"Without Warning" (1952) is a fine police procedural film noir. Watching it again last night, I found it to be much better than my earlier impression and a pleasure to watch. It features excellent location work and some fine camera work by Joseph Biroc that produce a sense of uneasiness and threat in the viewer. The initial night scenes that are more obviously noir gradually give way to Los Angeles sunshine, but the locations chosen, such as the river bed and columns beneath the freeways become threatening and hostile. Even the ramshackle dwelling of the killer on a hill overlooking a freeway, his oasis and hiding place, becomes off-center and a place of questionable safety that hides the killer's secrets.
A serial killer (Adam Williams) is on the loose in Los Angeles, stabbing blondes. Two cops, Edward Binns and Harlan Warde, are on the case. Clues are few, but they meticulously follow them up, aided by the police chemist. They even try using blonde decoys, and this heightens the ominous hidden threat of being stabbed. At times, narration interspersed with the action informs us about their progress. Binns in this part is not quite up to his usual standard; the part doesn't provide much depth to his character. This is, after all, a fast-moving 76 minute feature.
Well-directed by Arnold Laven, Adam Williams brings just the right mixture of emotions to the character of the serial killer, without excessive dialog. At various times, he is cocky, afraid, panicky, calculating, frustrated, angry, charming, relaxed, nervous and quietly menacing. He's the center of the film. His acting power, shown in his eyes and expressions, almost single-handedly makes this film a noir. Meg Randall, who works for her father at a garden store and becomes a target for Williams, does a nice job with a well-written part too.