• Day Of The Animals (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: May 18th, 2021.
    Director: William Girdler
    Cast: Christopher George, Leslie Nielsen, Jon Cedar, Lynda Day George, Richard Jaeckel
    Year: 1976
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    Day Of The Animals – Movie Review:

    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 – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films presents Day Of The Animals in a nice 1080p 2.35.1 widescreen presentation taken from a new 2k scan of the internegative taking up 28.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Colors are a little cooler here than previous versions but that isn’t a bad thing. Detail is pretty solid and things generally look nice and film-like here, there are no noticeable problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Compression artifacts aren’t ever a problem and the image is remarkably clean throughout, retaining the natural film grain you’d want it to but showing virtually no print damage at all. Some scenes can and do look a little softer than others but overall, this looks really, really good.

    The only audio track is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Master Audio mix in English with optional English subtitles. No problems to report here. This isn’t going to ever be a home theater demo track but for an older mono film made on a modest budget, it’s tough to find anything to complain about. The score sounds really good, the effects are strong and the dialogue is clean and clear. The levels are nicely balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note.

    Extra features start off with a new audio commentary with Lee Gambin, author of 'Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film.' He note how the film is a 'cavalcade of stars of both new and old Hollywood' before then discussing the film's eco-message and how this picture differs greatly from Girdler's earlier Grizzly. He then goes on to give a quick rundown of eco and natura run amok inspired horror films, the quality of the cinematography in the picture, notes on the cast and crew that appear in the picture, lots of details on Girdler's filmography and background, the significance of the first attack coming from a bald eagle, info on the history of Film Ventures, the macho qualities of pretty much every single male character in the film, the use of proper animal trainers in the movie (one of whom as Ms. George's stunt double in the film), the importance of the visuals in eco-horror films, how this picture shares similarities but also shows major differences when compared to other nature run amok horror films and lots, lots more. No dead air here, Gambin has definitely done his research and he delivers a lot of information here.

    A second track offers an archival commentary from actors Lynda Day George and Jon Cedar moderated by Scott Spiegel of The Evil Dead fame. Maybe he just happened to be in the area during the recording of the commentary, maybe he really likes the movie and wanted to participate, who knows, but he didn't have anything to do with the making of the movie so his presence here, while not harmful in the least, is odd. That being said, Cedar and George have fun reminiscing about the movie and explaining their parts and what was required of them during the shoot. They discuss working with the late Girdler and they cover the location shooting as well. Of course, they also spend a fair bit of time talking about their fine furry co-stars and how a few scenes where they interact with them were shot. It's a decent track with a good sense of humor to it and which contains some good information and interesting stories as well.

    From there, we move on to a few featurettes starting with a featurette where Nightmare U.S.A. author Stephen Thrower talks about the career of distributor Edward L. Montoro for twenty-one-minutes. This is a great look at his work in the film industry and the genuinely strange story of his life and of Film Ventures International. There are a lot of fuzzy areas in Montoro's life but Thrower does a nice job bringing us up to speed on his life and times, covering how he got into the film industry, the rise and fall of Film Ventures, his work in different genres and his ability to cash in on trends quickly, his talents in picking foreign films to import and release domestically to make a quick profit and lots more. Thrower is always an interesting and well informed commentator and he once again delivers the goods with this well-researched piece about someone who probably should be better known in genre circles than he is.

    Animal Boy, an interview with actor Bobby Porter that lasts eighteen-minutes, covers how the actor got into acting, how he got the part because despite looking very young he was actually over eighteen when he made the picture (allowing them to skirt around tricky child labor laws), how great it was to act alongside the other very experienced cast members, how Leslie Nielson wasn't known for Airplane and The Naked Gun films yet but for much more serious pictures as well as what it was like to act alongside him, how taken he was by Lynda Day George's beauty on set, the quality of the visuals in the picture, what it was like shooting on location, working with live animals and more. Porter's got some great stories here, this is totally worth checking out.

    Against Nature interview actors Andrew Stevens for thirteen-minutes. He talks about how auditioning at a casting call and landing the part, how he had no special training to work around animals and how his character didn't really have any direct contact with the animals, what it was like on location and all that hiking that the cast had to do, getting along with the cast and crew during the production, how odd it is for a horror film to take place almost entirely in the daylight as this one does, how some of his and Nielsen's dialogue was replaced in post, Girdler's directing style, what happened to Montoro and more. Great stuff, another really interesting piece.

    Stunt Coordinator/animal wrangler Monty Cox is up next in Unleashed where he talks about how he got into working with animals for eighteen-minutes. He talks about how after skydiving with his dad one day and found a newspaper advertisement looking for people to fight lions and tigers for movies. This led from one thing to another, and soon enough he had a career as an animal wrangler! He then goes on to talk about the different animals that he worked with on this picture, how the locations had to be chosen very carefully to make the animal scenes work properly, how things can very easily go wrong when working with dangerous animals, what it was like to work with Girdler who definitely listened carefully to Cox and his team and how some lumberjacks beat up a grip in a bar one night during the shoot resulting in Cox and some others using rattlesnakes to mess with them! He also talks about working with grizzly bears and stunt doubling for Nielsen. This guy has a million and one stories, someone should make a full-length documentary about him.

    Lynda And The Animals talks with the film's lead actress for five-minutes. She talks about how she wound up in the movie and how much she enjoyed working on the picture as every day brought something new. She talks about the quality of the cast and the director, acting alongside her husband and how they wound up together in the first place, how 'Teddy' the grizzly bear loved candy and how she befriended him by feeding him some, getting along with pretty much every one of her co-stars, how filming the scene with the dogs towards the end was genuinely terrifying and how she really feels good about the movie overall. You can't help but love her in this piece, she comes across as the nicest person ever and is so gracious in this piece.

    The disc also includes Something Was Out There: Day Of The Animals 30 Years Later, an archival making of featurette. In this piece actors John Ceder and Paul Mantee are joined by Susan Backlinie who worked on the film not only as an actress in a small role (she played Mandy) but also as an animal handler on the set of the production. The interviews are fun, as they cover the location shooting and working with the animals in a bit more detail than the commentary did thanks to Backlinie's participation here, and it's fun to hear Mantee and Backlinie discuss their working relationship with Girdler as well. This featurette runs exactly twenty-two minutes in length.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, an alternate opening title sequence for the Something Is Out There version of the movie, a radio spot, a pair of TV spots, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options. Severin also provides some cool reversible cover sleeve art.

    Day Of The Animals - 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. Severin’s Blu-ray release is stacked with extras and offers a better presentation of the feature than any other version out there. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Day Of The Animals Blu-ray screen caps!