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Warning Sign Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Warning Sign Blu Ray Large

Directed by Hal Barwood
Written by Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins
1985, 99 minutes, Rated R
Released on March 26th, 2019

Sam Waterston as Cal Morse
Kathleen Quinlan as Joanie Morse
Yaphet Kotto as Major Connolly
Jeffrey De Munn as Dr. Dan Fairchild
Richard Dysart as Dr. Nielsen
G.W. Bailey as Dr. Tom Schmidt
Jerry Hardin as Vic Flint

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A small rural town in Utah is home to BioTek Chemical, an agriculture research facility ostensibly working on plant hybrids and pesticide manufacture. In actuality the place is a secret government lab designing hazardous germ warfare material. When a vial of extremely dangerous stuff is broken and the scientists exposed, the building goes on lockdown trapping all eighty-five employees inside. Security officer Joanie Morse follows Protocol One and seals the building until outside help arrives. First on the scene is her husband/county sheriff Cal Morse, who sets about putting the locals at ease as they wait for their loved ones inside to be released. The government sends a bio-response team led by Major Connolly to deal with the situation, but when their tactics prove ineffective, Cal turns to former BioTek employee Dr. Dan Fairchild for faster results.

Inside, tensions are on the rise as the majority of the staff appear uninfected and want to go home. Joanie refuses to open the main door, causing pressure to mount while the employees grow more agitated and look to force their way out. In the lab at the center of the contagion, the scientists exposed are found to be either dead or unconscious, raising alarm. As Cal and Fairchild try to come up with a solution, Major Connolly sends in a containment crew to recover the bodies. Once inside they are met by an unexpected fate when the victims appear to reanimate and grow violent. Time passes and the remaining employees all begin to show signs of infection, everyone except Joanie. She tries to keep it together, but when the men get sicker they also grow more aggressive. It is up to Cal and Fairchild to come to their rescue and develop an antidote if anyone is to survive.

Warning Sign is a suspenseful picture in line with The China Syndrome and The Andromeda Strain where science runs amok. In 1985, Cold War fears were legitimate and audiences were open to a film about a new biological nightmare. This movie plays on those fears and introduces a more nefarious motive behind the crisis: the government is looking to keep up with the Russians and is researching germ warfare even though the process had been outlawed years before. The fear of big government plays to the heart of this story with a single mistake that threatens the lives and livelihood of an entire community.

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Director Hal Barwood sets up the inciting incident skillfully, as we know the accident is coming, but not how or when. Once the contagion is active, he follows the lives of the employees immediately affected by the lockdown. Security officer Joanie Morse is a responsible woman following the rules over the objections of others. She is in a tough position, as her immediate supervisors are giving her conflicting orders, but she stands her ground. Her husband Cal does his best to keep her calm as the situation worsens. Barwood gets into a bit of trouble when it comes to the frequency of cutting away from the tension of what’s going on inside to the frustrations of the outside community. It is a difficult balancing act, but he keeps things moving and generates a fair amount of suspense. Co-written by Barwood and Matthew Robbins – the team behind Dragonslayer and some early Spielberg pictures – the script juggles multiple plot lines and provides just enough character development to keep things interesting.

Sam Waterston (Law& Order) and Kathleen Quinlan (Breakdown) star as Cal and Joanie Morse, the loving couple trapped in a terrible situation. Quinlan delivers an emotionally exhausting performance that keeps viewers firmly on her side in the crisis. Her character is the only employee unaffected by the infection and she is the key to the resolution. Waterston does well playing an authority figure who wants to save his community and rescue his wife. Both actors are instantly likeable and we want to see them live happily ever after. Jeffrey De Munn (The Blob) is Dan Fairchild, the former BioTek employee working for a cure. He is a welcome presence and frequently the voice of reason as things spiral out of control. Fairchild’s polar opposite is the calculating Major Connolly, played by Yaphet Kotto (Alien) with his usual authoritative intensity.

Cinematographer Dean Cundey (Psycho II) really shines with his lighting and camera work balancing the wide-open Utah landscapes with the claustrophobic corridors of the facility. The synth-heavy score by Craig Safan (Nightmares) sets the mood and helps ratchet up the tension, adding depth to many key sequences. Performances are strong across the board and the direction is solid. The drama unfolds at a steady pace and firmly grabs audience attention. Warning Sign is a cautionary tale that plays on our fears of unchecked science. If you are in the mood for a quality thriller, you will likely enjoy this one.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the image originates from a dated transfer but it is serviceable. Colors are strong and black levels are rich with additional detail present in hair, fabric and other small objects.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track preserves the original audio recordings and really gets the job done. Music cues are robust and well-balanced with dialogue levels that are clean and free from distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Director Hal Barwood delivers an informative audio commentary that shares the challenges he faced as a first-time director. He is prone to on-screen narration but mingles it with interesting anecdotes.

Looking Back on Warning Sign (19 minutes) catches up with Barwood, who has since left filmmaking to enjoy a lengthy career designing video games. This was his sole directorial effort and he is quick to share his memories from the set. He discusses the writing process and working with his cast and crew and offers a few production stories of interest.

Producer Jim Bloom (Return of the Jedi) sits down for an all-new interview – also titled Looking Back on Warning Sign (42 minutes). He shares many war stories from his impressive career and gets into the nuts and bolts of what he does as a producer. His stories are quite interesting and definitely worth checking out.

The original theatrical trailer is paired with a TV spot offering a look at the marketing campaign.

A photo gallery featuring promotional images, poster art and lobby cards has been included.

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Movie: Threestars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Threeandahalfstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Twoandahalfstars
Overall: 3 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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