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Day Of The Animals

Day Of The Animals(1976)

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Day of the Animals (1977) is another installment in this popular movie genre of "When Animals Attack!" A group of city folk go on a camping/hiking trip led by their guide played by Christopher George. The rest of the group are made up of an interesting mix of classic film actors and exploitation vets, including Lynda Day George (Christopher's real life wife), Michael Ansara, Richard Jaeckel, Andrew Stevens, Susan Backlinie (most famous as the very first victim in Jaws (1975), probably THE ultimate animal attack movie), Ruth Roman (looking very out of place, and resembling and sounding like comedienne Totie Fields! She even complains several times throughout the film, "What am I doing on this God forsaken mountain?!") and, best of all, Leslie Nielson in what has to be his most bizarre film role ever. Utilizing his specialized deadpan delivery (which he perfected in his career-changing Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun comedies), Leslie portrays a thoroughly despicable, racist jackass of a man. Now, Leslie has played villains before, such as in Creepshow (1982) and Nuts (1987), but nothing will prepare the viewer for this completely berserk performance, primarily in the film's most amazing scene, which I won't spoil here, but involves Nielson shirtless and maniacal in a rainstorm alongside a very large bear.

Unlike The Birds, which gave no explanation for the birds attacking, Day of the Animals sets the animals' motive from the get-go in a pretty surprising and ahead-of-it's-time reasoning; the animals are going crazy because of the gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the effects of the ultraviolet rays. The film even starts out with an opening scrawl that says, although this is a work of fiction, we should be warned that if this environmental disregard continues to happen, we could very well find ourselves in the middle of our OWN "Day of the Animals". Unfortunately, due to the state of the world as it is today, this could really be no farther from the truth.

Directed by exploitation legend, the late William Girdler --- who is also responsible for Abby (1974) a blaxploitation version of The Exorcist, Sheba Baby (1975) starring Pam Grier, Three on a Meathook (1972) and The Manitou (1978) --- the film definitely gives the viewers what they want to see: Animal attacks! Though the film is never necessarily gory, there are some memorable and often disturbing attack sequences, primarily a cliff-side attack by a group of large buzzards, a DOUBLE cougar attack and a pretty hilarious kitchen attack scene led by a handful of harmless looking rats. The animal scenes are filmed remarkably well, as the shots of various animals "watching" and stalking the hikers seem quite realistic and there are some eerie and amazing shots of different types of animals in the same frame together, such as a cougar spying over a boulder while a large bear walks in the foreground. Perhaps the best actor of all in the piece is the amazing hawk who appears throughout the film and watches the events. You actually can believe the animals are there, involved with the actors, not just represented through cut-away stock footage of animal reactions.

The new DVD from Media Blaster's "Shriek Show" horror film label is chock full of everything you could possibly want to know about this rather obscure movie. First off, the film is presented twice on the disc, one is the familiarly monikered Day of the Animals version (which, according to the liner notes, is a master used for TV airings) and the other is the theatrical version which went by the alternate (and very vague) title of Something is Out There. Though both films appear to contain the same content, meaning that the TV version doesn't appear to be edited, the Day of the Animals transfer is far more watchable than Something, which is a truly mangled piece of film, marred with visible sprocket holes, color changes and sound problems. Also on the disc is a short featurette highlighting interviews with three of the stars of the film; John Cedar, Paul Mantee and Susan Backlinie (who, interestingly enough, also trained the animals seen in the film). They warmly discuss the making of the film, working with the animals and their relationships with director William Girdler, who tragically died in 1978 in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for a new film. Topping it off is a commentary track featuring star Lynda Day George.

Media Blaster's has also recently released Girdler's previous "animal attack" film, Grizzly (1976), also starring Christopher George and Richard Jaeckel (leading many to think that Day of the Animals was a sequel to Grizzly, which it isn't).

For more information about Day of the Animals, visit Shreik Show at Media Blasters. To order Day of the Animals, go to TCM Shopping.

by Eric Weber