfortunately it just congeals into a mess rather than a coherent film.  Of course, what do you expect from a guy who actually put the Millennium Falcon on the poster for his film?  Take a gander:


Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. I caught EVILS OF THE NIGHT on opening night while everyone else was at ELM STREET 2. Gotta love 80s trash!

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