Director: Franco Prosperi.
Starring: Lorraine De Selle, Ugo Bologna, John Stacy, John Aldrich Stefania,Pinna Italy/Germany. 1h 32m.
A short while ago the Amazon delivery guy brought two films to my door, on a chilly winter morning, Wild Beasts and ROAR! I had hope for a double bill of amazing creature features and I got it.. I started the duo with this gem from the 80’s which like Roar (1981) involved the use of many large wild animals, undergoing a wild night in the city.
Half horror and half “let’s think about what we’re doing to the environment” movie, it’s scattered with gruesome animal attacks as well as highlighting ecological issues. But it’s just a normal day at the zoo when a beautiful photographer Laura Schwarz (De Selle) arrives to take some photos at the local zoo, she’s introduced to the various lives of a range of animals and procedures in the zoo, while the animals seem to be going about their normal day to day lives there are some concerns that they are “off their food”. Wrapping things up the photographer gets the cold shoulder from her young daughter who she rarely see’s day to day and is experiences abandonment issues. While the brilliant zoologist Ruper Berner ( Aldrich) retreats to his home for a shower..
No she’s not crazy, she’s being chased by a cheetah!
The movie changes pace as a couple of youngsters start making out in a car until they are over run and eaten by rats, then the guards at the zoo assume there is an earthquake but it’s really a break out by some elephants and within minutes the zoo’s wall are breached and the animals are running amok. A stampede through the city centre wrecks everyone’s night, a cheetah chases a lone woman in her beat up car and the photographer is stalked by a tiger through the empty metro tunnels while trying to rescue her daughter.
It’s quite a remarkable film, the actors seem dwarfed against some of the beasts, especially the polar bear who stalks the children at the school, it can barely fit into the corridors as it silently stalks them. It’s not the first of it’s kind but it certainly has fewer casualties than Roar (1981), which goes to show that a story is worth a lot more than merely taking risks. The movie manages to sustain the thrilling chases, mauling’s until the breakthrough which happens right near the very end, when another threat comes into play, but the focus is really about the jungle coming alive and grasping the city by the throat.
Along with the violence there is a touch of self-awareness, people screaming about the overuse of electrify and the welfare of the animals is paramount. The biologist is incredibly in touch with a lot of the “critters” and advocates their capture instead of destruction but obviously the police force is freaking out at the same time, but the film realises that the audience is really there to see something they have never witnessed before and adds in as many epic and dangerous scenes as they can. Obviously being filmed at night and with a full crew of vets and staff with various guns and darts some of the animals did give them a pretty hard time and escaped when they could.
It really did get my heart pounding in my throat a few times and I thoroughly enjoyed this exceptional flick. There’s a scene when the biologist approaches a Polar bear and playfully starts roughhousing with it.. not great when you’ve assumed it’s just mauled class of kids and just from the danger factor I’m rating this one a little higher than I first penned. It’s not something that could be easily done in today’s tame climate so enjoy what’s out there kids.
R – Roar (1981), The Edge (1997), The Rats (2002),
L – Real Creature Features
A – Filming with dangerous animals