DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977) Filled to the brim with ridiculous characterizations, absurd animal attacks, and a shirtless, power-crazed Leslie Nielsen.

dayoftheanimals_usposter01Theme Song: More Lalo Schifrin violins and trumpets arranged with lots of sweeping and emoting.

Interesting Dated References: People actually being concerned about the ozone layer.

Best Line: Any line said by Leslie Nielsen in a serious manner. These include, “I use my head all the time, a lot of people use their butts,” “I’m running this power trip,” and a scene in which he screams to the heavens in the rain with his shirt off like he’s in a Creed video.

Social Context: I read a review for this from 1977 that declared it “a wake-up call.” Actually, a movie dealing with ozone depletion in 1977 does seem somewhat ahead of its time, but to then insinuate lack of ozone would make animals go crazy is a little far off. Isn’t the whole point about animals that they are wild and will attack you regardless of the ozone layer?

Summary: Day of The Animals came a little late to the disaster/animal attack genre of the mid-70s, but what it lacked in timing is made up for by having the exact same creative team and stars from Grizzly on board. I guess technically it’s a sequel, but with different animals, and the same actors playing different characters than the previous movie.

So things get started right away. A group of individuals covering almost every facet of society want to go on a two-week hiking trip in the mountains. There’s the football player, the mom and son, the sexy news anchor, the young couple, the middle-aged couple, the rich businessman, the nerdy professor, the American-Indian, etc. They are all led by the fearless tour guide, Buckner (Christopher George).

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There are lots of foreboding shots of animals looking all crazy, which eats up a lot of the initial running time. When the group reaches their first rest stop, they get attacked by a hawk. Did I tell you Leslie Nielsen is playing the smug businessman? Do you know how hard it is to take Leslie Nielsen seriously after the year 1978?

There are lots of annoyingly obvious characterizations going on in this movie, like, the nerdy professor only talks about photography and is always taking pictures, the mom is always complaining about walking and rubbing her feet, the newswoman is always being curious, and the Injun is always sensing shit. I don’t know why I’m talking about it; these movies were never known for their subtlety.

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So, the middle-aged couple gets attacked by a wolf late at night and the solution Buckner comes up with is to send them back on their own for help. After being stalked for a long time by hawks, the chick gets attacked and pushed off a cliff. Meanwhile, the main group of people continues on their journey.

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I’d like to point out the newswoman (Lynda Day George) is wearing a businesswoman’s pantsuit for her hiking trip, which is supposed to last two weeks. When the group winds up at the food supply site, all the food is destroyed. Somewhere in there they caught a radio transmission about the impending danger of animal attacks. Leslie Nielsen starts to dissent and take control of the group, but no one can take him seriously. Interspersed in all this are shots of the sheriff in town watching news reports about the ozone problem and its effect on animals, which prompts the plot to have more animals stalk the group, including owls and spiders (which aren’t really animals).

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So back in town, police are ordered to evacuate the citizens, and some rats attack the sheriff. I guess the goal is to get people below a certain elevation where animals are no longer crazy.

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Back at the hiking groups’ camp, they are attacked by cougars. The next morning they screw around in a stream and try to catch fish. You think they’d be more in a rush to get the fuck off of the mountain full of crazy animals or something.

Dissent reaches a boiling point when Nielsen divides the group in half. He convinces some to go with him to the ranger station at a higher elevation, while the others (led by Buckner) head for town at a lower elevation.

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So the two groups split up and it starts raining. Nielsen has his shirt off for an uncomfortable amount of time and starts to go crazy with power. He tries to rape the younger couple chick and stabs her boyfriend. I guess they were trying to do some Lord of The Flies-type shit here, but it’s really an afterthought. The other more civilized camp begins to discuss how the ozone problem may be affecting them, thus trying to explain Nielsen’s insanity. Then Nielsen is raped/killed/raped by a giant grizzly bear.

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I totally ignored the subplot about the middle-aged couple guy. After his wife was killed, he found a small child and traveled down the mountain with her. When he gets to town, it’s totally abandoned, everyone is dead, and he gets bit by a snake, then eaten by a dog, all while the little girl watches from inside a nice vintage 1976 Bronco.

Back at Buckner’s camp, they stumble upon an abandoned campground. The campground is overrun by German Shepherds who we all know are the assholes of all dogs and no one should own them or even have fond memories of them. They escape on a raft (a few don’t make it) and the next morning all the infected animals are dead.

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And that’s pretty much it. I know, there isn’t really much of a postscript, at all. The movie ends with the police finding the little girl and Buckner and the few survivors washing up on shore.

Poster and Box Art: The poster for Day of The Animals is pretty average. Not average in a bad way, though. It’s a disaster movie, which means that before I even type, “the poster,” I could have told you it would have a large montage drawing featuring various scenes of action from the movie, a woman screaming, and some type of giant font. And there you have it.

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There’s also this weird anti-CFC poster, which must have been for display in theaters.

Availability: Available on DVD from Amazon.

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