Saturday, October 25, 2014
The Beasts Are On The Streets
Whereas most of these movies were content to unleash just one species against man, be it spiders or bears or bees or dogs, writer Laurence Heath (a former MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE producer) goes hog wild in his teleplay for BEASTS, unleashing an entire wildlife sanctuary against a Texas populace fattened up for the kill from all that local barbecue. Lions and tigers and bears and oh my elephants and buffalo and zebras and you name it prey on some of the dumber members of the human species (“I just wanna see what’s going on.”).
Heath resists appending a supernatural or mystery element to the animals’ behavior. They’re just acting like wild animals. An ersatz combination of road-raged hunters Billy Green Bush (ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE) and Burton Gilliam (HONEYMOON IN VEGAS) and pill-popping trucker Bill Thurman (a mainstay of Larry Buchanan’s Texas schlock) results in the African Wildlife Park’s fenceline demolished and an army of hungry animals on the loose.
The director is a slumming Peter Hunt, making his first foray into American television after helming big action films like ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and SHOUT AT THE DEVIL. So it’s no surprise that the animal-attack scenes contain a decent level of thrills, though necessarily bloodless, thanks to network standards of 1978 (although the suspense would hold more weight if we didn’t see a whole crew of worry-free filmmakers reflected in the windows of cars being assaulted by wildlife).
The human characters are no less shallow than usual for the disaster genre, but they seem like they are because of the colorless cast, including undistinguished Dale Robinette (BILLION DOLLAR THREAT), wispy Carol Lynley (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE), and future Tubbs Philip Michael Thomas. Filmed at the long-gone Lion Country Safari drive-through park in Grand Prairie, Texas, THE BEASTS ARE ON THE STREETS definitely has its share of knuckleheaded scenes, but the variety of animals involved gives the film a certain cheesy spectacle that’s worth a watch.