Carl Martin is a morose and deranged Los Angeles gardener, who,in retribution for the infidelity of his unfaithful wife, sets about to kill as many blonde's as he can. From the time the film opens, to the sound of a radio turned up full-blast over the still-warm corpse of a blonde, the audience knows the identity of the killer. The film depicts, with documentary realism as it was shot on location in and around Los Angeles, how the police, using laboratory techniques against the few clues they have, track down Martin. Their key clue is a spring from a pair of garden shears. The police move in just as Martin is about to add Jane Saunders, the daughter of a greenhouse owner, to his long list of victims. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'd been aware of this film's existence for some years, and although I never imagined it to be a classic, it did seem promising, given the highly competent Levy-Gardner-Laven team (The Rifleman, The Monster That Challenged the World, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue), and Adam Williams, a young character actor (The Big Heat, North by Northwest, The Space Children)I've always enjoyed.
On the most basic level, Dark Sky Films has put together a splendid, bargain-price DVD presenting a 35mm print that is flawless, except for a single, brief "cut" in the film stock late in the story. Otherwise, this b&w thriller is pristine, even shimmering, without speck, scratch or other visible flaw. Where has this print been all these years--Fort Knox? I was stunned by its beauty. A photo gallery is a pleasing extra, and the menu is imaginatively augmented with visual and audio snippets. Open the case and the inner sleeve is decorated with original ad art and a scene from the film.
As a murder thriller with strong overtones of police procedural (complete with v/o narration by the fabulous Reed Hadley), Without Warning is superior stuff, with effectively understated performances, smart, concise direction and plenty of suspense and surprise, including a shock moment near the beginning that will knock you back in your chair.
Williams is creepily attractive (or maybe attractively creepy) as the quiet, psychotic killer of women, with character vet Ed Binns appealingly dogged as the working-stiff police detective assigned to bring the monster to heel. Meg Randall is pleasant and convincing as the central female character(who ends up in considerable peril), and there's a nice turn (in this UA release) by pretty Columbia contract player Angela Stevens (Three Stooges shorts, Creature with the Atom Brain, lots of westerns), as a good-time girl who comes to a bad end.
As other reviewers have commented, Without Warning also is an invaluable visual and aural record of vanished Los Angeles, particularly Chavez Ravine. As archaeology alone, then, the picture is fascinating.
I can't emphasize enough the pleasure and satisfaction Without Warning provides. It's worthy on multiple levels; grab it!
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