Hi there everyone! So if you're the type of person who usually notices this sort of thing you may not recognize my name. Hello! I'm C.J., new to the HorrOrigins crew and one of those guys who truly loves the weird stuff. Well...maybe not the correct phrasing. Let me back up.
So yes, seeing that I'm new to HorrOrigins I wanted to make an impression. Good, preferably. Recently, I'd cleaned out my family's attic so that provided ample titles for my freshman article. I tried to give 1983's Cross Country a go (based on the recommendation of my friend E.K. Wimmer from Laser Graves) but couldn't get past its 'airport novel' sleaze. Maybe another time (love you E.K.). Then, I settled in for 1988's sledgehammer-subtle religious allegory The Carrier which...yeah. By no means a “bad” movie (quite stylish in places) but an absolute bummer by the end. Who saw that coming from a Jesus story, eh?
Oh, um, spoilers. I guess.
I kind of thought Italy's The Wild Beasts (from '84) would turn out the same way. There's a lot of unpleasantness, a LOT of unwanted sleaze but, for the most part, it's thankfully handled with the fumbling curiosity of a space alien and that is BY FAR its biggest strength. Like Motley Crue, sometimes a fusion of terrible things can at least be entertaining if they look thoroughly ridiculous.
We start off in “a northern european city” (no capitals) before moving to Italy's number one export at that time – dynamic shots of buildings set to smooth Jazz. Broken up, this time, with images of sandwiches stuffed with hypodermic needles. The soundtrack assures us this is all IMMENSELY sexy (some unfortunate foreshadowing but we'll get to that). After a solid minute of architectural porn the film seemingly begins AGAIN when we move to the zoo. A handler is chopping up a horse to feed to the lions, panthers, tigers and one VERY confused baboon. We also meet the world's worst veterinarian Dr. Rip Berner. The credits and IMDb page might say his name is 'Rupert' but the VHS box, dialogue, mustache and fact that he tries to use his own nudity to get out of work thoroughly identify him as a 'Rip.'
None of this makes sense in context, by the way.
Dr. Rip and photojournalist Laura start noticing an uptick in animal aggression. Is there something in the water? Could be. Because a swarm of rats happen to crawl out of the sewers to claim the film's fist victims! While Dr. Rip gleefully oversees the police burning the rats alive with a flamethrower (seriously, this guy sucks), we cut to a total zoo breakout orchestrated by the elephants. From here on, Wild Beasts goes FULLY bonkers!
We get it all! Tigers attacking subway cars! Cheetahs chasing down Volkswagens! Cattle stampedes, polar bears and the aforementioned elephants choking out victims, crashing planes and cutting power to the entire city! It is an absolute SPECTACLE! This being 1984 it is DAMN impressive the things they were able to pull off with real actors and real-life dangerous animals. Of course, also being '84, there is some...icky stuff.
Italy's infamously lax animal laws at that time can make for some uncomfortable viewing. There's also the fact that (as the Movie Dumpster crew might say) this movie is HORNY. I've sailed by its most unsavory bits (trust me, there's serious cringe at the beginning), but after about thirty minutes it gets hard to ignore. Moments like Dr. Rip snidely telling Laura to fix her makeup seconds after a tiger attack are particularly egregious but, sadly, far from the worst. Despite all the skeez, though, this film is INCREDIBLY entertaining.
Maybe it's because it's all so absurd. So “weird.” There's the usual culprits of bizarre dialogue, cartoonish escalation and jarring (but fun) music choices. But sometimes it's just an unknowable alchemy when all of these elements come together. Something greater than the sum of its parts.
Whatever the case, The Wild Beasts is a wackadoo exploitation fever dream that ABSOLUTELY has to be experienced! Check it out on the stunning Severin Films Blu-ray! I've also got it on VHS if, ya know, you wanna hang out or anything. No pressure.
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