Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Warner Archive Grab Bag: Animals Attack! THE BEASTS ARE ON THE STREETS, THE PACK and RAZORBACK ""

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Warner Archive Grab Bag: Animals Attack! THE BEASTS ARE ON THE STREETS, THE PACK and RAZORBACK

I am an unapologetic fan of "animals attack" films. Actually, animals, insects or whatever attacking people in movies is a favorite genre of mine. Did a list of favorites years go: 
I had been able to see this one via a bootleg, but it was quite tricky to track down at that time. I found that to be a bit of a shame as it's got a solid cast and has a that great 70s-TV-movie vibe to it. I love movies about institutions that don't really exist any more. THE BEASTS ARE ON THE STREETS is about animals getting loose from a safari park  after a freak accident tears down a section of their fenceline. Of course safari parks still exist in some capacity, but have all but disappeared, especially in the U.S.(as far as I know). The idea of a park where there are wild animals roaming free and you tour it via a tram or in your own car seems like a bad idea in the litigious society we live in today. So many potential lawsuits! Anyway, it makes for an enjoyable 1970s TV-movie in my opinion. What can I say, I just like to see movies where animals are roaming free and running around. There's an Italian film called THE WILD BEASTS from 1984 that is similar to this movie. Of course, in the Italian version, a zoo's water supply is contaminated with PCP and the animals go nuts and get loose. This is a bit tamer than that, but it still features lots of citizens being attacked by and fleeing from large live animals. It's hard not to bring up CGI when watching something like this. I realize that I harp on it a lot, but it's just on my mind a lot watching older films as much as I do. This movie would have little to no live animals if made today. It's a sad thing to me. I love watching the way real animals move and react on camera. It really does give me a sense of genuine suspense that I like a lot. Also, animals are just pretty to look at. Simple as that.
So our main cast here consists of the lovely Carol Lynley, Phillip Michael Thomas and Billy Greenbush, but there are lots of familiar faces to be seen as well. Interesting note about this film's director is that Peter Hunt has some big time ties to the James Bond franchise. Not only did he direct ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE(one of my favorites), but he was also the editor on several classic Bonds including DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER. He even edited the great British spy thriller THE IPCRESS FILE. He also directed DEATH HUNT(with Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin), SHOUT AT THE DEVIL and GOLD. All interesting films. Would love to hear production stories on this movie and how he ended up directing it. Oh and I totally forgot to mention that this movie was produced by animation giants Hanna-Barbera! Hanna-Barbera has an interesting legacy of oddball TV-movies including things like KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK and THE LEGEND OF THE SUPERHEROES. This movie isn't like those by any stretch, but I find it intriguing that they are behind this nonetheless. I mean, they made countless cartoons with talking animals, why not a live action movie with them running wild and attacking people? Seems like an odd choice, but I for one am glad they made it. Who knows, maybe this film and Hanna-Barbera's cartoons inspired the MADAGASCAR series. Okay, I'm just reaching there, but sometimes reaching is fun. And so is this movie.

THE PACK(1977; Robert Clouse)
This is favorite in the genre for me for sure. A small tourist-y island is overrun by a pack of wild dogs and Joe Don Baker(playing a scientist?!) must deal with them. It's interesting in that this group of dogs is supposed to be made up of animals that were left behind by families staying there for the summer or something. There's even a scene early on of a dad and little boy having to leave their dog as they skedaddle off the island. It's a sad scene because the dad basically just ties the dog to a tree and bails. Anyway, said dog joins the titular "Pack" and becomes evil I guess. So Joe Don and great character actors L.G. Armstrong and Richard B. Schull(among others) find themselves on this island and under siege by this crazy platoon of feral varmints and must fend them off. Pretty simple plot, but nonetheless a good time. Two things I like about this movie are the director and the tagline. The director, Robert Clouse is most notable for his film ENTER THE DRAGON, but I also love him because he did DEADLY EYES. DEADLY EYES is a killer rat movie(one of the best killer rat movies I might add) and one of my favorites in this genre as well. The aforementioned tagline is: "They're not pets anymore." and I think that couldn't be more perfect. Even the poster is one of those neat 70s posters where the title is kind of the logo and they've come up with this silhouetted image of these monster dogs to represent the animals in the movie. All just right on the mark for me.
I really do love this movie despite its flaws and even did a podcast about with some friends a while back(we also covered GRIZZLY):
My friend Hal over at his excellent blog The Horn Section did a great write up of this movie before it arrived on dvd and you should really read that(he does the film more justice than I do):

RAZORBACK(1984; Russell Mulcahy)
It's been said that this film was Steven Spielberg's favorite JAWS Knockoff. I have to politely disagree as I think THE CAR and GRIZZLY are both more fun, but that's neither here nor there. This film is certainly memorable. Director Russell Mulcahy, who is possibly best known for his music videos and for HIGHLANDER, certainly cuts a fine looking frame in this film. There are a lot of memorable visuals from the opening(some amazing silhouette shots) on through the film. I'm quite sure that could be a lot of the appeal for Spielberg. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he stole a few of these shots at some point. And speaking of stealing shots, Mulcahy absolutely "borrows" Spielberg's famous retrograde zoom shot here at one point. This feels like a movie that many visually-based filmmakers might have seen as youngsters and it probably left an impression on them. Mulcahy was one of the first music video directors to make the jump to features I believe so his films may be touchstones for other directors of that ilk(Michael Bay etc). I was listening to a podcast the other day(I forget which, maybe The Director's Club) and they got into talking about Mulcahy's film RICOCHET from 1991. Hadn't thought of that movie since it hit VHS, but after hearing that discussion and watching this film again, I will be revisiting it. HIGHLANDER too. Been years since I've seen that one.
It's also available on Warner Archive Instant's streaming service right now:
"Now, there's a new breed of terror.."


Tommy Ross said...

THE BEASTS ON THE STREETS may just have to be my guilty pleasure for this week. $14 plus shipping on Amz, but I can't resist, having grown up in LA around that time period and remember Lion Country Safari very well, plus it's a TV movie, gotta do it lol, thanks for the reco!!!

Rupert Pupkin said...

Nice! Glad you may check it out! Yeah it's the perfect thing for someone who grew up in LA and remembers this kind of place. I am only an LA native for the past 14 years, but I love LA-based TV movies. Just something about LA in the 70s...