Everybody who is old enough remembers Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. It was once one of the highest rated shows on television. On NBC it ran from 1963 until 1971. It would continue to run in syndication for decades. An elder Marlin Perkins would host the show, while a young Jim Fowler would be out in the field. Every week they would show us animals in the wild from all over the world. Long before there was a Crocodile Hunter or Nigel, there was Wild Kingdom. Strange Wilderness attempts to urinate all over our fond memories, all the while trying to tell us that it’s funny. As Terry Bradshaw is fond of saying, “That ain’t funny.” Say it again, Terry. “That ain’t funny at all”.
Peter (Zahn) is the son of a world renowned naturalist and star of the classic television show, Strange Wilderness. He’s gone now, and Peter has taken over the show. No longer an educational platform, Peter doesn’t let things like facts or work interfere with his version of the show. It doesn’t take long before he’s destroyed the show’s credibility and lost any following the show might still have. He’s been relegated to the 3 A.M. timeslot. He’s about to get cancelled when a rival nature show producer, Sky Pierson (Hamlin) pitches his program to the station. He has two weeks to turn the series around, or it’s gone. Enter Bill Calhoun (Baker) an old friend and colleague of Peter’s father. He claims to possess a map that reveals the lair of Bigfoot. So, in an entirely unlikely series of events, the incompetent crew heads off to South America to capture Bigfoot on video and save the show.
There’s nothing in this film that will even help you crack a smile. Peter’s crew are all the typical stoner film screw-ups and potheads. An attempt to save some kind of entertainment value finds Ernest Borgnine in a short appearance as the last remaining crew from the show’s glory days. Borgnine looks pretty good for his age and keeps the film alive for his brief tenure. Robert Patrick attempts to liven things up as a wacko survivalist the gang encounters in the South American jungle. It’s over the top by a Denver mile and ends with a visual I’d really rather wasn’t in my head. That’s not the only disturbing image you’ll be scared with if you let Strange Wilderness in your home. There’s a scene with a wild turkey and Zahn’s penis that just blows any chance the movie has at taste. What’s worse? Judging by the menus and box art, the filmmakers considered that scene their best moment. That tells you so much more than I could ever explain about how bad Strange Wilderness really is.
Strange Wilderness is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p picture is arrived at by the usual AVC/MPEG-4 encode. It’s a mixed bag here. At times the film appears very muddy and almost out of focus. It’s like HD action blur, even without the action. Colors are actually pretty good in spite of the muddy image. The jungle greens are impressive. Black levels are about average here. You’ll get a bit of shadow detail, but there will be times that darkness conceals the image. A little compression problem, but nothing too serious. When you’re not in the darker jungles, the picture is overly bright and shiny. I suspect that it might have been intentional to create a cartoonish reality to go along with the intended comedy.
The Dolby TrueHD isn’t really that impressive either. The uncompressed sound clocks in at an average 2.7 mbps. It’s strictly dialog driven with little need of any ambient sounds or effects. When there is opportunity for sounds in the jungle environments, it never really impresses. There is nothing even closely resembling an immersive experience here, and for once I’m thankful. Strange Wilderness isn’t a place I wish to visit.
All of these features are in SD.:
Featurettes: Three very short, almost promo quality, features are provided.
Reel Comedy – Strange Wilderness: This 20 minute piece is a Comedy Central look at the film. It has the typical cast and crew interviews and too many bad clips.
Deleted Scenes: I can think of about 80 more minutes that should have joined these 22 minutes.
I just don’t understand how films like this get made. It honestly boggles my imagination. It’s hard to imagine that a group of writers, producers, and studio execs all stood in a room somewhere getting excited over this material. I didn’t even know they made stoner pictures anymore, but I can’t imagine liking this film even if you’re stoned. About the only good thing this movie has going for it is it’s short, under 90 minutes running time. Still, it will feel like hours. Strange Wilderness? “It has been described as stupid.”