I haven’t done a throwback Thursday for a while so I thought I’d dig into the archives for something interesting. A couple of years ago I started a series for a website that I was writing for that covered novelizations of popular horror movies. Now these aren’t books that inspired movies, but those written to cash in on movies coming out. I’ve always found them interesting because most of the time they were written from scripts and the author, normally not involved with the movie, only had the shooting script to work off of. This means many times you get to see what was in the script before the director and editor got their hands on it. Makes for some interesting differences. Introduction out of the way let us take a look at the novelization of Grizzly.
I love me some drive-in movies and am even a bigger fan of Jaws inspired nature run amok movies. So of course William Girdler movies play quite often in my house. I was rather shocked to find a novelization of Grizzly available and of course I had to own it. So after watching the movie I cracked the book open for some more fun.
The plot of the book mirrors that of the movie. An enormous “throwback” grizzly bear stalks the visitors of a mountain park. It finds people both tasty and easy to kill, so we are added to the menu quickly. A park ranger named Kelly (named changed from the movie) and others track down the beast and do battle with it, but not until it has a pretty decent body count. The heavy equipment comes out and the bear is finally stopped. But of course you knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?
This might be one of my favorite novelizations that I’ve ever read. Will Collins takes a very simple plot and manages to pad it out into a decent read without effecting the pacing too much. The book is itself rather short at less then 200 pages, but again that seems about right. All the fun stuff from the movie is in the novelization. The bear, the oddball characters, and the kills. Being a book we get to have much more character development of the most important character, the bear. We find out where it came from, why it comes down from the mountain, and even why it first attacks humans. Couldn’t really do that in a movie so the change of format is fun and more importantly blends nicely with the original plot. Collins even is able to stretch the gore out a bit more then we were able to see on screen. I’m a nerd for a good bloody kill and the book gives us more detail then we see in the movie.
Whenever I’m reading a novelization of a movie that I really like I’m always worried about what liberties the author might take. With that in mind let’s talk about the differences between the movie and the book. We get a few minor things like the character of Kelly getting a name change, and he has more of an adversarial relationship with his boss. It has a much more Roy vs. the Mayor shut the beaches down Jaws vibe to it then we get in the movie. I think I’d chalk that up to something that was in the script that never made it to the film version. I don’t think this brings anything to the story and makes it feel more like a Jaws want to be. There are a couple of scenes added with characters like a father and son going camping that seems to exist only to add a few extra pages in.
The biggest change is the ending. In the movie we get a rather explosive ending much like Jaws (see a theme?). But the book has hand grenades and a flame thrower tossed in for fun. I have no idea if this was from the script and was changed during shooting, but I like it much better. Though to be fair seeing how it is played out in the book I have no idea how they could have shot that sequence on a low budget. Oh and the way the movie is edited you get the idea that one of the main characters had died, but in the book he didn’t. I’m a big fan of the actor Andrew Prine so that made me happy.
This is a fun, easy read that should appeal to both fans of the movie as well as someone just looking for a good creature story. I’m recommend it and am glad to have it in my collection.
© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer
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