Splashing spotlights across tight blonde curls and the sharp edges of the murderous blades of a gardener's shears---Without Warning! Opening with pure noir murder, our love-killer gardener Carl Martin (Andy Williams, ... more »North by Northwest) leaves his latest fair-haired victim gaping at the ceiling in a motel room in a post-passion melee. But our killer is not a random psycho, He's a clean-cut kid with an unknown chip on his. shoulder and a pair of garden shears in his hands---and a murderous lust for big-busted blonde babes out for a quick night's thrill. Befriending a local garden shop owner's daughter, Carl boldly snares her in his lair. Scant clues keep detective Ed Binns (12 Angry Men), busy while Carl Martin keeps pruning the blondes. With a tip of the hat and a draw of the gun, the flatfoots keep our killer hustling until he's plucked his last daisy. Drawing on the classic inspirations of the period, Without Warning! is one of the final missing pieces in the shadowy world of American film noir.« less
"Not only has this well-made, nearly forgotten Film Noir been rescued from oblivion by MPI, but they have used a nearly perfect print. The experience of watching an obscure film like this is greatly enhanced when the picture and sound quality are this good. This DVD deserves a special Film Noir award.
As for WITHOUT WARNING itself, it turns out to be well worth the wait for those Noir fans who have long wished they could see this legendary movie. The direction is tight, the acting mostly very good, and the look of the film is priceless because it captures so many LA locations that are no longer in existence, or that have been drastically altered over 50-plus years. On the visual level alone, WITHOUT WARNING is a must-see. For a movie of this length (77 min) and low budget, we get several nicely executed edge-of-your-seat thrills. However, the intelligent sceenplay provides plenty of dramatic interest as well. This is one of many 'police procedural' Noirs, but it's several cuts above most others: the narration is concise and mostly unobtrusive, and the scenes of 1950s-style police forensics are all interesting and even feature a degree of humor from a witty lab technician. Best of all is the intrigue. An early example of a serial killer Noir, WITHOUT WARNING compares favorably with THE SNIPER (from the same period)--in its close observation of a killer at work, interspersed with police attempts to track him down--but it's much less sympathetic to the perpetrator in this case. A movie of this type needs a lead actor who can gain audience interest and hold it. This is the case with THE SNIPER, and it's also true in WITHOUT WARNING. Let's hope Adam Williams is around to see the beautiful DVD issue of his great lead performance as Carl Martin. This is a fully realized characterization: tormented, enraged, clever, and pathetic. Williams makes it all believable, and he is ultimately responsible for making the film work so well.
As a supplement, the DVD has a gallery of posters and lobby cards"
Decent noir--half smart, half dumb
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 10/29/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is not bad for a 1952 noir, but is not as substantial as other films of the same year--I'm particularly thinking of Narrow Margin with the great Marie Windsor, and especially of the similarly-themed film The Sniper, also about a serial killer.
A big part of the reason for the three stars rather than four or five is the acting and the script, both of which are, for the most part, straightforward and pedestrian with a few flashes here and there of smarts. But you do have the by then standard "stentorian voice" of a voiceover narrator intoning the details of how the cops follow up leads to catch the killers. You do have the lab guys, complete with glasses and their, you know, "quirky ways" that include drinking tea out of a beaker and subtly showing up the "dumb street cops" how smart they (the lab guys) are and how unsmart the cops are. And of course you do have the innocent female victim, in the form of the daughter of a semi-crusty older guy who loves his daughter, blah, blah.
On the other hand, you also have something that could make your eyes widen and your jaw drop, if just a little bit, and that is a bad girl who, in so many words, practically begs the killer to let her have it--not meaning murder, but sex. The scene in which the two of them are in her car next to each other is fraught with sexual tension and is way ahead of its time. Not only that, but the obvious equating of sex with death is so ripe in that scene that it says more than anything else in the film does about the killer and why he does what he does. This was a really great scene.
Ed Binns is on hand to give the film somewhat more polish; he plays one of the two cops after the killer, Carl Martin, who works as a gardener. Carl's thing is to bump off blondes who are young and good looking. And somehow either he finds the married one, or they find him. The fact that it's never made clear just how he winds up with married blondes points to the psychological undertones used in the story, and that's not at all a bad thing.
There are some scenes--or at least lines--here and there, that actually appear to look forward to more contemporary films and they are slightly startling in their modernity. So this is an unusual mixture of the pedestrian and the intelligent. It's definitely of its period and is not at all bad. It's an interesting noir that's at least worth seeing if not owning. If you're a noir fiend like me, you'll want it for your collection. In my estimation, it ranks along with B noirs like Blonde Ice and Quicksand as representative of their period but not in what could be called the "seminal noirs" which are films like Out of the Past, Murder My Sweet, Double Indemnity, and Black Angel.
Still, it's a solid decent effort."
Rough, smart thriller, available at last!
David J. Hogan | Arlington Heights, IL United States | 12/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Deft combination of murder thriller and police procedural is presented via a pristine, shimmering b&w print highlighting solid work by the creepily appealing young character actor Adam Williams (where are you now, Adam?)as an unflamboyant but remorseless killer of blondes, and Meg Randall, as the focal female who eventually finds herself in dire straits. Nice turns, too, by the understated Ed Binns as the police detective assigned to bring the monster to heel, and by Angela Stevens, a pretty Columbia contract starlet (The Three Stooges, Creature with the Atom Brain, numerous westerns) who, in this UA release, steams the screen as a randy goodtime girl who comes to a bad end. Smartly produced and directed by the highly competent Levy-Gardner-Laven team (The Rifleman, The Monster that Challenged the World, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue). Shock moments, notably a wowser near the beginning of the picture, are apt to knock you back in your seat. The photo gallery is welcome; menu and DVD case designs are imaginative and appealing. And as other reviewers have noted, Without Warning also is a priceless visual and aural record of "lost" L.A., particularly Chavez Ravine. The whole bargain-priced package is a gem that can't be recommended too highly."
"And while the killer slept the machinery of the law slipped
Dymon Enlow | 10/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm happy that this little known noir gem is finally available on DVD, especially with such a crisp picture, but I wish they had thrown in some extras. Maybe a few trailers, an audio commentary would have been great.
Carl Martin is a mild mannered lawn care guy. He seems normal enough with a respectable job and a cozy house, but I knew something was wrong with him the second he started madly stabbing a woman in the back with a pair of 5 inch pruning shears.
Try as he might Carl ain't the smoothest killer the world has ever seen and the cops are on his trail thanks to some fibers he left at a crime scene and some dirt at another. But how many women will die before the cop's hard work pays off?
Despite the obvious low budget and a first time director WITHOUT WARNING! was entertaining from beginning to end. I'll definitely watch it again. "
Hack, Hack sweet... Hack
tmp | Solar System, MA USA | 03/24/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The story of a serial killer in LA in the 50's who targets married chesty blondes on the make: this is must have given them the idea for "Dragnet". Modern audiences raised on "CSI" will groan as the antihero drops clues for the police to find like feathers, and groan more as they're ignored. Interest is mostly generated by thinking how any crime at all got solved back then with the rudimentary science involved, and the shots of the pre-Dodger Stadium Chavez Ravine. Worth a look, and if you're an LA Historian, worth an own."