Day Of The Animals - Day Of The Animals(Blu Bay) [Severin - 2021]
From the late 1970s, Day Of The Animals is rewarding, and at points, thrilling slice ‘when animals attack’ genre- it focuses on a group of tourists out on a few days hike, when fur, feather, and scale turn on man due to the depleted ozone layer. It features a good selection of 70’s faces taking in the likes of Leslie Nielsen, Christopher George & his wife Lynda Day George, and really plays off like a disaster film on foot, as the tourist bicker, get in peril, and course get attacked- with some fairly tense encounters, these are largely gore-less, though there are a few more nasty-blood attacks. Here from Severin is a new extras loaded Blu Ray release of the film.
Appearing in 1977 Day Of The Animals was the 8th film from William Girdler, and is sometimes seen/ quoted as a sequel to his 1976 killer 18-foot bear caper Grizzly- as it has some of the same cast/ crew, though it’s not plot connected with a new set of characters. Like with Grizzly Gridler managers to film nature and mans trails with it well, though for this film there is certainly a keener sense of menace here, and this is nicely enhanced by the great score by Lalo Schifrin - which moves between woozy and creepy, dramatic-yet-uneasy, and tensely thrilling.
The group is led up by Marlboro man like Steve Buckner( Christopher Gorge)- and takes in likes of blond-haired-no-nonsense anchor-woman Terry(Lynde Day George), bolshy and brash salesman Paul(Leslie Nielsen), older mother Shirley( Ruth Roman) and her man-in- a child's body son John(Bobby Porter), along with four or five other tourists who are an even blend of strong and weak personalities. When the group set off via two choppers the mood of the group is generally good- when they touch down in the wildness they get off to a good start on their hike. Sometime later they stop for a break- and here they are surrounded and watched by a group of birds, one flies in and attacks one of the group- they move on a little shaken, but still upbeat- but animals be it wild cats, wolfs, bears, birds, or reptiles close in on them watching, with Girdler nicely building a feeling of menace and tension- with this nicely added to by snippets from the nearby town, detailing how the ozone depilation is casing animals to attack man, and later the town and it surrounded area been evacuated- but of course the group aren't unaware of all this, as it’s the days long before mobile phones.
Acting-wise Christopher Gorge is always likeable as always, coming off rather southern cowboy-like. His wife Lynda shifts nicely from been curious-yet-fiery to more emotional. But the highlight performance here comes from Nielsen, who shifts from been smug and flippantly racist to stripping off his shirt/ going deranged madman. Worth a mention is the supporting cast are Ruth Roman as the older single middle-class mother constantly chasing her weird child-man son, and Richard Jaeckel as trying to be positive Prof MacGregor. The animal attacks are well-choreographed/ set-up, and largely they look fairly realistic- with only the odd paw or claw looking fake. We get a nasty and bloody bird attack, a neat bear hug dance and crush, snake-then-dog attack, wolf mauling, etc. On the whole Day Of The Animals nicely builds its tension and unease, and when the animals attack there done in a jarring, latter prolonged manner- with Girdler creating an effective feeling of things really going slow but surely awry, making for a rewarding lightly sci-fi tinged ‘When Animals Attack’ thriller.
Moving onto this new region free Blu Ray. We get a new 2K scan of the film, and this mangers a good balance between well defined/ clear picture, and original 70’s crispness. Moving on to the extras- and we get a good selection of stuff- on the new side we get a commentary track from Film Critic Lee Gambin, who wrote Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film. And this is a very densely packed and shifting track- he begins by discussing the cinematography of the animals and moody lens flare of the opening credits. Moves onto discuss the soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin- it’s a moody blend of formal instrumental elements and electronics, and the composers other scoring work. He talks about the varied selection of characters in the hiking group, commenting on each. He discusses the animals used, their training, and their trainers. He gives actor bios, talks about other eco-horror films from 1977, and much, much more- making this a track you could easily play a few times. Next, we get a twenty-minute featurette from the always worthy Stephen Thrower- he chats about the life of producer Ed Montoro- going from his counterfeiting and criminal past, moving onto his early crime/ sexploitation films, through to Grizzly and the other films he was involved with in the ’70s, and it finishes when he disappeared for good in 1984. We get four separate on-screen interviews- these each run between five and seventeen minutes- and are with Actor Bobby Porter, Actor Andrew Stevens, Stunt Coordinator Monty Cox, and actress Susan Day George. Moving onto the archive side of things we get a commentary track from Susan George and John Cedar. A making-of doc, and alternative credits- so a great selection of extra content.
In finishing Day of The Animals is a classic and at points wonderful atmospheric slice of the 70’s ‘when animals attack’ genre. With Severin doing a wonderful job on both the great 2k print and the excellent selection of extras.Roger Batty