MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 FAVORITE CLASSICS AND CULT CLASSICS I SAW AT THE LEGENDARY ORITANI THEATER!

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The Oritani Theater

Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection

If you’ve been visiting this site for a while you’ve probably heard me mention more than once, The Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. The Oritani was a grind house, that presented badly dubbed martial arts movies, horror flicks, and raunchy low budget comedies during the late seventies and early 80s. I lived only a town away, so this was a go-to theater on a Friday and Saturday night for my friends and I, who shared a love of B-Movie horror and sci-fi. I decided to compose a list of 12 favorite flicks that I saw there, which are now regarded as classics, cult classics, or fan favorites. Some of these were seen when first released and a few of the older titles were at revivals or midnight shows there!

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. Escape From New York
  2. Galaxy of Terror
  3. Humanoids from the Deep
  4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  5. Night of the Living Dead
  6. Scanners
  7. Mad Max
  8. The Boogens
  9. Shogun Assassin
  10. The Incredible Melting Man
  11. Laserblast
  12. Without Warning

 

-MonsterZero NJbars

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WITHOUT WARNING and PREDATOR: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

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WITHOUT WARNING and PREDATOR: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Without Warning or Predator, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

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Last time around I compared the similarities in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and John Carpenter’s Halloween (link here). Now, I’d like to have a little fun comparing the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator and Without Warning, a B-movie sci-fi/horror with a very similar plot that predates Predator by seven years. So, how does 1980’s Without Warning measure up to 1987’s Predator? Read on to find out!

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

Greydon Clark’s cult favorite Without Warning tells the story of a group of teens who go up to a mountain lake to party in an area that has been staked out as a hunting ground by an alien being, hunting humans for sport. The surviving teens’ only hope is a local hunter named Joe Taylor (Jack Palance) whose own hunting skills make him a worthy adversary for the extraterrestrial big game hunter. This pits hunter vs. hunter in a battle for survival.

Directed by John McTiernan, Predator tells the tale of a group of special ops commandos who are dropped on a rescue mission into a section of the South American jungle that has been staked out as a hunting ground by an alien being, hunting humans for sport. As his squad dwindles, it’s up to team leader Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to use his every skill as a solider to try and stop this big game hunter from another world. This pits hunter vs. soldier in a battle for survival.

Except for some story details, the similarities in the basic plot are quite obvious between the two.

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THE ANTAGONISTS

The alien hunter of the low budget Without Warning is a modest looking creature made by make-up FX legend Rick Baker and played by the late Kevin Peter Hall who was 7′ 3″ tall. The creature stalks it’s prey day or night and it’s only weapons are star-fish shaped creatures that it throws at it’s victims. These little buggers latch on to prey with their pointy fangs and finish them off by digging their tentacles deep under the victim’s skin. When wounded, the creature seems to be able to heal itself with a mere touch of it’s own hand, though, doesn’t really seem to feel pain anyway. It keeps the bodies of it’s victims, temporarily in an old shed, to keep as trophies…or possibly food. The creature is malicious and has no sense of honor and will attack basically anyone, whether they can defend themselves or not. The creature growls but never speaks.

The alien hunter of the larger budgeted Predator is a now iconic movie monster made by make-up FX legend Stan Winston and is also played by the late Kevin Peter Hall, who became a film icon himself for portraying such roles. The Predator hunts it’s victims day and night using a cloaking device to remain hidden. Once it has it’s prey in sight, the better equipt hunter uses a variety of retractable blades and laser weaponry to finish off it’s victims. When wounded, the predator has some impressive self-surgery skills to mend it’s wounds and keep on going, though, it does seem to feel pain and can be hurt. It keeps it’s prey’s skulls as trophies and leaves skinned bodies hanging around to evoke fear in potential game. It is a fair creature, that seems to like a challenge and will only attack prey that is armed and can put up a fight and defend itself. The creature doesn’t outright speak, but communicates by mimicking voices and phrases it’s heard.

While budget advantages make our Predator far more effective than the simply designed hunter of Without Warning, in terms of character, The Predator uses far more technology and weaponry than his 1980 counterpart and seems far more susceptible to pain and injury. Though in terms of the type of hunting they do, The Predator likes a challenge and only attacks armed prey, while Without Warning‘s alien hunter will attack anyone whether they are armed or not…though there is subtle implication that it does not consider children fair game.

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HEROES and FINAL GIRLS

Without Warning has both a hero, our local hunter Joe Taylor (Jack Palance) and a final girl, Sandy (Tarah Nutter). Joe is a bit of a recluse who has lived in the mountain area setting all his life. He’s a hunter who lives off the land and runs the small town’s only gas station. He seems to keep to himself, but has a strong sense of nobility and when the creature sets his sights on the helpless teens, Joe takes up his hunting rifle and takes on the alien invader who’s hunting on the local man’s turf. Final girl Sandy is a sweet girl brought on the lake excursion by her friend Beth (Lynn Thell) as a blind date for her boyfriend Tom’s (David Caruso) bud, Greg (Christopher S. Nelson). She’s sweet and timid, but does rise above being a damsel in distress, when placed in the middle of the life and death struggle between the hunters from different worlds.

Predator has a hero and a final girl (technically, the only girl), too. Our hero is Dutch, the leader of an elite black operative’s team played by action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a highly skilled soldier and when faced with a creature more powerful and far better armed, Dutch must use every skill he has to outwit his alien adversary that is slaughtering his men. Our final girl is Anna (Elpidia Carrillo), a rebel soldier captured by Dutch’s team that has encountered the creature before. While she is a soldier, the film never let’s her rise about being a captive damsel as Arnie takes center stage for a one on one climactic confrontation with The Predator.

Joe and Dutch are from two different worlds (figuratively), but are the best at what they do in their respective ways of life. It’s in our ladies that there is a bit of a difference. Ironically, while she’s the far more timid character, Sandy gets to show a bit more moxie than Anna who is actually a resistance fighter, but never given a chance to show it in the film.

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THE SETTINGS

Here there are equal parts similarities and differences. Without Warning takes place in a rural mountain area, here in the U.S., surrounding a lake. There is a very small town located in it, but the alien creature seems to track and kill anyone that enters the surrounding woods only. The fact that the locals are unaware of it’s existence, except for crazy army vet Sarge (Martin Landau), it would seem that the creature avoids the town and only enters to pursue prey that has gotten away.

Predator takes place in the thick jungles of South America where there is a lot of military conflict going on between government soldiers and rebels with clandestine U.S. and Russian support on the opposite sides. The Predator not only uses the conflict to mask it’s presence, but to provide it with abundant and heavily armed targets to prey on. It’s also implied that the creature prefers the heat.

While both aliens hunt in remote, dense areas, Without Warning‘s hunter seems to prefer a quieter, less traveled place to secretly hunt while The Predator prefers it’s remote jungle to be a hotbed of chaotic activity and fighting, to cover up it’s big game hunt and provide a numerous selection of aggressive and armed adversaries to prey upon.

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THE OPENING SCENES

The opening scenes for both movies are effective in their own way but vastly different.

Without Warningin 80s horror fashion, starts us off right away with the slaughter of an argumentative father and son (movie vet Cameron Mitchell and former child actor Darby Hinton) on a hunting trip. It establishes right away that there is something wrong in these woods and opens the flick with some blood, gore and a good glimpse at the star fish-like creatures our hunter uses. It sets the stage for what’s to come.

Predator opens with a quite different approach. It introduces us to Dutch and his team and then their insertion into the jungle. It takes a while for the film to start letting us know that there is something wrong here and quite sometime before we begin to realize that there is something otherworldly lurking in the trees. The air of mystery works very well at pulling us in and keeping us interested.

Both openings work in setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. One film does it by showing it’s bloody hand right away, while the other, by keeping us in the dark as to what exactly isn’t right with the situation.

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THE ENDINGS

Both films end with a bang, thought one is intentional, the other a final F*&K YOU from a defeated opponent.

After a cat and mouse chase in the woods, Without Warning has Joe Taylor rigging explosives to the shack where the alien is storing it’s trophies. When the alien returns, Joe sacrifices himself to lure the alien close enough for Sandy to blast it. The creature…and Joe…go up in a ball of flame.

The Predator, on the other hand activates a self-destruct device after being mortally wounded by Dutch during a vicious battle. Dutch barely escapes the conflagration as the alien hunter laughs at the prospect of having the last…well, laugh.

Both endings are dramatic and provide fireworks, but obviously Predator’s budget and star provide far more action than the very low budgeted Without Warning. Joe Taylor and the alien trade a few shots before the explosion and destruction of the shack and an obvious alien dummy. Predator treats us to a last act cat and mouse game between Dutch and The Predator before a brutal physical encounter which has the alien game hunter coming up short and detonating the surrounding jungle to take his victorious opponent with it. Either way, both films have their alien critter going boom.

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IN CONCLUSION

The similarities in these two flicks are extremely obvious. The biggest difference is that Without Warning is a very low budget B-Movie horror flick that plays more like a slasher movie while Predator is a big budgeted studio action film with a major star and gives us one of the screen’s most iconic monsters. Predator’s budget gives us much bigger and more extravagant action while Without Warning works with what it’s got and gives us a flick more like the slasher/horror flicks of it’s time…and it did come first. Greydon Clark was a fairly successful exploitation filmmaker (Satan’s Cheerleaders) while Predator’s John McTiernan would go on to become a renown action movie director with the classics Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October under his belt. Without Warning can’t compete with Predator for action or it’s make-up and gore effects, but does splatter the red stuff frequently and while it’s costume is much simpler, the alien does have some personality and menace. Kevin Peter Hall gave both creatures a presence and while Without Warning does’t have a big marquee name like Arnold, it does have long-time veteran actors like Palance and Landau (along with fellow vets Cameron Mitchell and Neville Brand) to ham it up just enough to make the proceedings fun. Two very similar movies made at different times and at different ends of the filmmaking spectrum, but both provide their own brand of entertainment in their own way. One is now a cult classic and the other a bonafide action movie classic. Win win for us!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITHOUT WARNING (1980)

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WITHOUT WARNING (1980)

Yet another early 80s gem that I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen at the great Oritani Theater in Hackensack N.J. This delightfully cheesy sci-fi/ horror flick tells the story of an alien hunter who preys on humans using flying, fanged starfish-like creatures as weapons and a full 7 years before Arnold tangled with the Predator.

Without Warning focuses on two young couples (Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Humanoids From The Deep’s Lynn Theel and a young David Caruso) who decide to go camping at a remote lake despite the ominous warnings from strange local gas station owner/hunter, Joe Taylor (Jack Palance before City Slickers revived his career). Soon upon arrival at the secluded lake, they become the targeted prey of the extraterrestrial creature and his flying minions who have apparently staked out this area as their hunting ground. Now running for their lives and with no one believing them, they have only the gruff off-balanced Taylor and crazy war vet and conspiracy theorist “Sarge” (Martin Landau before Ed Wood revived his career) to turn to. Apparently these two have had dealings with this evil E.T. and have been equally ostracized for their claims, so maybe now it’s time to stand and fight.

This 1980 film is cheesy fun and brings a lot of unintentional laughs such as one youth’s attempt to describe the alien threat to a bar full of drunk locals and the alien actually stopping to steady a swinging lamp before continuing his pursuit of a victim. Greydon (Satan’s Cheerleaders) Clark directs from a script with no less than 4 writers listed for some reason. He gives the flick a rather pedestrian pace, but he treats his material seriously as do the cast, especially Palance and Landau, who properly chew up the scenery with Landau especially cranking up the nuttiness. Aside from them, though, the acting and dialog is strictly what you’d expect from a B-movie like this and the barely adequate performances suit the material oddly well. The production is strictly low budget with some passable alien SPFX and OK gore from future FX master Greg Cannom with the alien’s head created by the legendary Rick Baker. There isn’t a lot of action till the last act, but it is entertainingly worth waiting for and the fact that everyone in the small lakeside town seems to be some kind of nut does go a long way to make up for it in the meantime. And who can pass on a three-way showdown between Jack Palance, Martin Landau and a 7 foot purple alien? Not me! Add in a typical 80s electronic score by Dan Wyman and some nice cinematography by frequent John Carpenter DOP Dean Cundey and you have a good example of the type of B-movie they sadly don’t make anymore. Despite all it’s inadequacies, it’s heart is in the right place.

Not a classic or great movie by any length, but it is a fun 80s ‘so bad it’s good’ flick to enjoy with a couple of beers and a few other flicks of equally enjoyable awfulness (like Laserblast for example). Without Warning also features appearances by film vets Ralph Meeker and Neville Brand as doubting locals and Cameron Mitchell and Larry Storch as a hunter and scout master, respectively, who are among the creature’s first victims. Nostalgic 80s fun.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  Ironically, the alien hunter here is played by Kevin Peter Hall who also played the Predator in the similarly themed, classic Schwarzenegger flick in 1987.

For an in-depth comparison of Without Warning and Predator, go HERE to read all about it.

3 cheesy angry aliens!

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