Released by: Severin Films
Released on: February 7th, 2017.
Director: Franco Prosperi
Cast: Lorraine De Selle, John Aldrich, Ugo Bologna, Louisa Lloyd
Year: 2015 Purchase From Amazon
Originally released by Lightning Video (a subsidiary of Vestron) back in the VHS days, Franco Prosperi’s cinematic swansong, 1983’s Wild Beasts received a DVD release from Camera Obscura in 2011 but now it lives again on Blu-ray thanks to Severin Films!
Set in an unnamed city in Northern Europe (which turns out to be a mix of footage shot in Rome and Hamburg), the film follows a veterinarian named Rupert Berner (John Aldrich) who works at the local zoo feeding and caring for the animals. After we watch some guy hack up a horse’s head and feed it to some tigers, we learn that one of the tiger’s cubs got a little overzealous when mom was feeding him and gave her a nasty bite. Not thinking much of it, he heads home for the night but while he’s gone, something happens to the animals and once the elephants break through the walls of the zoo, chaos erupts and the wild animals begin to roam the streets.
Meanwhile, a woman named Laura Schwarz (Lorraine De Selle) who works with Berner is on her way to pick up her obnoxious daughter, Suzy (Louisa Lloyd) from dance school. Of course, as she’s on her way there on the train a tiger attacks and wreaks havoc. While all of this is going on rats are attacking amorous couples and unfortunate kitty cats, elephants are destroying airports, cheetahs are chasing Volkswagen Beetles, lions are running amuck and chowing down on cows at a slaughterhouse, wildebeests are stampeding and polar bears are harassing irritating young dance students. Only Berner and a lone cop seem to be taking any of this seriously and so they decide to try to figure out what happened to cause all of this and more importantly how to stop it.
Not particularly concerned with plot so much as it is with bombarding the viewer with one set piece of animal attacks after another, you can’t fault Wild Beasts in the pacing department. Once the animals get their fur up and are on the attack the film moves at an impressive speed right through to its completely screwy conclusion. With that said, there’s some content here sure to make some folks question just what it is exactly that they’re watching – if all too real shots of a cat being attacked by rats and or lions tearing into the throats of cows or of rats being torched with a flamethrower don’t sit well with you, be prepared going into this one. The movie also has a strange, albeit completely nonsexual, topless scene involving prepubescent Louisa Lloyd that lingers just a little bit longer than you might feel comfortable with.
Those odd qualities aside, Wild Beasts is a pretty solid ‘when animals attack’ film filled with some pretty memorable sequences. Prosperi and his crew have done a pretty solid job of editing the film, working in some effects and props alongside actual footage of the animals themselves to give you the impression that, yeah, they are messing up those humans in particularly nasty ways. The rat attack sequence is probably the most ridiculous, as our two young lovers seem somehow oblivious to all of the squeaking and squealing going on outside their car, but it’s also amazingly gross with its vivid depictions of grubby rodents tearing into human flesh. Also be on the lookout for that aforementioned chase scene in which a cheetah runs down a blonde in a Volkswagen through some eerily empty streets lit by neon business signs. The sequence in which the elephants lay waste to the airport just as a plane is to land is also memorable, if not for the chaos that erupts, then for the awesome Antonio Margheriti style miniature work, and be on the lookout for a nod to either Suspira or The Beyond in a scene where a blind man is attacked by his seeing eye dog, a German Sheppard named Brek!
Buried somewhere under all of this zaniness there’s supposedly a message of sorts, probably some sort of statement about humanity’s mistreatment of animals, but the actual animal violence in the movie completely contradicts whatever good intentions might have been there in that regard. What we’re left with is prime exploitation movie material. The acting leans heavily towards wooden, the script is a mess, and the movie doesn’t really always make sense but you’ve got to admire the way it just goes for the throat and delivers pretty much exactly what it promises.
Severin Films brings Wild Beasts to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen with the movie itself taking up just short of 26GBs on that disc. Video quality here is quite good, but some scenes do look softer than others (this seems to have to do more with how the movie was lit and shot than the transfer itself). A whole lot of this movie takes place outside at night time so you’ve got to keep that in mind and temper your expectations accordingly, but overall detail is pretty solid here and colors look really good. The image is nice and clean, showing very little actual print damage aside from some small white specks here and there. Flesh tones look good, black levels are solid and there are no noticeable issues with obvious compression artifacts or edge enhancement. Some light DNR might have been applied here and there, but if that is the case it’s minor and never particularly distracting.
The disc includes an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track in English, while a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is provided in Italian language with optional subtitles available in English only. Ideally there would have been a lossless Italian option here too but that didn’t happen. Regardless, audio quality here is fine. The dialogue on the English track is clean and clear and easy to follow while the levels stay properly balanced throughout playback. There are no issues with hiss or distortion to note.
Extras are comprised primarily of a series of new featurettes starting with Altered Beasts, a fifteen minute interview with Director Franco E. Prosperi in which he talks about how and why this film was shot in Rome, the pros and cons of working with as many animals as were used in this picture, how some of the story had to change while filming and his legacy in the Italian film industry based not only on this picture but also his more notorious mondo pictures. In Wild Tony we get to talk with leading man Tony Di Leo for thirteen minutes about how and why he wound up cast in this picture, what it was like acting alongside his animal co-stars, his thoughts on Prosperi’s directing and quite a bit more. Cut After Cut is a lengthy thirty-five minute long iInterview with editor and mondo filmmaker Mario Morra in which he shares how he got into filmmaking, working with Jacopetti and Prosperi on some of their more infamous projects, his thoughts on Wild Beasts and a some talk about other films that he’s worked on over the years. In The Circus Is In Town we get a ten minute interview with Carlo Tiberti, the son of Wild Beast’s on set animal wrangler Roberto Tibeti. Here he speaks about his father’s background working in the circus, how he transitioned into film, other family members that were involved in Wild Beasts and what it was like on set dealing with some genuinely dangerous furry, four-legged co-stars. The last featurettes is the thirteen minute House Of Wild Beasts which is quite literally a look around Prosperi’s home that Severin shot for a possible follow up to their Godfather’s Of Mondo documentary (included with Blue Underground’s Mondo Cane Collection years ago – if you haven’t seen it, correct that as soon as possible!).
Rounding out the extras are the film’s international trailer, menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
Wild Beasts might not always make the most sense but it moves at a fantastic pace and offers up some pretty impressive and memorably bizarre scenes making Franco Prosperi’s final film one to watch for. Severin Films have done a fine job bringing this one to Blu-ray for the first time, presenting the film in nice shape and with a great selection of interesting and well put together supplements to accompany the feature presentation.
Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!