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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround
  • Czech: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Hungarian: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Polish: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Production notes

Fierce Creatures

Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 89 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

The Anglo-American team that brought us the critically acclaimed A Fish Called Wanda reunite for a light, witty comedy co-written by the incomparable John Cleese. Apparently beginning life as a discarded Monty Python skit, Fierce Creatures satirises the globalization and downsizing being forced upon us by the unscrupulous multinationals that now rule the world.

When media conglomerate ‘Octopus Inc’, acquires a small British zoo as part of a hostile takeover, ex-Hong Kong policeman and Octopus Television executive Rollo Lee (John Cleese) is installed as zoo director. Lee is charged with the unenviable task of bringing the zoo’s earnings up to 20% of capital; a target set for all Octopus acquisitions by Rod McCaine (Kevin Kline) - Octopus owner and Murdoch-like media mogul. But Lee has a plan. His time in television has taught him what excites the fickle public – violence, and he sets out to strip the zoo of all its warm and cuddlies.

"...the meerkat is the piranha of the desert sir!"

Of course the zoo staff, including insect keeper ‘Bugsy’ Malone (Michael Palin) abhor the idea, and a power struggle develops; the staff resolving to call the new director’s bluff. However, no sooner are Lee and the staff at each others throats, than corporate-climbing Octopus executive Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) and McCaine’s vain, moronic son Vince (also played by Kline) descend on the zoo with plans of their own. Lee and the keepers unite against the Americans, as Vince sets about installing crass marketing banners and animatronic animals.

With such a depth of talent in this now well-known troupe, it is hardly surprising that the cast is in fine form. Cleese reprises his most (in)famous role, Basil Fawlty, as the autocratic zoo director Lee. Michael Palin, reputedly the ‘nicest’ man alive, draws on many of his former Python characters as the intellectual motor-mouth ‘Bugsy’. I confess to being a big Palin fan from way back – he just kills me, even with a glance, and he does not disappoint. Kevin Kline does a good job with the dual role, providing a comical, (if not convincing) Aussie accent for the part of Rod McCaine – better at least than Robert Downey’s embarrassing turn in Natural Born Killers. Personally, I’m not generally in favour of dual roles, you're always trying to see through the trick - but it does work well here. Finally, Jamie Lee Curtis rounds off the cast as a busty corporate climber not adverse to wielding her feminine wiles.

Given its pedigree, it’s not hard to see why Fierce Creatures originally received such a luke-warm reception from the critics. With Universal's marketing of the film openly encouraging comparison between Creatures and Wanda, its less refined script and the predominance of bum and cleavage jokes do not hold up a flame to its predecessor. But that’s the problem with success, it breeds high expectation. Now, having achieved enough distance from both films, we can appreciate Fierce Creatures for what it is, a light, witty farce that is still 100 times better than the majority of drivel being passed off as ‘comedy’ by today's Hollywood.

  Video
Contract

Fierce Creatures is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, on a single-sided, single-layered disc. The image is 16x9 enhanced.

Presented with a single-sided disc, I was a little worried about the image quality we'd be faced with. My concern was totally unfounded. What we have here is an absolutely beautiful, crystal clear transfer that provides full, vivid colours and lots of sharp detail. You can spend hours looking at every hair on every little critter. Flesh tones are natural and there's no obvious edge enhancement. There aren't many dark scenes, but where necessary the black level is perfect, as is the shadow detail.

There are absolutely no film artefacts or MPEG artefacts to be seen, except for one or two instances of very, very slight aliasing. No doubt about it. It's a 10!

  Audio
Contract

Although the disc provides five different language tracks, English is the only language graced with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Really though, the others don't miss much. The film is dialogue based, with most of the sound occupying the front of the soundstage. Thankfully, the dialogue is always clear, and lip sync is not an issue.

The surrounds are used to carry part of the score, and a small amount of ambient sound. Very, very occasionally, an effect also carries to the rear - for example, the crack of Rollo's police pistol. But all in all, although the transfer faithfully reproduces the original sound of the film, Fierce Creatures is an unremarkable audio experience.

  Extras
Contract

With only a single-sided, single-layer disc, there isn't much room left for extras. What we do get is the following:

Production Notes: The kind of stuff sometimes included in a separate booklet. 18 pages of quite interesting information concerning the writing, shooting and production of the film, including the many delights and problems involved in working with the many animals that appear in the film. In my opinion a great addition to any disc.

Theatrical Trailer: Standard fair. It is not 16x9 enhanced, and the picture is scarred by numerous film artefacts.

Cast and Crew Bios: Information on most of the cast and each of the two directors.

The menus are static, and are not 16x9 enhanced. Like all recent Universal releases, those garish, amateurish icons are back. A key to represent the main menu? Of course!

With the film's ending being re-shot months after the original production wound up (due to unsatisfactory American test screenings), an obvious extra would have been the original end footage as scripted by John Cleese. Additionally, the theatrical trailer hints at a large amount of other deleted footage that would have made a fantastic addition to the disc. In the case of many a comedy, deleted footage often contains some undiscovered gems.

Obviously with its popular, ensemble cast, a commentary would have been fantastic. Too bad.

  Overall  
Contract

Although not quite living up to the impossibly high standards set by its predecessor, Fierce Creatures is a light, yet highly enjoyable film. Those expecting A Fish Called Wanda II will be disappointed, but I found my funny bone more than satisfied. Sporting a brilliant transfer, this is definately a disc to consider - despite the obvious lack of serious extras.


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      And I quote...
    "..don't expect 'A Fish Called Wanda', and you just might love it.."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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