On a foggy night in Los Angeles there’s a psycho killer on the loose. Tom Valens (David Janssen) and Ed Musson (Keenan Wynn) are on stakeout duty at the Seaside Apartments, in Brentwood, after someone reported seeing a prowler on the premises. Valens sees a mysterious man running from the apartment. After identifying himself as police, Tom asks him to stop. Instead, the man pulls a gun and Valens shoots him dead. When no gun is found and the victim is identified as James Ruston (Donald Curtis), a respected and wealthy doctor, Valens is accused of killing an innocent man. Suspended from the force, Tom is determined to clear his name.

Originally conceived as a made-for-TV feature, Warning Shot reportedly made its way to the big-screen due to its violent content (though it is tame by today’s standard). The second half of the 1960’s featured several productions that helped revive the film noir style that was favored in the 1940’s. The Detective and Lady in Cement starred Frank Sinatra; One of many stars to welcome the ‘return’ of the genre. Despite its television origins, in many ways, Warning Shot is among the most successful of the bunch.

Filmed during his break between the third and fourth seasons of The Fugitive, David Janssen was practiced at playing a man desperate to clear his name. Square-jawed and masculine, his performance crackles with a believable intensity. When an arrogant lawyer (Walter Pidgeon) counsels Valens to plead guilty to manslaughter, accept probation and move on with his life, the sergeant is defiant,  “I have to prove that Dr. James V. Ruston is not the innocent man that everyone thinks he is.” At a time when putting the victim on trial was rare and considered inappropriate, this must have been somewhat shocking. Not unlike the thought that a policeman was anything less than an upstanding citizen. Though as shown in Warning Shot, young people were beginning to question some of those old assumptions.

Director Buzz Kulik uses lots of odd camera angles and quick edits to up the tension. He also has the help of veteran cinematographer Joseph Biroc (It’s a Wonderful Life) who’s careful lighting gives Los Angeles in the 1960’s a darker feel, reminiscent of the 1940’s. Interesting too, is the number of stars largely from Hollywood’s Golden Age, who turn up in what amount to little more than cameos. In addition to Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn portrays Valens partner; Joan Collins is Valens soon-to-be-ex-wife, who still has feelings for him; Ed Begley is memorable as a cranky police captain; legendary Lillian Gish shines as elderly woman who is a witness; George Grizzard plays a shirtless playboy; Stefanie Powers turns up as a sympathetic nurse; in a forgettable turn, Carroll O’Connor is a Mexican judge (a different time I know, but it’s always hard to stomach this type of casting); and the always underrated Eleanor Parker steals the show with her unrestrained portrayal of Dr. Ruston’s drunken widow.

While certainly a film of its time, Warning Shot still holds up more than 50 years after its original theatrical release. Aided by a solid script and strong performances by all the actors involved, the result is a noir yarn that occasionally feels more relevant today, than it must of in 1967.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer provides excellent clarity throughout. A natural looking grain gives the proceedings a filmic quality. Aside from a couple of brief moments, softness is never an issue. Blacks are inky, adding to the ominous feeling during nighttime scenes. Whites are bright and controlled. Reds, yellows and greens are vibrant and lush. Various ‘60s fashions offer a nice amount of textures. Skin tones appear natural throughout. There are no visual anomalies in evidence.

The LPCM 2.0 mono track is pleasing, offering a surprisingly dynamic experience. Environmental effects such as gunshots, ring telephones and a brief fight scene are crisp and full. So too, is Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘60’s sounding score. There are no hiccups, crackles or other audio anomalies to be found.

English SDH subtitles are available.

The following special features are included:

  • Audio Commentary with Film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell