Starring Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel
Directed by William Girdler
Distributed by Severin Films
Director William Girdler directed nine films over the course of six years before his untimely death at the age of thirty on a location scout for his tenth feature. Many of those films have attained a legit cult status but the most commercially successful of his pictures is 1976’s Grizzly, a Jaws (1975) clone that swaps the shark for a bear and the sea for endless forest otherwise this is essentially the same story – and it’s mostly awesome. Like Spielberg, Girdler knows the limitations of his titular beast and so he applies the same technique of not showing much of anything until a big (not terribly exciting in this case) reveal for the monster. Ripped straight from that film as it may be there is also no denying it is an effective method, though Girdler punches up the attacks with plenty of blood and mutilation. Yet another similarity to Jaws is the fact a strong score elevates the material, in this case coming from Robert O. Ragland, whose work is almost too good for this B-movie. These elements, combined with a great leading trio, work just well enough that Grizzly can stand (15-feet) tall on its own.
A pair of hikers is killed by some unseen creature and the severity of the wounds leads the local coroner to inform Chief Ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George) the likely culprit is a bear. Kelly and his superior, Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), argue over whether or not to close the mountain to campers, striking a compromise that will assuredly bite them in the ass later. After a female ranger is killed the hunt for this mystery bear escalates, with Kelly bringing in local helicopter pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) to survey from the skies and wildlife expert Arthur “Scotty” Scott (Richard Jaeckel), who provides support on the ground. It’ll take every ounce of cunning and wit from the men, though, because this isn’t any ordinary bear – it’s smart, it can outthink most of the local yokels hunting it, and its bloodlust shows no signs of slowing.
This may be a sloppy film (it is) but my love of animal attacks and powerful scores nearly precludes me from reviewing this too objectively. Girdler uses bear-vision to sell the lead-up to the attacks but once a person (or persons) is getting mauled the action becomes too frenetic and choppy. This is where all the blood comes in and it’s certainly effective in selling the brutality of these kills. The problem is the movie becomes repetitive as Kelly and his posse are continually one step behind the bear, which is just lumbering around and chewing on locals all day every day. I will say Girdler rarely allows the film time to slow down and the frequency of attacks nearly offsets their lack of finesse. He isn’t afraid to kill of cast members either. Hell, even kids aren’t safe here. The final showdown leads to another Jaws-esque moment but, you know what, it’s so awesome I’m hard-pressed to bother complaining it isn’t the least bit original.
Severin Films brings Grizzly to Blu-ray a couple years after Scorpion put out their own remastered version. Severin touts a new 2K scan from the inter-negative and while the results aren’t close to a night-and-day difference there are improvements in areas of black levels and color saturation. The 2.35:1 1080p image still retains a grain-heavy ‘70s aesthetic while looking nicely detailed and punched up in all the right areas. Audio comes in the form of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track and it is sufficiently powerful in delivering crisp sound effects and plenty of room for Ragland’s score to soar. Subtitles are available in English SDH.
- 2K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
- Audio Commentary with Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson and Film Writer Troy Howarth
- The Grizzly Details – Interview with Producer David Sheldon and Actress Joan McCall
- Towering Fury – Interview with Actor Tom Arcuragi
- “NIGHTMARE USA” Author Stephen Thrower On William Girdler
- Movie Making in the Wilderness – Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Making Of
- Jaws with Claws – Archival Making Of GRIZZLY Featurette
- Radio Spots
- Reversible Wrap
- Optional English subtitles for the main feature