Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - WITHOUT WARNING and LEVIATHAN on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scream Factory - WITHOUT WARNING and LEVIATHAN on Blu-ray

WITHOUT WARNING (1980; Greydon Clark)
Wow, so this is kind of a big deal. WITHOUT WARNING has never really gotten much of decent home video (outside of a few small label VHS) release until this amazing Scream Factory disc (didn't even really make it to VHS at all in the states!). For decades it has been mostly relegated to the world of grey market bootlegs.

As much as the poster artwork above is a little reminiscent of SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU (notice the kids in front of the van etc), I still kinda love it. As for the movie itself, it is very obviously a predecessor to (and likely influence on) a little film from six years later called PREDATOR (which interestingly also featured an alien played by Kevin Peter Hall by the way). This particular hunter alien has some fun toys that he uses to stalk his prey, one of them being these flying "frisbee" like discs that are actually alive and dig their tentacles into the flesh of whatever they happen to land on. It's some fun creepy stuff. So there's enjoyable sci-fi elements here as well as makeup/special FX for fans of that kind of thing and a cool old-school looking alien (a la INVASION OF THE SAUCERMEN or something) to boot. On top of all that, you've got one hell of a cast. Headlining/slumming it are Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Neville Brand and Cameron Mitchell (though he was less of a stranger to this sort of fare). What's great about these guys is that they are consummate professionals. Landau plays a fairly crazed Vietnam vet and he's not afraid to go a little over the top. Palance is his usual Palance-y self which is always entertaining. Director Greydon Clark had done a gaggle of exploitation films prior to this including BLACK SHAMPOO, SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS and ANGELS BRIGADE. He would follow WITHOUT WARNING with THE RETURN (also with Landau and Brand), and two zany comedies in WACKO and JOYSTICKS. He's one of those directors that's career is colorful enough to stand out a bit and I have been a fan of his for some time. In poking around on Youtube, I found this 28-minute phone interview with him where he answers questions about WITHOUT WARNING specifically:
The bottom line for me here is that I am very pleased to see Scream Factory continue to put out titles like WITHOUT WARNING, DEADLY EYES and DEATH VALLEY. It is a truly wonderful thing for a company with the following and fandom that Scream has to bring these kinds of films out of obscurity and back into the greater conversation about genre movies. I've always been in favor of "rescuing" lost films like these and I really hope they sell well enough to justify Scream continuing their trend of bringing them out. 

Special Features:
--Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Greydon Clark. This is a solid track, wherein Clark (who has a good "commentary voice"). He seems to have taken a few notes and has many specific memories of this challenging, but fun low-budget production. He discusses the cast, locations and practical special effects. It's a little sparse in spots, but overall enjoyable. It's always nice to have the director do these tracks, especially when the film is older like this.
New Interviews with:
-- "Independents Day with Dean Cundey" (15 mins). I'm always happy to listen to Dean Cundey speak a about his experiences on any film he's made as he is truly one of my favorite cinematographers of all time. In this interview, he revisits the point his career was at when he was deciding to do WITHOUT WARNING and what a pleasure it was to work with the actors in the film as well as expressing his pleasant surprise at what they were able to accomplish on a very tight schedule. Here is a clip:

-- "Producers Vs. Aliens with Daniel Grodnik" (12 mins) Co-Writer/Co-Producer Daniel Grodnik talks about the climate of filmmaking in the late 70s (when he made his first film STAR HOPS).   WITHOUT WARNING followed his production  of TERROR TRAIN and Grodnik discusses the rocky beginnings to the film and how Greydon Clark took over when he became involved.

-- "Hunter's Blood with Greg Cannon" (6 mins) Special Make-Up Effects Creator Greg Cannom talks about his work on the film and coming onto a Rick Baker project. He touches on doing the fake heads, face casts and making up Kevin Peter Hall. Cannom would go on to work on such major Hollywood productions as JURASSIC PARK, HOOK and TITANIC. Here's a short clip from the interview:

-- "Greg and Sandy's Alien Adventures" (21 mins) - Actors Christopher S. Nelson and Tarah Nutter talk about their origins in acting, some early roles (Nelson talks about a film he did with Kim Novak and Nutter mentions CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER). They both go on to recollect their experiences working with Greydon Clark and veteran actors like Martin Landau and Neville Brand.

LEVIATHAN (1989; George P. Cosmatos)
Cinephiles bandy about the term "auteur" pretty often these days. It has begun to lose it's impact a little. Is Michael Bay really an auteur? I suppose a case can be made for it. That said, I think there are many forgotten auteurs from the the 1980s and 1990s and George P. Cosmatos is certainly one of them. Cosmatos had a run of extremely solid genre fare in the 80s and 90s and I don't think he gets enough credit for it. Starting with OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN in 1983, he really started firing on all cylinders. ORIGIN is one of the best animal attack films ever made and easily one of the best "killer rat" movies of all-time (along with Scream Factory recent Blu-ray DEADLY EYES). ORIGIN, also featured Peter Weller so it was he and Cosmatos' first collaboration. After that, Cosmatos would move on to the big time with RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II and COBRA - two of the best action films of the 1980s. Those who don't remember those films well enough should go and revisit them as soon as possible (especially COBRA, which I adore). It pleased me so greatly to see that his son Panos Cosmatos threw his hat into the filmmaking ring with his remarkably awesome and unique film debut BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (which was supposedly financed by some of his dad's residuals from TOMBSTONE). 
So right out the gate, the credits for LEVIATHAN got me excited to see it again. Not only was it neat to see all the folks in the excellent ensemble cast (Peter Weller, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, Hector Elizondo, Meg Foster and Lisa Eilbacher), but I also saw the name De Laurentiis. That almost always means there's an interesting film ahead (often with some bat shit craziness in the last reel). In this case De Laurentiis refers not to Dino, but to Luigi and Aurelio (Dino's older brother and nephew respectively)LEVIATHAN was basically Peter Weller's second feature after the success of ROBOCOP (he made SHAKEDOWN in 1988 with Sam Elliott). Like WITHOUT WARNING is to PREDATOR, ALIEN is to LEVIATHAN. It has elements of both ALIEN and THE THING whilst taking place underwater. The locale is a mining station for the Tri-Oceanic Mining Company (sound familiar) 16,000 feet below the ocean's surface. 
1989 was certainly the year of science fiction and horror movies set amidst the ocean's depths. January saw DEEPSTAR SIX released, March was LEVIATHAN and with August came THE ABYSS. All three had some interesting things going on in the way of special effects. In the case of LEVIATHAN, Stan Winston made the magic. It's pretty effective magic too. Creatures, mutations and gore are all handled deftly and fantastically. All in all, this is a solid 80s creature feature with roots in a couple of other films I love with a great cast, so what's not to like?

Here is a promotional Trailer/Featurette for LEVIATHAN that I found online. It appears to meant for video buyers. It's about 6 mins and it contains  interviews clips from Cosmatos, Peter Weller, Stan Winston, Richard Crenna and Amanda Pays:

Special Features:
--"Leviathan - Monster Melting Pot" (40 mins) - interview with  creature effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Shannon Shea. This featurette initially focuses on the atmosphere surrounding the three underwater films coming out around the same time and how these guys and Stan Winston ended up on LEVIATHAN and moves into the specifics of all the difficulties faced by them throughout the course of the production.
--"Dissecting Cobb with Hector Elizondo" (13 mins) Elizondo talks about how he got involved with the film, his character and bringing humor to his roles. He also shares a cool Lee Marvin story.
--"Surviving Leviathan with Ernie Hudson" (15 mins) Ernie Hudson talks about the sense of family that occasionally crops up on certain films he's worked on, this being one of them. He also touches on working in Rome and working in and amongst all the practical effects (and how kept thinking the monster looked like a big chicken). He also talks about learning how to swim a little bit for the film.

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