Scorpion Releasing // 1977 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // November 28th, 2013
For centuries, they were hunted for bounty, fun, and food...now it's their turn.
Horror movies are based on suspension of disbelief, which makes it a little easier to accept that a burned, razor-gloved freak can enter your dreams, turn into a carpet monster, and eat you. But the one subgenre of horror that I've never been able to fathom is the 1970s surge of "when animals attack" movies. From the abyssal Night of the Lepus and Frogs to movies like The Birds, regarded as a classic but is still terrible to me, there is nothing about them that I don't find patently ridiculous. Yet, like the disaster and airplane crash movies from the same period, they kept throwing them out there with increasingly diminishing returns, leading us to 1977's Day of the Animals, maybe not the absolute worst of the bunch, but awful in its own right.
Our use of chlorofluorocarbons has finally caught up with us and the ozone layer has been destroyed. On the day this happens, a motley group of hikers led by Steve Buckner (Christopher George, City of the Living Dead) head up the mountain with no knowledge of what has occurred. Soon, though, they're being attacked by any and every animal they come across. Scared and with no help coming, they splinter off, some with Buckner and some with sleazy ad-man Paul Jenson (Leslie Nielsen, The Naked Gun). Now apart, they struggle to survive on the mountain while scientists below scramble for a reason why this is happening.
Day of the Animals is no dumber and no smarter than any other nature run amok movie, but this one has more of an air of a typical disaster movie than most. Of course, there's no real disaster to speak of, at least in the traditional sense. The idea of climate change is progressive for 1977, but it's just used as a means for flashing stock footage of animals looking super scary.
We get the whole array of wildlife critters, too. It's not just bears and wolves and snakes; not-so-scary creatures like rats and birds get in on the action, too. Nothing is safe, no matter how fuzzy, but thankfully, director William Girdler (Sheba, Baby) doesn't get into the scientific mumbo-jumbo, which would look ridiculous today. Instead, he keeps it ridiculous in the traditional sense, with people looking scared while cutting away to animals rearing up.
Plus, we get Leslie Nielsen in one of his most absurd dramatic roles. We know him as a competent cop or a bumbling cop, as a jealous husband, or even the worst Dracula ever filmed. You may not know his as a power-hungry ad-man who wrestles bears, though, and that's reason enough to watch Day of the Animals on its own. Otherwise, it's cheesy, stupid, and never scary, but it's all in good fun and, for those into that sort of thing, well worth watching.
Day of the Animals arrives on DVD from Scorpion Releasing under the "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" banner. As has become their standard, Scorpion makes another silk purse from a sow's ear, delivering a terrible movie with a release it probably doesn't deserve. Good for them, because Day of the Animals looks quite nice. The 2.35:1 image has some issues with softness and the occasional bit of dirt or damage, but is otherwise very crisp with decent colors and fairly deep black levels. The cutaways into stock animal footage mean that there is some disparity in the quality of the original material, but it's not particularly distracting. The sound isn't as strong, but it's still just fine. There are two near-identical mixes to choose from. The first, the original Dolby mono mix, is clean and clear, but lacking in dynamic range. The second, a remix in Dolby 5.1 surround, is broader in scope, with some surround effects that work fairly well, but the dialog and music mostly sounds exactly the same. Purists will go with the first, but I prefer the second.
For extras, we start with an introduction by our goofily charming host, Katarina Waters, who delivers some bad jokes and sets us up for the movie. The actually relevant supplements comprise two interviews, one with Jon Cedar and the other with Paul Mantee, that are interesting looks back at a movie they have no real reason to remember. All that's left is a single TV spot, so it's not a ton, but given the quality and notoriety of the movie, it's pretty strong.
Unless you're one of those select few who really likes these nature run amok movies or somebody who is really intrigued by the thought of Leslie Nielsen's bare-chested bear wrestling, there's really nothing to see in Day of the Animals. It's probably good fodder for a late night viewing with friends, but beyond that, there's almost no appeal.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Rated PG