Following the massive success of 1975’s Jaws it was open season for movies with creatures killing (and eating) humans. I had no problems with that whatsoever. One of the first films to hop on the bandwagon was the 1976 creature feature Grizzly which was cleverly billed as “18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!”. Was that enough to get people to theaters to see it? Yes! Grizzly became the highest-grossing independent film of all time that fine year of 1976. As usual, the poster was so very cool and made me ask the parents to go see it, knowing full well at age 7 they would say hell and no. Which they did.
Grizzly is not exactly original to say the least. First off, we have a creature getting the human munchies. And, he’s really big. Of course we get idiotic tourists in the form of campers gleefully going hiking and camping as the evil supervisor of the park (Joe Dorsey) refuses to close-unwilling to take a financial hit and privately offers a large bounty to a bunch of yahoos to go out and kill the bear after squabbling with the forest ranger in charge. Nah-that doesn’t sound TOO familiar, does it? It does however, give me great paws. (Get it? No? Too bad).
On to the killing. The way the first two girls get killed is done so awkwardly that the blood and gore are silly because all we see is the giant paw and claw and the victims being thrown around like a dummy. What is kinda amusing is the POV or GOV (Grizzly of view) camera that shows us the good ‘ol Grizz sniffing out his prey. The first girl gets slaughtered to pieces (with arm severed off) and tossed into a tree. The second girl, who has gone off to nature’s bathroom (and actually does have toiletpaper which she would really need later) comes back to the site and sees her friend mangled in the tree and offers a bizarre reaction that looks like she wants to break out laughing before she runs to an abandoned cabin where of course we know Mr. Grizzly will find her and she is mince meat. I offer both photo and video evidence.
After that it’s largely time for lots of forest shots and the clichéd battle between the ranger (Christopher George who is actually pretty good) and the aforementioned greedy supervisor who blames George and Richard Jaeckel (who is likeable enough in his Richard Dreyfuss knock-off role and is always eating sandwiches for some reason) for not properly clearing the park of the bears before tourist season. There’s also a very inept scene where a lone hunter runs for his life cleverly dropping his gun (of course!) and then climbing a tree branch and sliding down about 3 feet (might’ve jumped that death-defying amount instead pal). He proceeds to fall down some rocks into the river and at worst looks like he may have suffered a cut finger. But word of mouth spreads and we’re told he was “messed up real bad, but he’s alive”.
A useless subplot has George seemingly involved with a woman played by Joan McCall who appears here and there and demands to go on the hunt with George and his pals. He tells her no women are allowed and she briefly throws a fit. She never appears again but I’d have used her and her giant forehead to scare the grizzly and then we’d see that a bear really does shit in the woods!
And it wouldn’t be a horror movie without people acting like total morons and doing things NOBODY in their right mind would do. For example, a female ranger and her male partner are doing a sweep of an area the grizzly may be at and because her feet hurt she says she’s going to soak them in a waterfall nearby. With an 18 foot grizzly running around, isn’t that what you would do? Well, she does and gets down to her bra and panties of course, because you need to do that for your feet (not that I’m complaining). I suppose Grizzly was a bit horny because her shower doesn’t last long before she gets all mangled up to bits. Hey-if you don’t bare all a male bear’s gonna get pissed! He does have needs.
So, we have another victim to the giant paw on a stick thus another weak, cheap-looking killing. Jaeckel now tells George and Andrew Prine (hammy as very denim-clad helicopter pilot Don Strober) that what they are looking for is a grizzly 15 feet tall which they scoff at. It’s worth noting that the poster states the bear is 18 feet tall, in the movie they say he’s 15 feet tall, but in reality the actual bear was 11 feet tall and the guy in the bear suit for some scenes would’ve been 6 feet tall. These are the bear facts.
Anyway, our furry friend kills another idiot camping in a tent so now George demands the park be closed which of course Dorsey ignores. Dorsey has now invited local buffoons a reward to hunt the beast and at one point a few hunters find a cute little cub which they use as bait, but Grizzly not being much of a Cubs fan will eat said youngin’ making the hunters look like drunken, plaid-wearing assholes which they needed no help with.
There are plenty of scenes where George and Dorsey yell at each other and the acting isn’t bad at all, but when Dorsey says, “A bear is a bear” to diminish the rising corpse count, it’s just dumb dialogue. When George says he will do as he pleases to get the bear his way and save further killings, Dorsey screams “You are finished, dismissed, removed!”sounding like the great Seinfeld lawyer Jackie Childs stating, “It’s lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!”. After the hunters fail, they agree to do things George’s way and are told in no uncertain terms that if they come across BooBoo Bear NOT to use him as bait.
We will soon see a ranger in a lookout tower (he’s an idiot and does everything very wrong of course, and somehow gets surprised by an 18 foot bear that he’s specifically LOOKING for) get attacked by the grizzly and it’s here where we see the real, actual bear. And, it looks huge and pissed off though he probably just wants to play .
“Me want ranger for lunch”.
Soon, my furry friend, soon.
A Kodiak bear nicknamed Teddy starred as the killer grizzly, so he showed his range and acting “chomps” (note I said chomps!) quite well. Teddy was 11 feet tall and was the largest bear in captivity at that time, and he would also be the first bear to receive his Screen Actor’s Guild card and promptly eat it.
The bear was rented from a company and was kept behind an electric fence. The crew was protected from the bear by a piece of green string running through the shooting locations, and a ticking kitchen timer (well, that seems really secure doesn’t it?). This resembled an electric fence. Everyone was instructed to always stay on the camera side of the string which sounds like solid advice. According to a Wikipedia article, Teddy did not actually roar (was he mute?), so he was tricked into making the motions of roaring by having marshmallows thrown into his mouth and then a final marshmallow was held in front of his face (who the hell got that job?) and he would grin and bear (ha ha) and stretch for it. His roars and growls were not real sadly, but his belching was. So, the terror you see on-screen was really the giant bear saying, “Gimme marshmallow-yum yum yum!”.
“MARSHMALLOWS NOW, SILLY HUMANS OR I WALK!”-Teddy (aka, Grizzly), 1976
I guess rangers don’t provide enough of a snack because our killer can barely contain himself (another good bear joke), and decides to eat a mother and son. The little boy is playing with a rabbit (who somehow survives) and well, you know the rest. A boy, a rabbit, a mom and a broom. How could they NOT defeat an 18 foot grizzly? Seems foolproof to me.
The bear hug and a child’s terror-or smile, take your pick.
Honestly, it looks like the kid dies of no more than a bear hug (pun very much intended), but the aftermath proves otherwise! I love kids (some anyway), and seeing one get offed is usually not what I want to see, but this was too comical, and makes little sense with what we saw the bear hug do. So naturally the little squirt gets a leg ripped off from his aggressive hug.
Mother did try to save her child…with that fucking broom. You can guess how that went. Not well.
Oh-the kid lives somehow. OK-guess he played dead? Later, there’s also some campers partying and there’s a guy with a terrible moustache who looks like the LAST guy that would be getting lucky as he guzzles down his Schlitz beer, but some pretty terrible-looking blonde invites him into her tent.
But she gets more than she bargained for as the grizzly throws her all over the place. It looks so stupid it’s not scary in the least and rather odd as she’s being pulled up each time making it look as if she were on the outside of an airplane.
With all these developments finally our evil supervisor concedes it’s time to let George handle things and slay the beast. The solemn way Dorsey does this is a 100,000% ripoff of Jaws where the mayor can barely function after he’s been proven wrong as the carnage piles up and signs off for Quint to do his thing on the shark. Here, the supervisor signs off for George and Jaeckel (who claims he “understands the bear”) to do what they do. Very original! Soon, we see our grizzled grizzly in search of more human flesh. Our fateful 3 (George, Jaeckel and Prine) go off on their own to meet their fate or best the bear. Hmmmm…how many was it who fought Jaws on their own? Oh yeah-3 (Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss)! And, would you believe they find time for Prine to tell a tale as they sit by the campfire preparing for battle about a whole Indian tribe that became munchies for a grizzly? Although he improvised the scene, the whole thing was a ripoff of the scene in Jaws where Shaw tells the tale of the Indianapolis and the men that were eaten by the sharks. THAT story is terrifying. This story blows bear balls. Even the grizzly knows a lame story when he hears one.
“YAWN! I heard that story in Jaws-gimme something new I can work with!”.
So, what’s the plan? Well, Jaeckel’s character goes off on his own on a horse to set up camp and attract the bear with a deer carcass. Now, you know and I know that this bear-loving fool is going to be eaten. Why doesn’t he know? Not only will Grizzly follow him and his dear dead deer, but he will decapitate his horse (pretty silly, but amusing) and claw the shit out of him. Jaeckel doesn’t die…yet. In one of the better and scarier scenes we see him buried by Mr. Grizzly in a giant dirt hole with grass over top of his bloodied face. He awakens and slowly gets up only to hear Mr. Grizzly not very happy at all for ruining his burial ceremony. So, after surviving being buried Jaeckel gets all killed real dead-like. And he only wanted to be friends! I couldn’t bear to watch!
George and Prine who have been either running after the grizzly (yes, you got that right) or chasing him by helicopter find Jacekel’s remains and now they want revenge-it’s personal. They eventually interrupt our grizzly doing some sort of tribute to The Supremes.
Now it’s time for the showdown we’ve all been sort of waiting for. Barely. Or bearly. They spot the grizzly in an open patch of the forest and land the helicopter. And like any good grizzly this one attacks the helicopter and knocks Prine out of the copter. In a touch of irony, Jaws 2 would go the “attack the helicopter route” and rip off Grizzly! Bearly original I say!
Prine shoots at the bear with no luck and then his weapon jams, naturally. Then he decides it’s best to try to swat him with the rifle. That doesn’t work as well you’d think with an 1800 pound bear and he gets the hug of death and is tossed aside all bloodied seemingly dead with lots of acrylic paint. I see his eyes fluttering however. Does this indicate he’s not dead or was this just inept film making?
Now it’s truly man vs. beast (George vs. Grizzly) and the ripoffs of Jaws get more offensive and less creative. George will pull out a bazooka gun which would’ve really helped EARLIER when his buddy was becoming a human pic-a-nic basket. Seriously, why didn’t he break that out when Prine was being attacked? In any case the bazooka gun does its magic and blows the bear up which is pretty silly but kinda cool at the same time. He bearly stood a chance. George then goes over to Prine’s body (again-is the guy frickin’ dead or not?) as the camera fades and some harmonica plays (seriously). It gives me great paws when I think about it. A grisly way to go, eh? I can’t bear the thought.
And here’s the video of the whole ending sequence as bear goes boom…
Grizzly biscuits for all the forest creatures! And what did we learn from Grizzly? That I can make a lot of bad bear puns and that ripping off a huge movie with little money if hyped up enough with the right marketing, can lead to success from a very stupid demographic-people who pay to go to the movies to see creatures go nuts and eat humans (i.e., Me!). Truth be told, Grizzly was not a bad film, but the unoriginality and hideous editing along with the inconsistent bear sizes kept it from being a good film. Grizzly has a rather loyal following to this day and obviously cleaned up at the box office. While I can’t go nuts here with praise, I can safely say you will get some laughs and also find yourself actually enjoying the damn thing.
1. Grizzly cost $750,000 to make and grossed close to $40 million which was a boatload in 1976. It thus became the biggest independent film of all-time until knocked from the ranks by the masterpiece Halloween in 1978. I weep when I think that Halloween was finally knocked off the top by the laughable Blair Witch Project in 1999.
2. Producer/screenwriter Harvey Flaxman (he also has a horrible cameo as a reporter in the film) was “inspired” for the idea of Grizzly after encountering a bear with his family on a camping trip. Or was it seeing Jaws? Director William Girdler saw the script on his desk and offered to finance the film if he could direct it. Producer Edward L. Montoro and his Film Ventures International distribution company financed the picture’s $750,000 budget. Montoro would also distribute a debacle I destroyed on here Great White which desrvedly bankrupted his company!
3. Grizzly was filmed in Georgia where there are no grizzlies unless they’re really lost or playing NBA basketball for the Memphis Grizzlies and have a road game in Atlanta against the Hawks.
4. The cool as shit poster for Grizzly was done by famed comic book Neal Adams of Superman, Batman and Green Lantern fame. Really!
2 1/2 beagles out of 4 for awfulness
Q: Should you see Grizzly?
A: Grin and bear it (ha ha!) and hoist a few brews to Teddy. Enjoy!