Day of the Animals
|Day of the Animals|
|Directed by||Wiliam Girdler|
|Produced by||Edward L. Montoro|
|Written by||William W. Norton and wife Eleanor E. Norton|
|Story by||Edward L. Montoro|
Lynda Day George
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Distributed by||Multicom Entertainment Group Inc., Film Ventures International|
|Box office||$2.8 million|
Day of the Animals is a 1977 American natural horror film directed by William Girdler and based on a story written by Edward L. Montoro. Premiering on May 13, 1977 as Something Is Out There, the movie reunited stars Christopher George and Richard Jaeckel, director Girdler and producer Montoro from the previous year's hit film Grizzly. Leslie Nielsen starts as the main human antagonist.
Day tells the story of a psychosis that is brought on by depletion of the Earth's ozone layer. This madness affects all animals at high altitudes. A group of hapless hikers must survive the animal onslaught and make their way to safety, even as the psychosis turns them against each other.
In 1978, Film Ventures International rereleased the film for television as Day of the Animals. Reviews on release were not good, but later commentators have been more favorable.
The depletion of the Earth's ozone layer by aerosols has been causing increased exposure to UV radiation at high altitudes. Scientists observe that animals over 5,000 feet in altitude become highly aggressive. One small-town sheriff barely escapes getting mauled to death by rats. The government orders the evacuation and quarantine of all settlements above that altitude.
In the midst of this, a group of tourists in Northern California set off on a hike through the wilderness, led by Native American guide Santee (Michael Ansara). With no way of communicating with the outside world, they are ignorant of the strange animal activity and are baffled when a mountain lion attacks their camp. They shrug off the incident and continue the hike, as the woodland creatures eye them menacingly. Later, they are beset by hawks, and a woman falls to her death as a result. They abandon the hike upon finding that their helicopter-dropped food cache has been raided by animals.
Hiker Paul Jenson (Leslie Nielsen), a smug and confrontational executive, abandons Santee and takes four of the hikers with him: a mother and her boy and two young lovers. He hopes to find help at a Ranger station. The guide takes a less risky route down the mountain. The hikers are not immune to the high-altitude aggression anomaly, and tensions begin to run high. The especially aggressive Jenson finally boils over: he kills one of this charges and attempts to rape his girlfriend. A grizzly bear approaches however, and he dies trying to wrestle it. The boy, his mother and an older hiker manage to find refuge inside an abandoned helicopter.
One hiker strays, and picks up a little girl who was abandoned when the government quarantined her town. He tries to drive her to safety, but is slaughtered by vicious dogs and venomous snakes, leaving the girl alone in the relative safety of a junk car. The others manage to get to a town below 5,000 feet, but find it deserted. A pack of German shepherds kills two of them and Santee leads his surviving charges onto a raft in a nearby river. They are rescued the next day as they float downriver to a Park Rangers station.
The next day, U.S. Army soldiers in hazmat gear arrive to secure the areas. By then almost all the animals that went mad have been killed by the same solar radiation that drove them mad in the first place. The little girl and the survivors in the chopper are rescued by the army. At the end of the film, a surviving hawk lunges at the screen just before the credits roll.
- Christopher George ... Steve Buckner: the main protagonist.
- Leslie Nielsen ... Paul Jenson: The main human antagonist.
- Lynda Day George ... Terry Marsh: Buckner's love interest.
- Richard Jaeckel ... Prof. Taylor MacGregor: Research scientist.
- Michael Ansara ... Daniel Santee
- Ruth Roman ... Mrs. Shirley Goodwyn
- Jon Cedar ... Frank Young
- Paul Mantee ... Roy Moore
- Walter Barnes ... Ranger Tucker
- Andrew Stevens ... Bob Denning
- Susan Backlinie ... Mandy Young
Animals for the film were trained by Monty Cox, veteran of such productions as Apocalypse Now and The Incredible Hulk, who partnered withcastmember Susan Backlinie. Backlinie also doubled for Lynda Day George. The grizzly bear is portrayed by the mother of Bart the Bear and had previously appeared in Grizzly. Leslie Nielsen recalls being very impressed by the animal.
Day of the Animals released in U.S. theaters on May 13, 1977 as Something is Out There. A novelization, written by Donald Porter, accompanied its publication.
In 1978, it was broadcast on television under its more familiar title Day of the Animals. A reviewer for Turner Classic Movies did not find any differences in content between the two releases. John Marrone of Bloody Disgusting notes that this television release was quite an event as TV horror offerings were very limited at the time.
The film was released on VHS in pan-and-scan format. Media Blasters released a DVD print on April 25, 2006, under its "Shriek Show" imprint, featuring interviews with actors Jon Cedar and Paul Mantee integrated into a featurette. Scorpion Releasing published a Blu-Ray print and another DVD version in November 2013. The Blu-Ray and new DVD feature extended versions of the Media Blasters interviews, a sound track isolating Schifrin's score and the original TV spot. Katarina Waters hosts an introductory "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" segment.
Day of the Animals was mostly mocked by critics for its poor special effects, goofy premise, banal execution (derivative of The Birds) and on-the-nose environmental themes. Later reviews have noted that Leslie Nielsen's ruthless character is shocking for a modern audience raised on his work in comedy. Writer William W. Norton was himself disappointed in the film. Modest praise was issued by The Hollywood Reporter.
Some critics nevertheless recommended the film to fans of natural horror and disaster films of the 1970s. AllMovie compared it to Kingdom of the Spiders and Frogs Those who saw the film at a young age have formed a cult following of sorts.
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We shot about 130 miles east of San Francisco, at the foot of the Sierras, above Sonora in a plane called Long-Barn which is absolutely fabulous. [Jaeckel] and I had a great relationship. Andrew Stevens, Dick Jaeckel, Michael Ansara and I spent six weeks being children, eating and drinking too much and having a wonderful time in that movie.
- Michelson, Maureen (1979-09-10). "Hollywood Animal Trainers Monty Cox and Susan Backlinie Bring Out the Best in Beasts". People.
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- Cramer, Jeff (2010-01-16). "A Very Candid Conversation with William Norton". (Blog—primary source).
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- Day of the Animals at the Internet Movie Database
- Day of the Animals at the TCM Movie Database
- Day of the Animals at AllMovie
- The Hollywood films of William Girdler