Without Warning [2]

Tagged: Film

Made-for-tv film (1994). The Wolper Organisation/Mountain View Productions/Warner Brothers Television for CBS-TV. Produced by Robert Iscove and Nancy Platt Jacoby. Directed by Iscove. Written by Peter Lance, based on an original story by Lance, Waylon Green, and Jeremy Thorn. Cast includes Loni Anderson (uncredited), Arthur C Clarke, Jane Kaczmarek, Sander Vanocur and Bree Walker (credited as Bree Walker-Lampley). 100 minutes. Colour.

This pseudodocumentary opens as a murder mystery starring Anderson and titled Without Warning, "interrupted" by a fake news announcement of an earthquake Disaster in Wyoming. The supposed mystery continues briefly but is abandoned in favour of a "breaking news" report in which news anchor Vanocur (himself), reporter Bree Walker (herself) and specialist Dr Carolyn Jaffe (Kaczmarek) discuss the supposed tragedy, resulting from one of three damaging meteor strikes. The others are in Southern France, again destroying a small town, and a remote area of China. A further revelation is that the impact sites have begun to emit signals which cripple all aircraft in range. Two badly injured survivors are found, a small girl in Wyoming and a young man in France; they are able to talk, but speak only seeming gibberish. Next, a much larger object is spotted approaching Earth, heading for the general region of the North Pole. Assuming this is a hostile attack by unknown parties, the US deploys nuclear-armed fighter craft that destroy the object, but are downed by further plane-crippling transmissions. Arthur C Clarke is "interviewed" via satellite about these events as further reports come of three much larger Asteroids now approaching the Earth, clearly targeting Washington (District of Columbia), Beijing and Moscow. A Scientist speculates that the first three meteorites were actually an attempt at First Contact by Aliens who now believe Earth has declared war against them owing to the destruction of the unknown object over North America. Further nuclear missiles are fired at the oncoming asteroids, destroying them at the last moment. Very soon, however, several hundred huge asteroids are detected approaching Earth in a swarm. Dr Jaffe and Vanocur can only watch and wait for the end. Yet another scientist announces his belief that the gibberish spoken by the two survivors (now dead from their injuries) was an attempted repetition of the messages carried on golden record-discs aboard the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes. Reports come in of major Cities being destroyed; the programme ends with the screen going blank.

Despite an initial announcement – repeatedly confirmed during commercial breaks – that Without Warning was fictional, television stations in at least two states received panicked calls; several CBS affiliates refused to show it at all. The 31 October 1994 date of the broadcast – Hallowe'en night – should perhaps have been a further clue that the events reported were not real. The name of the town destroyed in Wyoming was Grover's Mill, borrowed from the notorious Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 30 October 1938. Without Warning is similar in structure to the earlier pseudo-documentary Special Bulletin (1983); the use of well-known journalists increased its plausibility. It has not been shown again on US Television, although it has been sold to overseas markets and is available in home video format. [GFi]

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