Friday, October 4, 2013

"Belve Feroce"(1983) d/ Franco Prosperi

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In 1983, legendary shockumentary director, Franco Prosperi, one half of the team that brought the world the biting social commentary of Mondo Cane (1963), the rape of an entire continent with Africa Addio (1966), and the scathing racial indictment of America's past with Addio zio Tom (1971), decided to tone it down a bit, if you couldn't tell by the screenshot of the horse head being cleaved in half, by answering the burning question on the collective global mind: What if a major metropolitan city (Frankfurt, in this case) was suddenly overrun by escaped zoo animals on angel dust? No, seriously. Lorraine de Selle, who got strung up by her tits in Cannibal Ferox and raped by Johnny Morghen in La casa sperduto nel parco aka/House on the Edge of the Park, is along for the wild and reckless pre-PETA ride with one-off actor John Aldrich, Ugo Bologna, and a myriad of animals, many of whom look to have suffered greatly in bringing this outrageous movie to life, as was so often the case in exploitation movies of the era, before filmmakers were held (somewhat) accountable for their reprehensible attitudes towards nature.

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"Ohhhh, Franco!", says Mr. (D)Ed.
After a disclaimer states that no animal appearing in this film has suffered any type of violence and some establishing shots of Frankfurt, a severed horse head is split in half with a cleaver and fed to a ravenous tiger. Subtle guy, this Prosperi, isn't he? Laura (de Selle) wants to snap some photos of the jungle cat, but her handler, Rupert (Aldrich) shoots her up with tranquilizers, leaving the beast to convulse itself to sleep. A couple seeking a little paradise by the dashboard light is set upon by a horde of sewer rats, and a vastly outnumbered alley cat also falls victim to the writhing pile of rodents before the authorities show up and burn them with flame throwers in slow motion (!). Meanwhile,back at the zoo, the security guards' porno mag appreciation sesh is spoiled when the electronic lock down system for the animal cages, as illustrated by panels of colorful flashing lights, suddenly goes haywire, releasing the zoo's entire population upon an unsuspecting city. Lions, tigers, and leopards maul screaming men to bloody death.A blind man is attacked in his apartment by his own seeing-eye dog, while taxidermy trophies look on.
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"Perché non pulsante la camicia?", wonders Laura (Lorraine de Selle).
Meanwhile, elephants bully a couple in a car, strangling the man with a homicidal trunk, and flattening the girl's face with one step. A cheetah races at high speeds down a boulevard after a young girl in a convertible Volkswagen. There's something you don't see every day. An adult Sumatran tiger rides the subway, terrorizing the passengers, which include Laura, who's racing to pick up little Suzy (Louisa Lloyd, who enters the story open-bloused, in a creepy Polanski-esque moment) from gymnastics class. Elephants on the runway cause a jet airliner to crash. A polar bear breaks into the school and mauls one of the teachers amid the terrified screams of prepubescent children in leotards. At a municipal slaughterhouse, a lion attacks some cows, while a hyena latches on to a squealing pig. Rupert has run some blood tests, and blames the animals' change in demeanor on the zoo's water supply, polluted with P.C.P., while city traffic is gridlocked by stampeding cattle. Rupert and Laura reach the school to find the polar bear coming down from his trip out front, and the kids inside, having also ingested tainted water, gone homicidal, themselves.

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"Frankie says you got ice cubes in been holdin' out on me??!!"
What a fucked up movie. I'm pretty sure those woprophiles of sensitive disposition will probably want to avoid this one altogether, though you really oughta to sit through it at least one time, just to bear witness to such an exploitative spectacle, a throwback to the guerrilla approach to cinema, that would and could never be made today, apart from a total CG fest suited for the SyFy Network, perhaps. Beyond the obvious draw,  most of the actors are so wooden in their delivery of the hokey dialog they're given to work with here, that if you split one of them open, you'd have to add "termites" to the already voluminous natural cast. On the scale, two exploitative big ones for Beasts. Recommended to fans of the genre, but like the dangerous wildlife within, approach with caution.

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"You really think these jam-filled Tribbles will catch on then?"
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