DirectorFranco E. Propseri
Release Date(s)1984 (February 7, 2017)
Studio(s)Shumba International Corporation (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
What’s a “Northern European City” to do when the inhabitants of its local zoo ingest water laced with PCP, causing them to turn wild, break loose, and slaughter all the humans in their path? That’s the premise for this wacky entry into the “nature strikes back” genre, Wild Beasts (a.k.a. Belve Feroci). Directed by the co-creator of Mondo Cane, Franco E. Prosperi, this 1984 Italian animals-gone-amuck mind-bender escaped censorship relatively unscathed while remaining a VHS obscurity for many years.
Wild Beasts is quite interesting. In some ways, it has the feel of a mondo film because of its content. On other hand, it clearly doesn’t, as it follows a plot structure, fractured though it may be. The characters aren’t nearly as interesting as the animals, which is par for the course. Knowing that the animal attack footage was supervised by professionals probably doesn’t matter much. To those who love animals, this isn’t the kind of movie you’re likely to enjoy, most especially for the opening ten minutes. However, there’s a twist of sorts at the end that really comes out of left field and makes you question how the filmmakers thought that using PCP, as the sole catalyst for the bloodshed, was a good idea in the first place. Then again, you have to take a step back and remember what you’re watching. In a movie like this, logic often isn’t very logical.
The transfer for Wild Beasts is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio with slight pillarboxing to preserve it. Some will probably be hard on the look of the film, especially due to it being shot mostly at night, which leaves little room for shadow detail or color options. Personally, I found it be a strong presentation. It has a slight softness to it but carries a healthy and well-managed grain structure. What detail that is present is strong enough with good texturing, although skin surfaces appear a little too smooth at times. The so-called lax color palette offers up some strong reds, particularly for the blood, but also in the video control room at the zoo where a panel is littered with various colors of lighted buttons. Skin tones are merely good while black levels are deep, again owing to the original cinematography. Overall brightness and contrast is acceptable and there are only minor instances of leftover film damage. For the audio portion, English 2.0 DTS-HD and Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks are included. This, like many other Italian films, was shot with the intention of putting the sound in later. Both soundtracks are flat outside of the overdubbed dialogue, but the DTS track has more of a punch, for obvious reasons. Score and sound effects also have some bite to them as well. Ambience is decent at times but speaker-to-speaker activity isn’t over the top by any means. Both are good tracks and should be satisfactory for most viewers. And in case you need them, there are also some subtitles in English included as well.
For the extras, there’s a terrific set of new interviews including Altered Beasts, an interview with director Franco E. Propseri; Wild Tony, an interview with actor Tony Di Leo; Cut After Cut, an interview with editor and mondo filmmaker Mario Morra; and The Circus is in Town, an interview with animal wrangler Robert Tiberti’s son, Carlo Tiberti. There’s also the brief featurette House of Wild Beasts, which includes a visit to the home of Franco E. Prosperi, and the movie’s international theatrical trailer.
Wild Beasts certainly isn’t for everyone, even fans of the genre. It gets points for going bigger than most movies like it, that’s for sure. For instance, you’re not likely to see a cheetah running down an empty highway in the middle of an urban area in a film too often. It also has several “so bad it’s good” moments, particularly in the dubbing. It’s fair to call this an outrageous movie with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, over-the-top gore, and fun sequences. Severin Films’ new presentation is a welcome one, with a good-looking transfer and some nice extras, making it an enjoyable title for a select group of film fans.
- Tim Salmons