The Beasts Are on the Streets DVD Review: Live-Action Hanna-Barbera Mayhem!

From the earliest days of cinema, filmdom’s original filmmakers – those brave, experimental individuals who would pave the way for their industrial descendants’ hits and misses with their own blood, sweat, and tears – found there was no truer onscreen battle to behold than pitting man against nature. Thus, the disaster film was born – even though it really technically didn’t become a whole genre unto itself until the ’70s, wherein movies like Earthquake!, Airport, and The Poseidon Adventure loomed their tales of adversity over the horizon of foldable theaters seats near and far.

Towards the latter half of the ’70s, even television producers were keen to file a grievance against God’s way – and a mini-rush of TV disaster flicks surfed the airwaves for several years. Some of these titles were manufactured by the one and only Irwin Allen – the seasoned professional who had earned the nickname “The Master of Disaster” due to his memorable (whether good or bad) contributions to the genre. Interestingly enough, though, one of the more anomalous TV disaster movies came from a duo known primarily (if not entirely) for their work in animation: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera – the same folks who brought us Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and The Flintstones.

One of the few live-action vehicles the company produced, 1978’s The Beasts Are on the Streets is a decidedly light-hearted donation to the “animals running amok” subgenre of the disaster film – and, true to real life itself, the root of the entire telefilm’s dilemma is attributable to dumbass humans. Rednecks, in particular. And the two gents tasked with bringing the dumbest of the dumb to life for this one are none other than Billy Green Bush (Five Easy Pieces) and Burton Gilliam (of Blazing Saddles fame) – who are quick to point their huntin’ rifles out of their station wagon (complete with a dead deer tied to the top) on the highway at signs and the hapless driver of a semi carrying dangerous, volatile, extremely flammable liquid.

Naturally, the driver winds up crashing his load directly into the reasonably precarious-looking fence keeping the impressible varied assortment of feral and fierce critters housed within the confines of a wild animal park. In only a matter of seconds, untamed rhinos, ostriches, bears, and big cats galore are making their way into a frenzied traffic jam and into the immediate rural vicinity – which leads veterinarian Carol Lynley (no stranger to the genre, having co-starred in The Poseidon Adventure as well as several other made-for-TV quickies) and her slightly-estranged park ranger beau, Dale Robinette, joining forces to track down the animals before any of them or the easily-panicked public come to harm – especially once the two yokels that inadvertently caused the entire accident decide to go big game hunting!

Philip Michael Thomas (in his pre-Miami Vice days), Casey Biggs, and Bill Thurman are among the more familiar faces in this enjoyable excursion into the realms of an incongruous reality where an entire police force governs a rural highway-side community that was helmed by the acclaimed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service director, Peter Hunt. Special props go out to both the Humane Society on this one for ensuring none of the real life beasts (who were remarkably well-trained – sometimes outdoing their professional human co-stars) actually came to harm. Extra special kudos go out to whoever decided to cast actress Michelle Walling for her one and only known (or at least credited) acting gig as Lynley’s blank-faced tween daughter with the cold dark stare. If the thought of an amorous lion roaming the countryside doesn’t startle you, take a good long look into Ms. Walling’s empty orbs!

Unavailable in a legitimate form since its original 1978 airing, The Beasts Are on the Streets at long last has received a little love – and that special care has been bestowed onto it by the Warner Archive Collection, who present the tele-title in its original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio with mono English sound. The image on this MOD DVD-R is truly beautiful (especially when compared to the fuzzy old VHS bootlegs that used to pop up every now and then on the ‘Net), and the soundtrack comes through very crisp and clear. There are no optional audio selections or subtitles, nor are there any special features to be found here, but don’t let that stop you from (re-)discovering this forgotten disaster flick genre entry.


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Luigi Bastardo

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