Digi-Schlock: WILD BEASTS (Camera Obscura DVD)

It’s always nice to discover a new DVD company that specializes in cult fare.  Your Humble Reviewer recently became aware of Camera Obscura, a German outfit that specializes in lesser known European cult movies.  Their release of Wild Beasts shows that not only are they willing to release offbeat movies – they can also do so in a manner that treats them with a level of care that is usually reserved for more prestigious fare.

This disc presents Wild Beasts in an 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer and the results are pretty impressive.  Detail is sharp and colors are rich, resulting in an image that retains the vintage look that fans of Euro-cult stuff love but presents it in the crispest, cleanest manner possible.  In terms of audio, there are three options – English, Italian and German.  The English track was the one used for this review and it’s nice and clean, with an effective blend of quickly-dubbed dialogue, music and some surprisingly aggressive sound effects during the attack scenes.  In short, you get the goofball fun of an early 1980’s English dub presented with surprising clarity.

The producers of this disc have also assembled a nice little package of extras.  On the small scale, there is an Italian trailer for Wild Beasts that is packed with the film’s outrageous highlights and still gallery that offers a brief but potent mixture of video sleeves, poster art and press materials.  The highlight of the gallery is a series of reproductions from a Japanese pressbook that presents photos of the film’s attacking animals as if they were actors (come to think of it, they are the major attractions of this film in thespian terms).

There are also two substantial video extras.  The shorter of the two is a brief appreciation of the film by Italian genre critic Antonio Bruschini.  Midway through, this piece transforms into a testimonial for Bruschini, who recently passed away.  The testimonial part is handled by extras producer Federico Caddio, who speaks of his departed friend with fondness and eloquence. For English-speaking fans, it’s an interesting glimpse of the Italian fandom scene and one of its popular figures.

That said, the key part of the extras – and probably the other key reason for fans to buy this disc besides the strong transfer – is a lengthy chat with writer/director and former mondo-movie kingpin Franco Prosperi.  He sits in a sunlit garden (amusingly, there are pets present) as he reflects on the sometimes chaotic production of the film.  He recalls how production actually began in Zimbabwe before war forced it to move along and tells stories of how the different animal scenes were filmed.  The best bits include the tale of the tiger-on-the-subway scene, the difficulties involved in shooting the car/cheetah scene and a hilarious bit about how one crewmember cozied up to the wrong lion during a visit to an animal preserve.  His recollections have become priceless since Prosperi passed away shortly after this interview was done – so if you are a mondo fan, this segment alone makes the disc a necessity for you.

In short, Wild Beasts is a good value for fans of Euro-exploitation.  Camera Obscura have done a great job here so it’s worth the import price.  If you’re a fan of Prosperi’s work, this is the best edition Wild Beasts will probably ever get so don’t hesitate (like this company’s other titles, it’s a limited pressing so grab it while you can).

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