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Fierce Creatures

Fierce Creatures promotional poster
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Robert Young
Produced by John Cleese
Michael Shamberg
Written by John Cleese
Starring John Cleese
Jamie Lee Curtis
Kevin Kline
Michael Palin
Robert Lindsay
Ronnie Corbett
Derek Griffiths
Maria Aitken
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) January 24, 1997 (US)
14 February, 1997 (UK)
Running time 93 min.
Language English

Fierce Creatures is a 1997 comedy film. Although not a sequel, it was a follow-up to the wildly popular A Fish Called Wanda, starring the same four actors, John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. The movie was written by John Cleese and directed by Fred Schepisi and Robert Young.

The story is centred on a British zoo which has recently been acquired by New Zealand businessman Rod McCain (played by Kevin Kline) and put under the management of Rollo Lee (Cleese). In order to boost profits, Lee decides to institute a "fierce creatures" policy that means that only potentially deadly animals will be featured in the zoo. The film was dedicated to Gerald Durrell and Peter Cook, and was partially filmed at Jersey Zoo, the zoological park started by Durrell.

Contents

Plot

The story centres around Marwood Zoo (named after John Marwood Cleese, and also very similar to a real life zoo, Marwell) that has recently been acquired by Octopus Inc., a corporation that requires that all its investments return a 20% profit margin. Retired policeman Rollo Lee (John Cleese) is put in charge of the zoo, and in order to reach the required profit margin he institutes the "fierce creatures" policy where only potentially lethal animals will be kept in the zoo, based on the belief that violence will attract more visitors.

All the animal keepers, including the spider-handler Bugsy (Michael Palin), protest the policy and make various attempts to get Rollo to change his mind. One such attempt involves the caretakers feigning injuries all over the zoo, which they claim was caused by the animals suddenly becoming fierce. Rollo sees through their ruse and calls them on it. When a real zoo visitor is injured in an unrelated accident, Rollo refuses to take it seriously, and his rough treatment of the injured woman (including licking her leg to prove the blood is fake) causes him to be suspended.

At this time, businesswoman Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) from Octopus Inc. arrives at the zoo to take over, demoting Rollo to middle management. Tagging along is Vince McCain (Kevin Kline), the son of the Octopus Inc. CEO Rod McCain (also Kevin Kline). Willa and Vince begin obtaining numerous sponsorships for the zoo to raise the revenue. Soon Vince starts using celebrity names and over-the-top advertising that degrades the animals as well as their caretakers. His shallow understanding of the zoo makes him the enemy of everyone there, including Rollo and Willa, who have begun to fall in love with the zoo and with each other.

When Rod McCain arrives in London for a visit, everyone is concerned about the zoo's status. Rollo and Bugsy learn that Rod wants to close the zoo for under-performing, and it is revealed that Vince has been stealing the sponsorship money.

A confrontation takes place at the zoo office, with Willa, Rollo and Bugsy stopping Vince from running off with a bag containing the money. When Bugsy refuses to shut up, Vince loses his temper and grabs a Beretta pistol from the management office. Rod arrives just as Vince is being subdued, and he announces that the police are on the way to arrest Vince for stealing. Vince tries but fails to shoot his father, and when Bugsy takes the pistol it accidentally goes off, shooting Rod between the eyes.

In the panic that follows a plan emerges to fool the arriving police. The animal caretakers work together to dress Vince up as Rod, since he can imitate his father's Australian accent fairly well. When the police and Rod's assistant, Neville, arrive, Vince (as Rod) tells them that he has re-written his will, specifying that the zoo will become a trust of the caretakers and Vince inherits everything else, and he wants all of them to be witnesses. After signing the new will, Vince locks himself in a caretaker hut where he feigns Rod's suicide.

Now free, the zookeepers destroy the evidence of McCain's ownership. Vince becomes the new CEO of Octopus (along with firing Neville), while Willa and Rollo begin a new life together while continuing to run the zoo.

Cast

References to A Fish Called Wanda

Fierce Creatures is a follow-up, but not a sequel, to A Fish Called Wanda, featuring the same creative team, the same leading quartet of actors (John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin) and a number of returning supporting actors. (In fact, during development, it was referred to as "Death Fish II".[1]) The main four actors have roles here that display similar dynamics to their roles in A Fish Called Wanda: John Cleese's character is the morally-upright straight-man, Jamie Lee Curtis's character starts out morally grey but ends up romantically linked to John Cleese's character, Kevin Kline is the dense antagonist of the film's plot, and Michael Palin's character provides an active supporting role to the main events. Michael Palin's character in Fierce Creatures, however, is a chatterbox that is difficult to keep quiet, the opposite of his personality in A Fish Called Wanda, where he was a stutterer unable to say anything.

Other small gestures throughout the film recall "Wanda". In one scene, a keeper tells Rollo that Willa liked him. When Rollo reacts in surprise, Bugsy starts explaining to him the pheromones he releases into the air attract her. After this, Rollo sniffs his armpit as if to check on how he smelt. This was a gesture done by Kevin Kline as Otto in "Wanda". Also in a throwback gesture, in A Fish Called Wanda there was a fish named after Jamie Lee Curtis' character; in Fierce Creatures there is a Ring-tailed Lemur named after Cleese's character. In the final scene John Cleese also "accidentally" calls Jamie Lee Curtis' character "Wanda" instead of Willa.

Supporting actors from A Fish Called Wanda returning for Fierce Creatures include Maria Aitken (wife of Cleese's character in A Fish Called Wanda, his assistant in Fierce Creatures) and Cynthia Cleese (daughter of Cleese's character in A Fish Called Wanda and Pip Small Mammals in Fierce Creatures). Tom Georgeson, who played George Thomason in "Wanda", also made a brief cameo as a zoo visitor.

John Cleese explained in a David Letterman appearance he didn't want to make a sequel to A Fish Called Wanda because of the expectations and how often sequels are inferior to the original. He points out Aliens and The Godfather, Part II as rare examples of sequels surpassing the originals.

Interestingly, in Poland the film was released under the title “Lemur zwany Rollo” which literally means “A Lemur Called Rollo”, thus directly referencing A Fish Called Wanda.

References to Monty Python

The screenplay of Fierce Creatures was co-written by Python John Cleese and stars two Pythons: John Cleese and Michael Palin. This creative input led to the film containing several references to Monty Python. Direct lines lifted from Monty Python projects are Pip (played by Cleese's daughter Cynthia) saying, "It's just a flesh wound!" (a line originally from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and was delivered by a knight played by her father) and a spectator describing the sea lions as having "beautiful plumage" (a line originally from the Dead Parrot sketch). Another reference is that the character Bugsy (Michael Palin) has a pet, Terry the tarantula, named after Terry Jones, with whom Palin once wrote a sketch called "The Fierce Creatures Policy". Palin and Jones also wrote the series Ripping Yarns, which was produced by Sydney Lotterby. This is also the name of the second small mammals keeper (played by Robert Lindsay).

References

  1. ^ Craddock, Jim, ed. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2007 (Detroit: Thompson Gale, 2006), p.310, "Fierce Creatures" review.

External links


Simple English

Fierce Creatures
Directed by Fred Schepisi
Robert Young
Produced by John Cleese
Michael Shamberg
Written by John Cleese
Starring John Cleese
Jamie Lee Curtis
Kevin Kline
Michael Palin
Robert Lindsay
Ronnie Corbett
Derek Griffiths
Maria Aitken
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) - January 24 1997
 United Kingdom - 14 February 1997
Running time 93 min.
Language English
IMDb profile

Fierce Creatures is a 1997 comedy movie. The movie was written by John Cleese and directed by Fred Schepisi and Robert Young.

The story is based around a British zoo. The zoo has recently been bought by New Zealand businessman Rod McCain (played by Kevin Kline) and put under the management of Rollo Lee (Cleese). In order to gain more money, Lee decides to use a "fierce creatures" policy. This means that only animals which could kill people would be kept in the zoo.

Cast

  • John Cleese as Rollo Lee
  • Jamie Lee Curtis as Willa Weston
  • Kevin Kline as Vince McCain/Rod McCain
  • Michael Palin as Adrian 'Bugsy' Malone
  • Robert Lindsay as Sydney Lotterby
  • Ronnie Corbett as Reggie Sea Lions
  • Carey Lowell as Cub Felines
  • Bille Brown as Neville
  • Derek Griffiths as Garry Ungulates
  • Cynthia Cleese as Pip Small Mammals
  • Richard Ridings as Hugh Primates
  • Maria Aitken as Di Harding

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