So I- somehow, God help me- found myself watching Grizzly, a mid-70's monster-horror featuring a giant grizzly bear. The promotional posters for Grizzly featured the tagline "18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror." Well, it was grizzly, all right, but I doubt it was the kind of 'grizzly' the producers were aiming for.
Unfortunately the sad-sack who recommended this film is on vacation in Shanghai, so my vigilante justice will have to wait.
The film opened with some promise as one of the main characters, Don/'NamMan, helicopters some sightseers over the unnamed national park which serves as the film's setting. We get some beautiful shots of tree-clad mountains and valleys which 'NamMan claims are virgin and untouched since before Europeans came to America. I'm thinking "Hey, maybe we've got an environmental message!", and the long shots in the title sequence - along with the recommendation of a previously trusted friend - make me think Grizzly was headed to be something more than just a monster movie.
Then we got into Act 1, which soundly dispelled those naive notions.
After some confusion with who the hell the protagonist is, we find out it's Michael Kelly. I'll be calling him Chiseljaw, though, since that's all he is: a beautiful jawline meant to attract reluctant female movie-goers. Chiseljaw runs Unnamed Park as the direct supervisor of its many inept park-rangers, and we're led to believe the majority of his job involves babysitting hikers and making sure they don't go about setting wildfires or getting themselves lost. He has a romantic interest who's cast as the "Strong Female", but there's no point in even assigning her a nickname, since she's completely irrelevant to the plot. As a matter of fact, there isn't a single female in Grizzly who exists for any reasons besides as fodder for aforementioned giant bear. Oh, and cleavage/midriff, which I suppose passed for racy back in the 70's.
The only characters who matter - as much as any character can matter in this sort of film, anyways - are Chiseljaw, 'NamMan (Don, the obligatory Vietnam veteran who I thought was the protagonist when he flew us over the forest), and BearDude, whose name I forget but was maybe Scott but doesn't freaking matter because all you need to know is that he's a naturalist and likes to cosplay as a bear, or deer, or something.
I dunno. He's got a massive fur cape, and he digs bears. So today he's BearDude.
Anyways, some sexy ladies get merc'ed by the bear, which sets off an investigation and a killing spree of approximately nine-thousand people. Plot juice, but it's cheap plot juice. Seriously, it's like they figured out they only had thirty minutes of actual film, and the director just said "Oh, it's cool, sprinkle in a bear-murder between every scene until we've got a movie."
And I'm not using 'murder' flippantly, either. This is basically a serial-killer movie, only the serial-killer is a big dumb animal lacking the psychologically twisted aspect of a good serial-killer villain, and instead of cops, the good guys are park rangers. We even get the obligatory gun-and-badge scene we by now expect from that sort of cop movie, where Chiseljaw begs his 'Chief' (or park supervisor, whatever) "Let me do my job," to which the Chief responds "You're in over your head" and threatens to fire him. Not those literal words, but you get my drift. I found myself wondering whether the writer didn't simply deconstruct the worst murder-spree movie ever and rewrite everything with a bear-centric focus, and to be honest I'm unconvinced he didn't do exactly that.
The irony there is that it's not even a good monster movie. I was unsurprised to discover Grizzly released hot on the tails of Jaws, which I suppose was the kind of movie they wanted to emulate. Knowing that, the blatant ripoff was pretty obvious. But it still felt closer to a dozen cop movies I've seen than to Jaws.
Trudging right along, Chiseljaw, BearDude and 'NamMan form the least effective power-trio in cinema history. Later on I started to like 'NamMan, who probably would have made a better protagonist than wet-blanket Chiseljaw, and BearDude was ok too in the lovable-weirdo sense, but we all know the best buddies are only there so they can die late in the game anyways. Their bumbling is only offset by the Chief, who (we're guided to believe) is playing politics by bringing press to the park and hoping to attract more visitors, or a cushy job offer for himself, by highlighting the fact that two million and counting visitors have been viciously mauled and devoured by a ginormous prehistoric bear.
You can't see me, but just know I'm rolling my eyes.
The worst aspect of Grizzly, though, is ironically the freakin' grizzly. Many of the shots of its feet (before the not-so-big reveal) are cearly a black bear. At one point an adult black bear is trotted onto the set and a bunch of hunters think it's the grizzly's cub, which ends in some hilarious bear-on-bear violence. When the grizzly attacks, it never once bites its victims: its killing move, as far as I can tell, is split between either a lethal bear hug and a swing of its mighty claws, which at one point literally decapitates a horse in a single swipe.
I wish I had something good to say. I wish I could post a review that wasn't entirely comprised of ridicule and mockery. But the unfortunate fact is that ridicule and mockery are more than Grizzly deserves.
It should have languished in ignominy, forgotten in the dusty halls of crappy films. It doesn't deserve a Wikipedia page. It should have withered and died on the vine anonymously, unreleased, and - barring that - nobody should have been talking about it one year later, much less forty.
Instead my idiot friend recommended it to me, which is the only reason this review exists. To publicly declare, for all the world to see, that Jon Hollingsworth of Fort Lauderdale, FL, is an ignoramus, knows nothing about good film, and should seriously consider checking into a mental institution if he thought a single scene of Grizzly was worth watching.
To me, the real lesson in Grizzly is Be Careful Who You Trust. Oh, and if you're going to make a bear movie, you should know something about bears.
this takes the 'Jaws' approach by having a 15-foot grizzly bear stalking people in the wilderness
a lot of stuff they have this bear do is completely ludicrous to the point where you slap your head silly and go what?! :P
you cannot help but enjoy the campiness and the huge cheese factor
this really does fit the 1970's exploitation era given that the bear leaves behind a bloody trail of victims but only one skinny-dipping scene
with the body count you don't now who these people are which makes you forget instantly once they die but give them credit they at least made the scenario somewhat believable
barely any cheap animatronics here and they shot with a real bear even if the stock footage is noticeable
you'll get what you bargain for here....no lions, no tigers but grizzly bears oh my!
But considering what it got away with on such a low budget, Grizzly is interesting.
Among the more positive notes, the general idea behind Grizzly is a scary one because being trapped in the woods with a massive hungry killer bear nearby would be a scary as hell situation, and at times I thought certain thrills were conveyed to a decent extent, but could have been better if better actors were hired to play the victims.
Plus, for the standards of low budget Jaws rip offs, this one is one of the better ones as it deviates away from the concept of horror in the ocean and attempts to draw it into the theme of a killer bear which it succeeds to on a half-decent extent of a B-movie scale.
Also, lead actor Christopher George gave a surprisingly good performance as the hunter who mirrors Roy Scheider's role in Jaws, and although there is no possibility that he could reach the same legacy, he does well in terms of capturing the charisma of a determined forest ranger, and he had good chemistry with Joan McCall who was also good, so Grizzly had a decent lead cast.
Lastly, the musical score was good and many of the tracking shots were of good quality and brought out the beauty of the forest that Grizzly was filmed in very nicely.
But Grizzly isn't believable and can't standalone without its legacy as a Jaw knock off
And half the time it's obvious that the producers are using a toy helicopter in shots because the sound effects crew didn't bother to match them up with the actual sound effect that would be heard as a real helicopter passed, and it commonly looks too small without appearing too distant to be convincing.
And it's clear that the editing crew had little to work with because the same several shots of the bear are used again and again, and the only things they could use in the death scenes that were covered up under the water like in Jaws were false bear arms and claws, as well as pretend body parts to have slashed from the victims, and it becomes repetitive fast and not convincing, then again embracing that the bear is slashing parts off people is part of the intended stupid fun in Grizzly. I don't really think I felt it though, and really that's the main problem.
So Grizzlt tried hard and had the best intentions, but there's only so long you can sit through the same repetitive footage of a bear attempting to be pulled of as a massive killer Grizzly. But you'd expect that from the standards set.