I love Without Warning… or “It Came Without Warning”, if you prefer to call the film by its longer alternate title. I love the film so much that I’ve actually written about it on a couple other occasions, although never actually for this site. For those unfamiliar with this 1980 Greydon Clark-directed horror/sci-fi hybrid (and shame on you), it deals with an alien creature hunting humans near a small California town. In many ways, the plot is pretty damned similar to that of 1987’s Predator… just replace the jungle with more of a wooded ravine, Arnold and a squad of muscle-bound guys for aging character actors, and the late Kevin Peter Hall with… actually, disregard that last part. Hall plays the alien nemesis in both films.
However, this post is not a review of the film. No, you can find that in the pages of Drive-In Asylum #12, and possibly a couple other places I can’t recall these years later. Instead, as the post is part of the “Favorite Stars of B-Movies” blogathon presented by our friend at Films From Beyond the Time Barrier (filmsfrombeyond.com), I’ll be focusing this article on the cast of this fantastic film, as well as providing a brief look at each star’s career arc. Now, this film has a sizable cast of recognizable character actors, as well as a few young performers whose careers didn’t take off quite as they may have hoped. So, be prepared for a fairly wordy piece.
I’ll be dividing the cast into separate groups, based on how well-known I assume them to be. Now, I’m sure someone will feel that certain actors should have been ranked higher or lower. Your opinions may differ from my own. If so, let this writing serve as inspiration to go write your own damned piece on this film. If you do, send me the link! I’ll gladly read it! (Honestly, I probably won’t, but I’ll tell you that I did.)
So, let’s get to it, shall we?
Stars you probably don’t know:
Christopher Nelson – The son of actor Ed Nelson, Christopher started his career in his late teens appearing on 1970’s television shows such as “Shazam”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Adam-12”, “Emergency”, and “The Six Million Dollar Man”, before making his feature film debut alongside Linda Blair in 1979’s Roller Boogie. Nelson would follow up his appearance in Without Warning with smaller roles in Pink Motel (featuring Phyllis Diller) and Tag: The Assassination Game, both of which were released in 1982. Unfortunately, Nelson’s acting career would sputter out soon after, but he would provide stunt work in a few films years later. Personally, I think that Nelson shares some physical similarities to early-80s “teen heartthrob” Peter Barton, whose own short stint with stardom started to fizzle out at around the same time as Nelson’s, although Barton is undoubtedly better remembered these days. Here, Nelson stars as “Greg” the film’s young hero. Or is he?
Tarah Nutter – A former dancer, Nutter made her acting debut a year prior in 1979’s Head Over Heels (aka Chilly Scenes of Winter), featuring John Heard. While Nutter serves as one of Without Warning‘s lead protagonists, as well as its de facto “final girl”, the film was not overly successful during its theatrical release and, presumably, did little to help the young actress’s career (although I highly doubt the film hurt things either). Nutter would later appear in two made-for-TV films, as well as a couple episodes of “Eight Is Enough” and “Days of Our Lives”. The actress is now a painter living in Hollywood.
Lynn Theel – Playboy’s “Playmate of the Month” for July 1975, Theel made her acting debut with a bit part on an episode of the much beloved TV series “CHiPs”. She would follow this with roles in the 1978 surfer flick Big Wednesday and 1979’s prostitution tale, Fyre. However, in 1980, Theel would prominently feature in another cult-classic monster film; Humanoids from the Deep, a film that all readers of this site should proudly own in their film collections. After Without Warning, where she portrays the ill-fated “Beth”, Theel’s next film appearance would be a small part in 1990’s Hollywood Boulevard II.
Stars you might know:
Sue Ann Langdon – Although she began her career as a singer, Langdon moved into the worlds of film and television near the end of the 1950s. From there, she would appear in numerous television programs from 1960 through the early 1980s, including “Bachelor Father”, “Surfside 6”, “Perry Mason”, “Mannix”, and “The Love Boat” (just to name a few.) While her list of film credits is nowhere near as expansive as her television appearances, Langdon has appeared in films such as UHF, Charles B. Pierce’s The Evictors, and both Zapped! films. Yes, there were actually two of those. Here, Langdon has a relatively small part as the owner of the town’s bar.
Larry Storch – Although undoubtedly best known for his role as “Corporal Agarn” on the short-lived, but much-beloved TV comedy series “F Troop”, Storch actually began his career as a vaudeville performer and stand-up comic in the late 1930s, while he was still a teenager. From there, Storch moved to radio and then to television and film, making his feature debut in the Tony Curtis-starring 1951 film, The Prince Who Was a Thief. Over his career, Storch would appear in dozens of films and television series, as well as providing voice work for cartoons such as “Garfield and Friends”, “Foofur”, “Groovie Goolies”, and “Scooby Doo” (where he once voiced The Joker!). In Without Warning, Storch provides some brief comedic relief as the leader of a group of Boy Scouts who encounter the alien with dire results.
Darby Hinton – Hinton, who appeared in commercials as a baby, made his film debut in 1962’s Hero’s Island (alongside Without Warning co-star Neville Brand). Within 2 years, Hilton landed the role of Israel Boone, the son of Daniel Boone, on the highly successful Fess Parker-starring television series of the same name. Since then, Hinton has appeared in numerous film and television series, most notably in other films directed by Greydon Clark such as Angels’ Brigade, Wacko, Hi-Riders, and The Return, as well as a memorable lead role in Andy Sidaris’ Malibu Express. While still very active today, Hinton now also devotes his time to organizations dedicated to helping and advocating for the rights of child actors.
Kevin Peter Hall – Standing at a whopping 7 ft 3 in, Hall was, unsurprisingly, a former basketball player before moving into the world of film, making his debut as the mutated killer bear in 1979’s Prophecy. He would follow this up with numerous roles as other memorable monsters in films such as Monster in the Closet, Mazes and Monsters, Harry and the Hendersons (and its short-lived spin-off TV series), and (of course) Predator and Predator II. In an extremely tragic twist of fate, Hall died shortly after contracting the HIV virus from blood transfusions that he received during surgery to repair injuries he had sustained in a car accident. Hall was only 35. There’s fair reason to believe that had he not passed away so young, Hall would have portrayed even more memorable monsters and we might be discussing his legacy as one of the best creature actors of all time. Maybe we should be doing that anyway.
Stars you should know:
Cameron Mitchell – Mitchell started his career on Broadway before making his film debut with a very small role in the highly-enjoyable 1945 WWII-based comedy What Next, Corporal Hargrove? While many will presumably best remember Mitchell for his turn as “Happy Loman” in Death of a Salesman or from his role on the popular TV western “The High Chaparral”, genre fans should hold high admiration for Mitchell due to his roles in countless genre films and B-movies such as Flight to Mars, Nightmares in Wax, Blood and Black Lace, Gorilla at Large, Space Mutiny, Screamers, The Toolbox Murders….. really, I could just keep going on here. Honestly, how this man isn’t more revered by horror film fans is a mystery to me. In Without Warning, Mitchell makes a brief appearance as the alien hunter’s first victim. Spoiler alert or something.
Neville Brand – After serving in World War II, where he was awarded numerous medals (including the Purple Heart and Silver Star), Brand made his film debut in the 1949 war film Battleground. He would gain some notoriety the following year for his role as the thug “Chester” in 1950s’ D.O.A. Brand would follow this up by portraying numerous “tough guys” in films such as Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, The Mob, and Riot in Cell Block 11, and as Al Capone on TV’s “The Untouchables”. Hell, he even killed Elvis in Love Me Tender! By the 1970s, Brand frequently found himself starring in low-budget horror films such as Killdozer, Tobe Hooper’s TCM follow- up Eaten Alive, Clark’s The Return, and 1985’s Evils of the Night (his final film). Without Warning sees Brand take a small supporting role as one of the regulars at the small local bar.
Ralph Meeker – Like many of the previously mentioned older actors, Meeker began his career on Broadway. However, he quickly began to draw attention in stage performances of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Despite appearing in a few films during the early 1950s, Meeker’s “big break” came when he was cast as “Mike Hammer” in 1955’s Kiss Me Deadly. While that film didn’t make Meeker a huge star, it did lead him to countless other roles, including memorable turns in 1957’s Paths of Glory, The Dirty Dozen, and Roger Corman’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (both 1967). Meeker would also make multiple TV appearances throughout his career, but also found himself frequently relegated to B-movies such as The Food of the Gods and The Alpha Incident during his later years. Like Neville Brand, Without Warning finds Meeker in a small role as another of the bar’s regulars.
Stars you most likely know:
David Caruso – In Without Warning, Caruso stars as “Tom”, one of a group of friends who encounter a murderous alien while on a camping trip. I’m honestly not certain if this would serve as his film debut as Caruso also appeared in the somewhat forgotten film Getting Wasted the same year (1980). From here, Caruso would spend the decade taking generally smaller roles in some highly successful films, most notably First Blood, An Officer and A Gentleman, and Twins. After a memorable turn in Abel Ferrara’s King of New York, Caruso would land his “breakout” role on ABC’s “NYPD Blue” in 1993 (and a Golden Globe win in 1994). The newfound fame led to some questionable decision making, and Caruso left the hit show shortly after to star in a pair of box-office bombs, Kiss of Death and Jade (both 1995). The actor bounced around in smaller films for a few years before finding TV stardom once more in the 2000’s as “Lt. Horatio Caine” on “CSI:Miami.”
Martin Landau – Another who began their career on Broadway, Landau had a few television appearances throughout the early 1950s before landing supporting roles in films like Pork Chop Hill, North By Northwest, Cleopatra, and The Greatest Story Ever Told, as well as a starring turn in the highly underrated 1964 TV film The Ghost of Sierra del Cobre. He’d later achieve a much higher level of stardom upon joining the cast of “Mission: Impossible” in 1966, but like many of the older actors in the cast of Without Warning, Landau frequently found himself appearing in low-budget B-movies like The Being, Alone In the Dark, and (once again) The Return by the late 70s/early 80s. While many seem to consider Landau’s Oscar win in 1994 for his brilliant portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood to be a career resurgence, they may be overlooking the fact that he had previously received nominations in 1989 and 1990, for Tucker: A Man and His Dream and Crimes and Misdemeanors, respectively. So, while actually winning the award undoubtedly helped the man add even more credits to his long and varied resume, it’s much more accurate to say that Landau never really “went away”.
Jack Palance – Palance would make his film debut as a rather nasty character in 1950’s Panic in the Streets, and would quickly earn Oscar nominations for playing a couple more not-so-kindly characters in 1952’s Sudden Fear (opposite Joan Crawford… of Trog fame) and 1953’s Shane. By the late 1950s, Palance was making films (of varying quality) throughout the world, and would continue to do so throughout his career. It may be fair to say that his fame went in waves, rising with an interesting take on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” for British television in 1968, a powerful performance as “Dracula” in Dan Curtis/Richard Matheson’s TV adaptation in 1974, and again as host of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” from 1982-1986. After finally winning an Oscar at age 73 for his role as “Curly” in 1991’s City Slickers, Palance would parlay the accompanying popularity boost into landing roles in shit like Cyborg 2 (1993), Cops and Robbersons (1994), and, well… City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.
Well, shame on me for having never heard of without warning, but thanks to your entertaining and informative post, now I know!
I was definitely surprised to hear some of the names in the cast and also disappointed I had never heard of this film until now because of the cast!
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No shame to be had, my friend! Well, maybe just a tad.
Honestly, it’s not very surprising that many people may not have heard of the film. It wasn’t very successful at the box office, and a lack of home video release for decades surely didn’t help it find many new fans over the years. That said, I definitely recommend it to any interested party, so I hope you’ll enjoy.
Wow, from the cast alone it sounds like I will have to check out Without Warning. Any film that boasts Jack Palance,Martin Landau, Neville Brand, Ralph Meeker, Cameron Mitchell, and Larry Storch is definitely something I would want to see.
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Very happy to help introduce the film to new viewers. The film certainly benefits from the strength of its performances. Hope you enjoy it!
Wow, what a great cast! A lot of my faves appear here, including Neville Brand, Ralph Meeker, and Larry Storch (had NO idea his career went back that far!); as well as Cameron Mitchell, whose films were so loved on the original MST3K TV series. I’m part of that Hall of Shame that’s never heard of Without Warning, but it definitely sounds worth checking.
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Thanks for the comment! Yeah, lot of talented actors here. I admit to learning quite about each of these actor’s careers through researching/writing this piece. And truth be told, I only discovered the film myself about 15 years ago, so if there was a “Hall of Shame” for not watching Without Warning, I was a member for a long time!
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Thanks so much for this great rundown of an amazing B movie cast! I actually saw Without Warning in the ’80s, and now I’m itching to see it again! Somehow, among all those performers, I only dimly recall Larry Storch and his scoutmaster bit – and the unique method the alien had for dispatching its victims.
By the way, I would never take issue with your cast categories! 😅 I am proud to say that I remember Sue Anne Langdon very well (I just saw her in UHF), but am embarrassed to say I knew nothing of Kevin Peter Hall and his portraying the Predator and Harry along with Without Warning’s alien. That is truly a tragic story!
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Thank you, Brian, for holding this fantastic event! I highly enjoyed reading all the submissions (although I do still have a couple to catch up on).
This film never entered into my radar until now, but wow…talk about star power! I wonder how the producers of this movie managed to get so many big names? Ralph Meeker always stand out in any film he’s in. He’s very good opposite Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld in I Walk The Line (1970). And Martin Landau certainly deserved his Oscar for Ed Wood, but his performance in Crimes and Misdemeanors is absolutely incredible. I would be interested in seeing Without Warning. I’ve been trying to push my own personal envelope a little bit when it comes to horror and sci-fi. I tend to avoid a lot of films made after the mid-1960’s when there was increasing violence and bloodshed. I’ve always been more comfortable with the Gothic horrors of Bava and Corman and the sci-fi flicks from the 1950’s. But I’ve been making an effort to expand my experience. I like the structure of your review, concentrating on the actors. It was interesting and informative.
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I saw this film come up on Tubi (Canada) a little while ago. At the time, a friend’s review was not high praise, so I passed it by. But, now I’m thinking I should go back and see if it is still available.
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