• Day Of The Animals

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: November 26th, 2013.
    Director: William Girdler
    Cast: Christopher George, Leslie Nielsen, Jon Cedar, Lynda Day George, Richard Jaeckel
    Year: 1976
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    The Movie:

    Nature run amok movies were big business at drive-in's across the country during the seventies and William Girdler, probably best known for his blaxploitation knock off of The Exorcist (which landed him in some hot water with Warner Brothers), was at the forefront of this goofy sub-genre with efforts like Grizzly, which proved to be quite successful. His second effort in the genre was this fan favorite, Day Of The Animals, which would prove to be Girdler's penultimate production. Sadly he was killed in a helicopter crash a year after it was made in 1978 while shooting Manitou, a film that would prove to be his last picture.

    In the film, Steve Buckner (Christopher George) leads a group of would be hikers on an excursion up into the mountains. What they don't realize is that due to the depletion of the ozone layer way up high, there are toxins in the area from the sun's radiation. These toxins have made the animal population in the area overly aggressive. It starts slowly enough, but once they've moved from the relative safety of the area surrounding the town at the base of the great hill, things get ugly. Our hikers soon come to the realization that pretty much everything 'out there' is gunning for them, which wouldn't be as big a deal as it is if Buckner was okay with his hikers carrying firearms. But he isn't, and that means that they're up there all alone without any rifles to defend themselves with.

    This, of course, causes some understandable stress amongst our posse of intrepid adventurers made all the more intense when one of their group, Paul (Leslie Neilson of The Naked Gun movies) becomes tainted with the same toxins that has made the animals so enraged. As the chemicals overtake his body, his mind regresses and his natural aggressions come out which results in his murdering one of his fellow hikers in cold blood. With this deed done, the group starts to implode on itself and no one really trusts anyone else. Paul regresses even further, raping a fellow hiker, and in the highlight of the movie, he winds up going head to head with a grizzly bear. They don't realize that the town below has been attacked by many of the same animals that they now find themselves surrounded by, as snakes, wolves, bears and even chipmunks all gear up for the attack. Maybe they can make it to the Ranger station in time….

    Difficult to take seriously thanks to some wonky science (how did the owls get exposed to the sun and why does this phenomena only affect critters and people at five thousand feet of altitude or higher?) Day Of The Animals is nevertheless a completely entertaining movie, even if it falls pretty squarely into the guilty pleasure category. Girdler's direction is reliable here and he proves once again that he really did know how to work within the confines of a low budget, making the most of his locations and his cast of recognizable b-movie veterans. Speaking of which, Leslie Neilson takes home the award for craziest bad guy of the film. He's a jerk from the start and we're able to instantly dislike him thanks to his annoying personality and bad attitude but once he gets infected, watch out - because he's going to rip off his shirt like the Incredible Hulk and start yelling at everyone. Seeing Frank from The Naked Gun go completely feral is worth the price of admission alone but we also get the undeniably charming screen presence of the lovely Lynda Day George (of Pieces fame) and her always swanky hubby, Christopher George (also of Pieces fame) to boot! Many of the supporting actors and actresses, such as Jon Cedar, Paul Mantee and Ruth Roman are recognizable from their many television roles and the movie becomes a fun game of 'where do I recognize that guy from?' as it plays out.

    We also get a few fairly intense animal attack scenes here, some of which work better than others but all of which are rather well done. Goofiness aside, Day Of The Animals actually does have an interesting message underneath it all. It's heavy handed and preachy in its execution but pollution and urban sprawl and all that good stuff are still viable problems today, even more so than they were when Girdler made his film. The ozone layer isn't necessarily getting any better either. Hopefully it won't turn the German Shepherds and raccoons of the world against as, but hopefully it will make Leslie Neilson rise from the grave to fight more bears.


    Day Of The Animals is presented on DVD in 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen in a transfer that is considerably better than the previous DVD release that Media Blasters offered years back. The elements used were obviously in much better shape and color reproduction is also vastly improved. There are still a lot of scenes that were intentionally shot to look soft for whatever reason, which is how they are presented here (as it should be) but ultimately this is a very satisfying picture – clean, colorful and nicely detailed.

    Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are provided in English and both sound good. The surround mix is limited by the source material but it does spread Lalo Schifrin’s score around rather well. Both tracks feature clear dialogue and properly balanced levels. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided here.

    The main extras on the DVD are two interviews, the first with John Cedar lasting about eighteen minutes and covering his experiences on the picture and his thoughts on its director. The second interview is with Paul Mantee and it’s just short of ten minutes in length. He talks about how this role offered him something a little different than the roles he’d played in the past and what it was like collaborating with the cast and crew on this feature before talking about some of the other film roles he played throughout his career.

    Rounding out the extras is a TV spot for the feature, a trailer for Grizzly, trailers for a few other Scorpion Releasing properties, menus and chapter selection. You can also watch the movie with or without an optional intro sequence in which hostess Katarina Leigh Waters offers up some trivia and information about the movie, its cast and its crew.

    The Final Word:

    Day Of The Animals is a solid nature run amuck movie made all the more enjoyable by a solid cast and some great cinematography. Scorpion Releasing’s reissue of the title offers a welcome upgrade over the previous Media Blasters debacle and as such, if you’re a fan, it’s worth checking out.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Finally! I've never seen this and now I am going to. And a shirtless Leslie Nielsen...right after his romp in the hay on a Love Boat episode I just saw. Who else but Nielsen could cheat on his wife Eva Gobar with a young tart, and not only have Eva be ok with it, but she THANKED him for it. What a wife.
    1. Paul Casey's Avatar
      Paul Casey -
      hahaha Gobar
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I spell it all wrong? Oh wait...it's Gabor...bah! She was still foxy no matter her name. Eva, not Zsa Zsa.