Monday, 7 April 2014


Title: Grizzly
Director: William Girdler
Released: 1976
Starring: Andrew Prine, Christopher George, Joan McCall, Joe Dorsey, Richard Jaeckel

Plot: When a giant grizzly bear starts eating the campers at a state park, it is up to park ranger Michael (George) to hunt it down.

Review: If ever there was an example of the importance of editing it would be this film. For here is a film which in its TV cut is a tepid and boring movie while in its uncut form, it’s actually quite watchable even though it’s lingering around the ass end of okay in this stronger form. Frustratingly it was the TV cut which I watched first, which left me wondering why I got so excited about watching it in the first place, a fact which I’m sure was more down the prospect of seeing a film with a giant killer bear, especially as I do love creature features and couldn’t remember actually seeing one with a killer bear.

One the last films to be directed by Girdler, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for his tenth film. This would be the first of his two ventures into the creature feature genre, while more surprisingly it would also become one of the top films of 1976. This success of course could have been largely thanks to the massive success of “Jaws” which inspired countless imitators in a trend which continues even now, as directors continue to try find new and ever more inspired ways to add to the already primal fear most people have regarding certain animals. None however have shown the balls that Girdler does here with this film which is essentially a straight clone of “Jaws”, even though it could be argued that Bruno Mattei came close with “Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws”.

From the start Girdler tries to make the revel of the creature a slow burn by shooting from the bears perspective (or bear vision if you will) and by having a stage hand swipe at thing with a bear paw glove. Unfortunately the big revel never really comes perhaps thanks to Girdler choosing to use a real bear, which needless to say isn’t the safest creature for you to put next to actors, so as a result the bear footage often comes off looking like wildlife stock footage than anything specifically shot for the film. The biggest failure though comes when any character is attack by the bear, which usually descends into shaky camera shots and what can only be described as watching someone getting bear hugged by someone in a questionable looking bear costume. Despite the real bear never seemingly being anywhere near the actors, Girdler used a length of green string and a kitchen timer to shoot the actors with the bear, with the bear believing that the wire was the same as the electrified fence used during breaks in filming, while the trainers also got the bear to mimic roaring by tossing it marshmallows (who knew that bears liked them) and adding the sound in post production. However now having seen the film it makes you wonder why they went to so much effort with the real bear, especially when it never seems like the actor and bear are ever in the same shot.  

This leads me of course to the importance of which version you watch, as if your stuck with the TV version, this will fast become a painful film to sit through, as each time the bear attacks it suddenly cuts or even on a couple of occasions just fades to black. The uncut version on the other hand is a lot more fun, thanks to the occasional bursts of gore that it provides making the bear attacks a lot of satisfying to watch as limbs are torn off and even a small child loses a leg, all scenes missing from the TV version which cuts out all of the gore and leaves only the half decent attack on the ranger station intact. Thankfully though if you’re stuck with the TV version, the cut segments can be easily found on Youtube which honestly are also the best parts of this film, which really do save it in many ways from being such a grind.

Plot wise as I stated earlier in this review, the plot is essentially a blow for blow remake of “Jaws” with changes being made to suit the setting, so hence we get Michaels concern over a giant killer bear in the park being thrown out by his supervisor, who’d rather keep campers in the park rather than close the park while they hunt the bear, while also flooding the park with amateur hunters by offering a bounty on bear all actions mirrored by the mayor Vaughn. Equally mirrored is Michaels actions to hunt the bear which see’s him forming a similar team to Brody’s with naturalist Arthur (Jaeckel) and helicopter pilot and Vietnam veteran Don (Prine) taking on the roles played by Hooper and Quint. It’s hard to say if watching the film with this prior knowledge adds or takes away anything from the film, but it certainly makes it a curiosity to say the least, especially in these times were Mockbusters are being so regularly churned out which essentially do the same as this film and in many ways perhaps making this film the earliest example of the genre.

While the plotting may be the same as “Jaws” sadly the characterisation is far from the mark as this film lacks any of the likeable characters of that film, much less any ones which are memorable enough to actually care much about with the exception of Arthur but that could be more so do with his bear skin wearing antics, much less the lack of real insight he brings to the hunt despite being the so called expert.

Unsurprisingly in the wake of the film success this film would get a sequel of sorts almost ten years later in the form of “Grizzly 2: The Predator” which originally started out as a completely separate film entitled “Predator: The Concert”. Written aswell by the same screenwriter as this film Harvey Flaxman the film was never finished yet various incomplete cuts of the film do exist and it was via a review of that film by my good friend and bad movie critic extraordinaire The Great White Dope over at “Mecha-Blog-Zilla” that I came to find out about this film in the first place in a piece which I highly recommend checking out like the rest of his blog, even if he is currently on blogging hiatus there is still a wealth of great reading to enjoy.

A flawed film with a handful of interesting moments if your watching the uncut version but mainly it will just make you want to dig out your copy of the far superior "Jaws", especially as its doubt this will have you afraid to back into the woods anytime soon.

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