William Girder died in a helicopter crash while scouting locations in 1978. If that hadn’t ended his life, who knows the heights of lunacy he would have achieved?
In just six years, he directed nine feature films — Asylum of Satan, The Get Man, Three on a Meathook, The Manitou, Sheba Baby, Project: Kill, the astonishing Abby, Grizzly and…Day of the Animals. If this movie is any indication, I wish that he had made many more films.
This had to have been the first movie about the loss of Earth’s ozone layer. Who knew that it would drive everyone nuts, including animals? Certainly not the hikers in this tale who turn against one another and try to survive all of the animal assaults.
Steve Buckner (Christopher George, who is fighting with Michael Pataki and George Eastman for most appearances on this site) has a dozen or so hikers who are about to go to Sugar Meadow for a nature hike, even though Ranger Chico Tucker (former NFL player Walt Barnes) tells him that the animals have been acting strangely.
Along for this nature trail to hell are anthropologist Professor MacGregor (Richard Jaeckel, Grizzly), a married couple named Frank and Mandy Young (Jon Cedar, who in addition to being a recurring Nazi on Hogan’s Heroes was also the co-star, co-screenwriter and associate producer of The Manitou and Susan Backlinie, the first victim in Jaws), rich Shirley Goodwyn (Ruth Roman from The Baby!), her son Johnny, teenage lovers Bob Dennins (Andrew Stevens, who was in the Night Eyes films) and Beth Hughes, a former pro football player dealing with cancer named Roy Moore, a magical Native American guide named Daniel Santee (Michael Ansara, Killer Kane from the 1980’s Buck Rodgers series as well as the voice of Mr. Freeze), a television reporter named Terry Marsh (Lynda Day George, always ready to scream “BASTARDS!”) and finally, a frenzied Leslie Neilsen in the role of his career as Paul Jenson, an ad executive who acts like every account guy I’ve ever had to deal with in my 24-year-long ad career.
Before you know it, wolves are attacking people in sleeping bags, vultures circle overhead, hawks knock women off cliffs, Leslie Nielsen goes beyond bonkers and kills a dude with a walking stick and threatens to assault women before wrestling a bear and getting his neck torn out, rats attack the sheriff who decides to eat before trying to figure out how to deal with this emergency, dogs turn on the people they loved, rattlesnakes bite people and the military dons hazmats suits to deal with all of it.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this movie is stupid. And awesome. It’s stupid awesome. And if you only know Nielsen from his later comedic roles, take a look at him in this movie. I love this movie. I don’t care what you think of me.