Revenge of When Animals Attack: Man vs Nature Films!

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Almost a year ago we published a blog on nature gone awry films, which you can check out HERE! This piece proved to be so popular that we have decided to make it an annual event! This series focuses on real animals attacking real people for whatever reason (though it’s usually because of something man has done). Because these stories tend to be based in reality, they also can be a lot scarier and more realistic. The best of these films were released pre-CGI which means that in many cases, actual animals were used to convey the threat! This realism certainly adds to the overall enjoyment of these films!

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BLACK ZOO (1963) – Though this movie may not be an actual animal revenge film, it is still a fun film that features some amazing animal attacks, using real animals AND actors! This movie stars Michael Gough, an actor who also appeared in such genre films as HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959), KONGA (1961) and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973). In this movie, he plays Michael Conrad, an owner of a small zoo that showcases various big cats and a gorilla. He also belongs to a cult that worships these types of animals. Something interesting to note is that all of the animals used in this film are real, except for the gorilla, and it is actually the big cats that attack the people who wrong Conrad! I give the actors and actresses a lot of credit in this film as they worked in very close proximity to these animals, including attack scenes that are very realistic. In one scene, Gough is “fighting” with another actor right outside of a male lion’s cage and the animal is obviously excited by the activity and even goes as far as reaching its giant paw through the bars trying to grab Gough! Personally I would’ve s**t my pants but Gough just keeps on going with the scene! This is a fun film that recently got a much-needed DVD release so check it out! David Albaugh~

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THE BIRDS (1963) – It goes without saying that Alfred Hitchcock was one of (if not the) greatest directors of all time. THE BIRDS, while popular, is not often considered to be one of his true masterpieces – at least when compared to some of his other classics such as REAR WINDOW, PSYCHO, and VERTIGO.  I’m a huge fan of all of these pictures but, I have to confess, THE BIRDS is the one Hitchcock movie I find myself watching the most. I thought it was sheer genius taking animals that are all around us (and often taken for granted as part of the scenery) and having them turn on us for absolutely no apparent reason. They aren’t giant, mutated, or part of some scientific experiment. They’re just birds and you soon realize that if these seemingly harmless creatures we toss crumbs at ever decided to wage war on us, we (in the words of one of the film’s characters) “wouldn’t stand a chance.” The characters aren’t your typical movie victims either. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a rich brat whose abandonment issues from her mother cause her to seek attention inappropriately via practical jokes. She falls for the straight-laced attorney, Mitch (Rod Taylor), whose own mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy), doesn’t want any woman in her son’s life. She becomes the most unlikely surrogate for Melanie during the course of the film just as Mitch’s old girlfriend, Annie Hayworth the school teacher (Suzanne Plleshette), becomes her unlikely friend. I really liked the characters in this movie and it underscores what most “Man vs. Nature” films lack; people we can actually care about. Hitchcock retains his crown as Master of Suspense, particularly in my favorite scene where a group of crows start massing behind Melanie as she casually sits outside the school having a cigarette. I also love the scene at a local diner where Melanie tries to explain to her father (over the phone) what is happening and the eavesdropping patrons all chime in with their take on birds and what is really going on. I could seriously go on and on, that’s how much I love this movie. BI read a review of the film that panned it stating that it had “stiff acting, contrived situations and often flat dialogue” (Terror on Tape 1990). Obviously I do not disagree with this view more but, I’m an animal person, so be your own judge. To me it’s fascinating to think that the only living descendents of the dinosaurs could one day decide to reclaim the Earth. Dave Fuentes~

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ALLIGATOR (1980) – This movie plays off of the urban legend that there are alligators in the sewers thanks to irresponsible pet owners who flush them down the toilet. In fact the movie starts at a show where men wrestle alligators and baby alligators are sold as pets. Marissa’s parents buy her one and then eventually flush it down the toilet. Thankfully for the alligator there is plenty of food down in the form of animals being dumped there that have been experimented on with an illegal growth hormone. Once the alligator eats the animals it ingests the hormone causing an unbelievable growth spurt. Though most of the characters are very unlikable (including the hero, David, played by Robert Forster) we take comfort in the fact that most of them end up getting eaten. The special effects are surprisingly good, using a combination of detailed miniatures with a real alligator and a beautifully constructed full-scale latex version. Though it is your basic monster-on-the-loose film it is a step above most of them with a good story, decent acting and fun monster scenes.

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TENTACLES (1977) – I’m sure most folks will agree that the quintessential “Man vs. Nature” film is JAWS. Not surprisingly, its phenomenal success inspired quite a few rip-offs and like-minded wannabes from all over the globe. The Italians tried their hands at it as well and this was most notably done via TENTACLES, which highlighted another misunderstood denizen of the deep – the octopus. The sinister cephalopod featured in this film, however, has the added distinction of being “super-sized” thanks to the toxic assistance of human activity. While made in Italy, it boasts some old Hollywood royals in its cast such as Shelly Winters, John Houston, and Henry Fonda. You would think that this, along with a giant octopus, would make this a “Man vs. Nature” extravaganza but it was not to be the case. While the film features a big climax via a boat race that serves as a smorgasbord for the eight-armed beast, it’s a long boring road to get there. The dialogue and film’s score also seems to add a “soap opera” like quality that was more reminiscent of made-for TV Natural Disaster films that proliferated during this time. This should not suggest, however, that the movie was more suited for the small screen. Italy is one country that knows how to push the envelope of film making whether its viewers are prepared for it or not. This was illustrated almost immediately during the film’s opening scene when the octopus claims its first victim; an infant lying in its carriage near the water’s edge. I personally found this disturbing which, as a HUGE fan of Italian horror, is saying a lot. I will give the film kudos for the way the creature was dispatched at the end – proof that sometimes the only way for man to win a battle with Mother Nature is to utilize one of her other creations. Dave Fuentes~

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 CUJO (1983) – In this movie, based on a novel by Stephen King, a Saint Bernard is bit on the nose by a bat contracting rabies. The dog belongs to Brett Camber, whose father owns a car repair shop. When Donna and Tad Trenton, played perfectly by Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro, have car trouble they go to the car shop. The mother/son duo get stuck inside the car as Cujo goes on the attack. Not only do you have to deal with the close quarters of being stuck in a hot car, but you also have to deal with the terrifying attacks by the dog. The attacks are scary as hell and both Wallace and Pintauro are very convincing in conveying their terror! In my opinion this is one of the better movies based on a Stephen King novel and it is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray. If you haven’t seen it you don’t know what you’re missing! David Albaugh~

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TINTORERA: THE KILLER SHARK (1977) – Another JAWS-inspired International film was TINTORERA: THE KILLER SHARK. For those scratching their heads regarding the film’s title, Tintorera is the Spanish word for Tiger Shark. These man-eaters, while not as infamous as their Great White cousins, are no less fearsome. This is especially true in the warmer waters of Hawaii and Mexico (where this film was made). So far as this film is concerned, JAWS was in no danger of losing his stature. The movie tends to drone and features a bizarre subplot that often overtakes the entire movie. Two male characters that didn’t get along so well in the beginning, find themselves attracted to the same gal. Instead of battling it out, they do the unthinkable; agree to a “threesome” relationship where they can both share her (and the woman in question doesn’t have any problems with this arrangement either).  While the men never cross the line physically with each other, it is evident after one of them gets eaten that they absolutely had done so on an emotional level. If you think I’m spending way too much time delving into this aspect of the film that is the same thing the viewer will think while watching it all play out. TINTORERA, is too drawn out to be considered much of a rip-off of JAWS though, later in the film,  it does mimic a nude female swimmer (who doesn’t wait for the cover of darkness to take her swim) that gets devoured. One thing is certain; regardless of TINTORERA binge a JAWS rip-off,  it does manage to be unique. Dave Fuentes~

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