Prime European Trash Cinema: Elephants, tigers, lions, rats and assorted predators, crazed by PCP contaminated water, escape from a zoo in a European city (Frankfurt) causing car accidents, plane crashes, power blackouts, while tearing apart every human is sight. Lots of gore, unintentional humor (the English language dubbing dialogue is, more often than not, a litany of jaw dropping Non Sequitirs delivered by canned voices) and toxic acting, in this nonetheless enjoyable eco disaster epic from MONDO CANE auteur Franco E. Prosperi. Some of the graphic gore recalls the more artfully rendered throat tearing, eye-gouging, flesh eating, head smashing moments from Lucio Fulci (THE BEYOND and ZOMBIE), Dario Argento (DEEP RED) and Umberto Lenzi (CANNIBAL FEROX). Now on Blu-ray from Severn Films.
Franco E. Prosperi began his career with a bang as a co-director, along with Gualtiero Jacopetti and Paolo Cavara (PLOT OF FEAR), of the notorious, controversial, internationally successful shockumentary MONDO CANE (1962), A few years later he went on to make, again with Jacopetti, the equally notorious AFRICA ADDIO, another shockumentary. Perhaps Jacopetti's and Prosperi's most outrageous project with the provocatively titled GOODBYE, UNCLE TOM (1971), a different type of shock epic in which Prosperi and Jacopetti appear as documentary filmmakers who travel back in time to the pre-Civil War American South to film the daily horrors of slavery.
There's actually a theme in WILD BEASTS, delivered by an onscreen text message over a 2 minute opening montage of aerial views of the city: "Our madness engulfs everything and infects innocent victims such as children or animals." This is credited to a "Francis Thrive" whom I'm sure meant well and that's really a Message! It also pretty much summarizes the plot as the flesh eating rats, head crushing elephants, attacking seeing eye dogs (remember SUSPIRIA!), marauding tigers and a huge polar bear, give way to a group of PCP contaminated children attacking and murder adults in a grade school.
The secondary wave of horrors is summed up in a final onscreen text reporting that the killer kids were detoxed in hospital as the adult main characters (Lorraine De Selle and John Aldrich) verify the dangers of Phenol poisoning. Even everybody's favorite wild animal attack, the woman driver pursued by a cheetah resulting with the woman being burned alive in a fiery car accident, doesn't stop the ghoulish fun, since it's only a movie.... only a movie.... only a movie. My own favorite was the elephant attack on the local airport, which causes a jetliner to crash and burn as it slams into a power grid. The resulting blackout only gives the wild beasts a bigger advantage. Of course, leaving aside Bert I. Gordon's FOOD OF THE GODS (1975), DAY OF THE ANIMALS, etc., the salient template for eco-horror/animal attack cinema is still Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS (1963), which remains effective due to the intelligent decision to leave the cause of the attacks an open question. But that was Art. WILD BEASTS is 100 % entertainment, well crafted and fast moving due to crystal clear, atmospheric cinematography, now more impressive than ever in 1080p Full HD Resolution. Previous presentations have been murky, muddy messe. Now this shot-at-night thriller glows in the dark, everything is detailed in high definition and bright colors. The rapid fire, dynamic editing of Mario Morra (also a MONDO CANE veteran) and the jazzy sax score of Daniele Patrucci a needed boost to the sometimes incredible plot turns. My only complaint is the annoyingly high pitched English language voice given to Lorraine De Selle, an always reliable actress in such Euro genre titles as HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK and CANNIBAL FEROX, among others. But one is also given the choice of the Italian voice track, presented in 2.0 with English subtitles.
A nice array of special features includes Altered Beasts: Interview with Director Franco E Properi, in which the Mondo Godfather discusses the difficult shoot of Wild Beasts in war torn Rhodesia, South Africa and Frankfurt, Germany and his early career; Wild Tony: Interview with actor Tony De Leo; Cut After Cut: Interview With Editor & Filmmaker Mario Morra, in which the veteran editor-director discusses his career as he moved up the ladder to being the man responsible for pacing and selecting the overpowering footage for these gut wrenching films. He also discusses working with cinematographer-director Antonio Climati (SAVAGE MAN, SAVAGE BEAST) and how he differed in approach from Jacopetti and Prosperi; The Circus is in Town: Interview with Animal Wrangler Roberto Tiberti's son, Carlo Tiberti; House of Wild Beasts, a visit to Prosperi's Naples estate, located on a nature reserve, which includes a tour of the director's collection of native voodoo dolls, some of which have nails driven into alarming places on the intended victim's anatomy. He also discusses his relationship with the legendary Gualtiero Jacopetti (1919-2011), who due to health reasons couldn't appear in this segment, lensed in 2007. A frenetically edited 2m 30s International trailer is also included.
WILD BEASTS (Belve Feroci) presents fictional horror, but with real wild animals which run amok, eating alive the residents of a large northern European metropolis. As absurd as that sounds, it adds up to a very satisfying entertainment package due to sleek direction, credible special effects and all around solid technical expertise. This would be Prosperi's last professional effort, and he went out in style. Film: B-; Transfer/Video-Audio: A; Special Features: A.
(C) Robert Monell, 2017