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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Grizzly (1976)




In the seventies Jaws was big business which meant that all the independent filmmakers wanted their own animal attacks movie. Grizzly, from director William Girdler, was one of the first to market. It also happens to be the best of the bunch. With the new Blu-Ray getting released it was time for me to upgrade and check out this old favorite.

Classic poster
Two girls are camping in the woods, which itself shouldn’t be much concern. But we the audience gets to see that something is stalking them. There is an attack, an arm comes off, and the rangers are alerted when the girls don’t check in. This leads our main character, Ranger Kelly, to realize that there is a rogue bear in his woods. He also realizes quickly that the park supervisor is going to blame everything on him for “missing” one when the moved them to the high country. Kelly goes looking for help in the form of a bear expert named Arthur Scott, who figures out that this isn’t your normal black bear. It is a grizzly and a huge prehistoric throwback at that!

The rest of the movie is taken up by a series of attacks on people unlucky enough to cross paths with the beast. In hot pursuit are Kelly, Scott, and a helicopter pilot named Stober. The three men bicker and do battle with the menace… sound familiar? Finally, after some blood is shed we finally get the answer to the age-old question that has plagued mankind. Who wins in a fight between grizzly bear and rocket launcher?

Well she was disarmed by the bear... Ha! I made a funny.
This is a great movie that I remember watching on television in the late seventies. The plot is solid and wastes no time getting us to the good stuff. Director Girdler keeps the action moving spreading the kills evenly in with the character and story development. The movie focuses on the three male leads played excellently by Christopher George (Kelly), Andrew Prine (Stober), and the always awesome Richard Jaeckel (Scott). Much like the movie that Grizzly is attempting to emulate the dynamic between the three men hunting for the bear is the heart and soul of the plot. We even get a take on the epic monologue with Stober telling a story about an Indian village and a pack of bears that mirrors Quint’s from Jaws.

I will say in an effort to stay on the male leads it feels like the female love interest and the obstructive park supervisor are ignored and disappear far too quickly. Why were they even included if they were going to be discarded and never return long before the movie ends? That is really my only complaint about Grizzly.

We get a combination of mechanical bear and real one in the attack sequences. If you pick up the Blu-Ray make sure to check out the special features where they explain how they wrangled the bear to get the shots that they needed for the movie. It is interesting to see how they pulled this off without anyone becoming supper. The bear wasn’t trained all too well and was quite large. I’ve already mentioned that we see an arm off early on, but we also see a horse lose its head, and a little boy lose his leg. R.I.P. horsey!

This is an excellent example of a movie that was made for the drive-in circuit to cash in on what was popular at the time. The ingenuity of independent filmmakers to get the money and get these things shot and in the drive-ins before their window closed has always fascinated me. When the movie is good, like Grizzly, I consider it a bonus. I highly recommend this one and if you can pick up the new Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber.



© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

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