DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977)
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Nature run amok flick is one of many of this popular 70s sub-genre. Here a group of wilderness hikers are under siege from basically every animal in the park. The ozone layer depletion is the blame here, as the earth’s animals have had enough and decide to rid the planet of us pesky humans, starting with this bunch. Is there anywhere these folks can hide?
Flick is directed by WIlliam Girdler (Grizzly, Abby) from a script by Eleanor E. Norton and William W. Norton, based on a story by producer Edward L. Montoro. The film has a somewhat serious tone, which helps with such a silly story. Birds, bears, mountain lions and even rats are all on the attack and this group of campers and a remote mountain community are at ground zero. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as good as Girdler’s Grizzly and is a slow paced affair with most of the animal attacks coming across as more silly than scary. Shots of owls and other birds of prey staring at their potential snacks are fun and there is a mountain lion attack which works well enough, as does the wild pack of dogs in the last act. The bickering and whining between the panicking campers gets old quick and Leslie Nielsen’s alpha male, advertising executive engaging in a power struggle with nature guide Steve Buckner (Christopher George), gets a bit tiresome as well. Nielsen’s Jenson gets so over-the-top he becomes laughable. His bare-chested battle with a grizzly bear is extremely entertaining, though. The scenes of rival predators moving together as an army, under what appears to be the guidance of various birds of prey, do work better than they should. It’s too bad the animal attacks are few and far between, with things being far too talky for a flick like this. Too much melodrama and not enough mauling. Day of the Animals also ends very anti-climactically, when something with more “bite” would have served the film better.
Cast has a lot of 70s familiar faces. Christopher George is solid as nature guide Steve Buckner. Very much like his park ranger character from Grizzly. His wife Linda Day George, is a reporter. Leslie Nielsen is hilariously over-the-top as arrogant advertising exec Paul Jenson. This guy has issues and uses the situation to assert his perceived dominance. When the groups splinter, his abusive treatment of those dumb enough to follow him is hysterically tyrannical, as is his before mentioned bare chested battle with a grizzly bear. He definitely takes a badly written part into camp territory and not the camp one stays at when in such woods. Michael Ansara plays a Native American guide, a role the Lebanese actor played many times. He gives his Daniel Santee nobility and is the voice of reason between Buckner and Jenson. Richard Jaeckel is present as a professor and provides some possible scientific explanations. Rounding out is 70s TV and movie fixture Andrew Stevens and Robinson Crusoe on Mars star Paul Mantee as a cancer stricken athlete. A solid cast with not a lot to work with.
In conclusion, this could have been a lot better with a much better script. Grizzly proved Girdler could make a solid action flick, even from a derivative idea, as long as he had a good script. The film is very talky and very slow paced for a flick like this. The animal attacks range from effective to silly and it’s pretty tame bloodshed wise as it was a PG release. The character interaction gets tedious, as Leslie Nielsen’s tyrannical advertising executive gets ridiculous, despite an overall serious tone. There are a few moments and plenty of 70s nostalgia, but could have been a lot better.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) rattle snakes.