Early Warning (1981)

Jenny Marshall (Delana Michaels; a slight resume, but still in the business), a Christian woman, wants Sam Jensen, an atheist newspaper reporter (Greg Wynne; in his acting debut, and with another slight resume), to publish an “early warning”: a cover-blowing story about the rise of the “bible prophesied” One World Foundation. Skeptical at first, Sam Jensen comes to believe Jenny Marshall (who was working on the “big story” with Sam’s old newspaper mentor; since murdered by the OWF) as result of her relentless pursuit by the foundation. A troubling romance, i.e., Christian woman falls in love with the atheistic reporter, but can’t be in love with a non-believer, yada, yada, yada (and yawn), ensues, as the sort-of-romantic duo try to take down the Antichrist.

More book cover than theatrical one-sheet?

Is it as dry and dopey-mopey, replete with weak acting and weakly-excuted action, as the Christian post-apoc’er Years of the Beast released in the same year? Eh, well, er . . . the scripting is (just a little) better than that end-times snooze-fest-o-rama. However, while I am not a fan of montage-newscast voice overs to set up the story, screenwriter David R. Elliot does eerily predict the very same issues we’re dealing with in 2021 (outbreaks of racial and religious-based violence, closing of churches and arrests of pastors, out-of-control gun violence, gun and explosive-possessing terrorist cells, male-only draft laws, the rebirth of Nazism, outbreaks of senseless murders and rapes) in his opening titles sequence. And the talk of one world banks, laser-engraved computer numbers, the rise of radical liberalism in schools as the plot unfolds has its intelligent-engaging moments.

Film and television sound editor David R. Elliot (The Waltons, Stephen King’s Cujo), in his lone writing and directing effort, was certainly influenced by Donald W. Thompson’s (who wraps up his end-times tetralogy with The Prodigal Planet in 1983) and Hal Lindsey’s eschatological works (his 1979 documentary The Late Great Planet Earth). It’s obvious Elliot is also a sci-fi fan, as you’ll notice influences ranging from the early A.I. classic Colossus: The Forbin Project and John Carpenter’s post-apoc game changer Escape from New York.

While the proceedings are obviously on a low-budget, Elliot’s vision of the coming rise of the Beast is more technically proficient (his ability to stage car chases under helicopter sniper fire by black-clad soldiers, give us over-the-cliff car crashes, and some flashy techo-trinkets) courtesy of his being a filmmaker, first (he’s also worked on Stewart Raffill’s High Risk and, with Bo Hopkins, The Plutonium Incident). As result, the against-the-budget production values are higher than, and more effectively framed and shot than, a Thompson Christian-apoc production; however, Early Warning is still, very TV drama-flat and just a (slight) notch above a PBS-TV movie apoc-production (Hide and Seek, Music of the Spheres).

The acting is obviously above the non-pro thespian fray of Thompson’s end-time flickers, and it’s nice to have familiar actors Alvy Moore (ironically of The Brotherhood of Satan) and (George) Buck Flower(s) (a Carpenter go-to actor) show up . . . but neither is here long enough to balance against the other, weaker-unknown actors. While we get Flowers in the expected, desert-rat/survivalist role, Alvy Moore, god bless him, is one of the worst astronomers committed to film. (Did he just say, “I study stars n’ stuff” to explain his work? Could he be anymore “Hank Kimble” in his delivery?)

Oh, watch out for the ’60s Batman-era stock soundtrack: it’s arduous. And that flutes and clarinet stock music “chase sequence” music ain’t helping. Also of a particular annoyance: as with Carpenter’s post-apoc game changer, we have a (evil) society advanced enough to create laser-etching, ultraviolet-scanning computers to “mark” people — but it still all comes down to “mission critical” cassette tapes to put a stop to the chaos. Ugh.

Eh, look, it streams for free-with-commercials on Tubi and, as November 2022, Early Warning now appears on various Smart TV channel platforms (thus the odd, recent spike of reads of this review; and here we were simply scratching off an old Christploitation flick from our list). It’s something for the curiosity-seeking non-believer to fast-forward through on a slow Saturday night . . . to see the cinema drek Sam and I were stuck watching under revival tents and Wednesday Chapel’s once-a-month “media day” events. Yes, churches forced us kids to watch this stuff. And so it goes. . . .

You can also stream this — and other Christian movies we’ve reviewed this week — on the You Tube Christian Movies Portal. You can sample the trailer on You Tube.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.