18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!
Year of Release: 1976
Running Time: 97 minutes (1:37)
Director: William Girdler
Christopher George ... Michael Kelly
Andrew Prine ... Don Stober
Richard Jaeckel ... Arthur Scott
Joan McCall ... Allison Corwin
Joe Dorsey ... Charley Kittridge
Tom Arcuragi ... Tom
Victoria Johnson ... Gail
How many more unsuspecting prey will the Grizzly add to his growing list of victims?
Having tasted human flesh, the bear searches through the forest for food to satisfy his massive appetite. Time is running out for the forest rangers who enter the woods in pursuit of the beast!
Grizzly, remindin' us that you can beat the dead horse all you want, but once a bear's sliced off his head he ain't goin' nowhere but down... an possibly the dog food factory.
An speakin' of guys who could use a good head on their shoulders, I take issue with anyone who says that huntin' is a "cruel and unfair practice that favors the sportsman," because these people've obviously never been huntin' with Cleave Furguson. Cleave may be a great taxidermist, but when he tells ya he "knows where the elk are," I'm pretty sure he's talkin' about The Outdoor Channel. Next year I'm just gonna buy a beef offa Skunky Hernandez, cause I'm gettin' too old for this nonsense. Now Duke Tankersley, that guy knew where the elk were; was like he had an electronic transponder planted on 'em that sent signals directly into his brain, but Duke ain't been 'imself ever since Crudfin sank his boat an tried to eat 'im out on Lake Gunkamucka, so I was pretty much stuck. Cleave went all out this year too; bought a 1987 Prowler RV trailer off his uncle an everything, so we could camp if need be. It's at the bottom of Beaver Ravine now, which is a shame, cause it had all the amenities: an oven, a sink, AN a crapper. See, what happened was, Cleave an I'd gone up around the old Klondike Mine on openin' mornin' to fill our tags (it wasn't gonna take more'n 45 minutes, Cleave kept tellin' me), an after about three hours an five miles of seein' not so much as a track, we headed back to the RV for lunch. Only *somebody* left the door hangin' wide open, an when I stuck my head in there... cripes almighty, I dunno how that bear even got through the doorway, cause it musta been five feet wide at the ass end if it was an inch, an he'd eaten Cleave's entire batch of jalapeno poppers an passed out on the lower bunk. Well, halfway on it anyway, he wouldn'ta fit even before all that gas'd caused his belly to swell up like a dead deer's gut bucket. So, not thinkin' real well, I slam the door an inform Cleave that we've got a pretty serious case of reverse Goldilocks syndrome on our hands, but right about then the bear wakes up an, findin' the door shut, he lets out this god awful roar an proceeds to turn Cleave's new digs into a wreckedreational vehicle.
"What the hell're you doin'?! Let 'im outta there!" was Cleave's brilliant solution to the situation.
"YOU let 'im outta there! Your damn peppers're prolly hittin' his stomach about now, an I ain't gonna be the one to try gettin' a Pepto cocktail down his gullet to calm 'im down!" was my response, an so we climbed into the Bronco to weigh our options, all the while Deadly Ruxpin was in the RV roarin' like Sam Kinison gettin' a chest wax, until we finally came to the conclusion that there was just no way we could let it out even if one of us *was* willin' to open the door. Cause by that time the bear'd gone completely apeshit from the intestinal damage the Guatemalan Insanity Peppers'd done on his gut bucket, an even *if* we made it back to the Bronco in one piece it woulda just torn its way inside or eaten the first hunter it came across to douse the fire in its belly.
So finally I says, "Cleave, the RV's essentially totaled, an you've already filled your bear tag this year so we can't just go shootin' 'im, so what I'm about to propose is the only logical solution."
Cleave just looked at me like he knew he was gonna hate this idea, but I continued anyway, "You see that clearing between those trees there?"
"Back up to that spot, an I'll go unhook the RV."
He squinted like he'd caught me starin' at his junk at the urinal, but he wanted that RV detached as much as I did, so he backed up to the clearing an I unhooked it like I was tryin' out for a NASCAR pit crew job an got back in the Bronco.
"Back up to the passenger side of it an brace the door."
"What good's that gonna do?! He's gonna bust outta there sooner or later, an alls this'll do is make sure we're the first thing he sees!" was Cleave's accurate, but short-sighted assessment.
"No, it ain't, cause yer gonna put the gas to the floor, tip the RV, an he's gonna go for a little ride," I explained.
It ain't easy for a man to say goodbye to his camper, but Cleave eventually saw there was no other way, an put the pedal to the floor. The whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion, but after just a few seconds of pushin' the RV tipped like a giant metallic cow an down the hill it went, like the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark, destroyin' everything in its path until it finally came to rest in the ravine.
"At least the propane tank didn't--" was as far as I got before it exploded, causin' us both permanent hearing damage an sendin' a plume of black smoke a coupla hundred feet into the air.
"So, you wanna try Sumac Ridge tonight?" I asked, but Cleave wasn't talkin' to me anymore.
That's gratitude for ya. Don't worry about Cleave though, he'll get over it in... three, four years tops. So in the meantime, I thought it'd be appropriate to check out Bill Girdler's maniac bear chronicle, Grizzly, which is another cult classic from the great film producer turned fugitive - Edward Montoro. Ed could give a damn less what I think of his flicks, since he's prolly loungin' around a pool somewhere in El Rey tippin' up a Corona with one hand an squeezin' a silicone laden hooter with the other but, criminal or not, his flicks are almost all drive-in classics, an Grizzly was arguably the one that really set Film Ventures International on the path to temporary success. So Ed - if the cartels haven't lined ya up against a wall an shot ya for rootin' around in their cocaine stash yet, I'm raisin' a shot of tequila in your honor an doin' this one for you. In fact, let's all take a look at a few of the things that made Grizzly such a font of wilderness wisdom, an bask in the glory that is Montorovision. First, if in an argument reason proves unpersuasive, your next course of action should always be to tell the guy how embarrassed his mama'd be if she could see 'im now. This is especially effective when he's wearin' a deer skin poncho. I'll give ya fair warning though, this advice is not effective when issued to Joe Don Baker. Second, bears are a lot like Harvey Weinstein; the less clothing you're wearin', the more likely you are to be mauled. An third, bears always return to the scene of the crime... but seldom to the Super Bowl.
Butcha know, there's more to this flick than just watchin' city slackers get munched on like trail mix at elk camp, cause it's actually a pretty interestin' study of the sociological differences between two distinct segments of American society. The first is made up of people who're primarily horrified by the Grizzly murderin' an eatin' the black bear cub an the horse. The second consists of folks who're appalled by the little kid gettin' his leg ripped off. Now, I've taken the time to survey the better part of my own personal circle of friends, an you might be surprised to know that the scenes where the animals get snacked on are considered the more upsetting by a 7:1 margin (Skunky Hernandez says the kid bein' maimed is worse, but Skunky's Catholic, so he's biased). I think this is a recent shift in attitude by the American public, because in the olden days animals were primarily tools, food, or both, but after exhaustive research of my personal video library, I think I've discovered what caused such a radical change in public opinion: Sally Struthers. Remember all those Christian Children's Fund ads where Sally'd fly out First Class on a luxury airliner an force us to look at little nekkid starvin' children from some third world country until we sent in money, of which a whole 5% of every dollar went to help little Macumba Mbembe from the Congo get a bigger gruel ration at the local orphanage? An do you remember how you wanted to hire an anatomist to help locate Sally's neck so you could wring it to avenge the injustice perpetrated against your generosity an little Macumba when you found out how much they were skimmin' off the top to pay for their new line of stained-glass caucasion Jesus murals? Yer damn right you do, an I'm pretty sure *that* is why we sympathize more with the animals than the kids these days, even though it ain't the kids' fault. Course, the shysters that be've caught onto this, an now they've switched over to the Humane Society, an started airin' ads about abused poodle puppies rescued from Michael Vick where each of the rescued animals weeps in slow motion to the sound of a sappy Sarah McLachlin ballad, so that trend may well reverse itself again in time. But like I was sayin', I'd encourage everyone to watch this flick with a group of friends to find out where your own clique stands on the issue. I've found in my studies that there's a strong correlation between time spent in Wal Marts and greater sympathy for the death of a film's animal cast, but go ahead check it out for yourselves an do your part to advance the cause of science.
The movie begins with Christopher George addressin' his flunkie forest rangers an informin' 'em that they're about to have a major influx of Rainbow Gathering hippies in their woods, an that they're to do their best to keep the yuppy children away from 'em at all times so they don't accidentally end up joinin' any weirdo nature religions or seein' somethin' along the lines of what goes on in the videos in their mamas' nightstands. Turns out that's actually the least of Chris' problems though, cause up in the hills there's a mean old grizzled bear roamin' around blowin' snot on the camera lens an gettin' angrier'n angrier with every pine limb that whacks 'im in the eye, til he eventually comes across a coupla babes in the woods an gets into a little territorial dispute that results in one gal gettin' 'er arm sheared off like an old motor mount bolt an gettin' slapped around so hard that she ends up hangin' upside down from a tree like Jason Voorhees' pinata. The other girl hauls 'er buns over to an old shack, but Roguey the Bear just kicks the door in an makes 'er face look like a pizza that got stood up on edge an had all its cheese slide off. So when the girls don't report back to the ranger station Chris takes his second in command (Tom) an this gal with Kitty Forman's haircut (Allison) out to find 'em. It don't take too long before they locate the pizza slut, but the first victim's another story, so Chris hasta order a search party out to look for 'er until Allison ends up trippin' an landin' face first in the dead girl's chest of gores. Then some asshole from the national park service (Charley) shows up at the coroner's office to bust Chris' chops cause Walter Slayton an the rest of the Bears were supposed to've been hauled up to higher elevations so they wouldn't start any Super Bowl Scuffles. So Chris puts out an all-points bearetin an calls up this naturalist with a coupla missin' wingnuts (Scotty) who's out in the woods wearin' a deer skin poncho tryin' to get a family of deer to adopt 'im, an tells 'im to get his hinder back to the lodge to help deal with their bipolar bear problem. Elsewhere, Tom an his lady friend (Gail) are scoutin' around for any sign of Mental Ben, only while Tom's out beatin' all the wrong bushes, Gail peels down to the flesh an ends up gettin' munched on like a chicknic basket when she gets too close to a waterfall an runs into Clawed Rains.
The next mornin', Chris an Andrew Prine head up in their helicopter an end up purt'near blowin' the hide offa Scotty when they find 'im wanderin' around in his buckskins, an he tells 'im he's seen some sign in his travels an that the bear they're lookin' for's about 15' tall, weighs about as much as the waitin' room at an Alabama diabetic clinic, an that he's a prehistoric sumbitch who's really got it in for authority figures. So basically, it's the Joe Arpaio of Grizzlies, an things're gonna get a whole lot worse before they get better. Which it does that very evenin' at a camp site loaded with tourists who thought it'd be fun to be agitated by their obnoxious kids in new an fascinatin' places, an pretty quick it tears open some lady's tent while she's gettin' dolled up for some Rainier fueled sexploits an dosey-does 'er back an forth between two trees with 'er arms stretched out like she's on 'er way to Neverland with Peter Pan. By the time mornin' rolls around the locals've just about had their fill of Clawzie Bear an decided it's their time to shine, moonshine that is, an they head out into the park to turn Winnie-the-Chew into a handsome throw-rug, cept this one guy ends up separated from the lynch mob an gets chased down the mountain an hasta slide down a Tamarack like a fireman's pole an dump it into the river to get away. Which is fantastic, cause he ditched his rifle at the first sign of danger, an so now the bear's armed. Course, the constitution does state in the second amendment that he has the right to bear arms, so I guess there's really not much that can be done about it. Then Chris, Scotty, an Andrew drive by an spot the Mooks of Hazzard out in force lookin' for the bear an Chris is P.O.'d, so the three of 'em march into Charley's office to let 'im know that they're about to start kickin' ass an checkin' tags, an that if they find anybody out there huntin' without a permit things're gonna get moderately uncordial. Meanwhile, a black bear cub comes strollin' into one of the huntin' camps, an so the diplips decide to tie it up to a tree an wait around for Mama Bear to show up an pump lead into 'er til 'er blood analysis reads like a report from an inner city water potability test. Unfortunately, it ain't Mama Bear that shows up, an Papa Bear's evidently so sick of Baby Bear refusin' to make his baby bed in the mornins that he decides to make porridge out of his skull an start over with a new family. Naturally, havin' seen all this, Scotty thinks it'd be a great idea if they tried tranquilizin' the bear instead of just firin' 100s of rounds of ammunition into it like God intended, so Andrew tells 'im a story about how this one time a whole herd of Grizzlies attacked a buncha Indians who'd been laid up with gout an how durn near all of 'em ended up gettin' shredded like mozzarella sticks an eaten faster'n a plate of free bacon samples at the Piggly Wiggly; but Scotty, he's got his principles or somethin', an so he don't buy it.
The next day starts out with business as usual when the bear shows up at Tom's lookout tower, an it ain't long before he's both shaken an stirred by the bear's jostling of the tower which ultimately results in its collapse an Tom's skull endin' up between a rock an a hard place. Could be worse though, cause I'd much rather be in a watchtower with a bear than readin' one with religious cultists. Then Chris, Andrew, an Scotty head back to the station, an when Chris finds out that all the reporters suddenly swarmin' the place were invited by Charley to demonstrate just how swimmingly everything's goin' Chris goes apeshit an tells Charley that he can forget about ever becomin' Director of the National Park Service cause by the time he gets done squealin' about what's happened he'll be lucky to make pooper scooper at the San Diego Zoo. Charley's P.O.'d, an once he finishes givin' that "loose cannon" speech the police chief always gives in the Clint Eastwood movies, he cans Chris an leaves Scotty to go it alone. That don't last long though, cause the next mornin' Grumpy Bear shows up out at Cletus an Brandine's dirt farm an starts Care Bear Tearin' one of their dirty-faced kids to pieces til his mama intervenes an gets crushed to death in the clutches of Terrible Ted's trademark bear hug. Now Charley hasta make the walk of shame out to the dirt farm where Chris is payin' his respects an promise to close the park, boot the press, an open 'imself up to any fat jokes Chris'd like to make at his expense if he'll just come back to work an rescue the park's picnic basket population from imminent demise. So the next mornin' Chris an Andrew fly out in the chopper again an eventually spot the bear standin' in the middle of a meadow screamin' at 'em to come down an fight 'im mammal a mammal. Instead, they park the chopper about a half mile away an hang a dead deer up for bait an dare 'im to come dish up some venison, an when he does Chris buries a bullet in 'im an the bear ends up leadin' 'em on a wild goose chase so it can circle back an steal their meals on treels. Then, the next mornin', Scotty finds the remains of Chris's deer an decides he's gonna drag it behind his horse to see if it'll attract the bear, which proves a little too effective when it shows up an slices the head clean offa the horse like an 18th Century politician. This seems like a pretty good place to cut off, so if you hadn't seen this one an wanna find out whether Scotty gets beamed up to Heaven, or whether the horse's head finds its way into Jack Woltz' bed, you'll just have to pick up a copy.
"Jaws with claws" is the description most commonly attributed to Grizzly, but unlike nearly all its cousins in the "nature run amok" subgenre that are often dubbed "Jaws ripoffs" on the basis that all animal attack movies are stolen concepts, Grizzly really kinda deserves this description, because unlike those flicks, Grizzly shares an uncannily familiar plotline. It's not just the critter on the loose eatin' hapless tourists. Here, you've got the head honcho played by Joe Dorsey standin' in for Murray Hamilton, and making the exact same greed-driven mistakes Hamilton makes, namely, refusing to close down the park because it's the height of the tourist season, and generally refusing to get Christopher George (standing in for Roy Scheider) the help he needs to take care of the problem. Additionally, both Dorsey and Hamilton cave to the pressure only once a child has been attacked, both George and Scheiders' experts end up gettin' killed or otherwise neutralized, forcing them to take on the beasts alone, and both characters end up with a sea/forest full of amateur hunters out trying to kill the critters, thus contributing the the receding hairlines of each man. So this is one of the rare instances where, if you're inclined to use the term "ripoff," I'm not gonna argue with you. Grizzly was also one of the biggest hits of the low budget distributor, Film Ventures International, and was in fact *the* highest grossing independent film of 1976, holding the record until 1978 when that record was destroyed by Halloween. In spite of this, Edward Montoro, the owner of IFV, decided to increase his profits by refusing to pay both the director and the writers, who ultimately had to sue to get their due. What I wanna know is why William Girdler turned around and directed Day of the Animals for Montoro the following year after not having been properly compensated for Grizzly, cause that's pretty strange. In the past, many people had believed Day of the Animals to be a sequel to Grizzly, due to the similar plots and the re-teaming of director William Girdler and stars Christopher George and Richard Jaeckel, but the two flicks aren't actually part of a shared series. However, there was a sequel in production in 1983 titled: Grizzly II: The Concert, in which a second grizzly attacks a rock concert in another national park. This was at the tail end of Film Ventures International when the company was starting to peter out (not too long before Montoro fled the country with what remained of the company's assets), and that movie was actually finished with the exception of the bear footage, which was to be shot last. A workprint has evidently shown up in recent years, and although I haven't personally bothered to watch it, I'm sure you can locate it fairly easily online if you're interested.
Course, as you well know, low budget clones of big budget movies sometimes turn out to be unwatchable crapola, so just to rule that out, let's pile up all the severed limbs and have a look-see at the body of evidence. The plot, as I mentioned above, is "Jaws with claws," which means it's not gonna get many points for originality, but at the same time, is also on pretty solid footing. There are a few inconsistencies to mention, like the use of both a Grizzly and Black Bear to depict the same animal, for instance. Even beyond the size difference, the two species are different colors, so that's something that even people who've never set foot in the woods are gonna notice. You've also got the question of why the hell anybody in charge of a national park in serious crisis mode would want to invite news crews to report on the situation, knowing that if things continue to go wrong you're undoubtedly gonna end up in the unemployment line when their coverage hits the airwaves. This is to say nothing of Joan McCall's character who gets the standard "it's too dangerous" speech when she tries to accompany Christopher George on the bear hunt, and is subsequently never heard from again. So the flick definitely has some problems in the plot department, but nothing that completely cripples it. The acting is probably the film's second strongest asset, behind its fine shooting locations. I've often thought just how screwed low budget movies would be in the acting department if not for character actors, and Grizzly is another flick that's largely saved by the performances of a coupla guys who're honestly just as talented as many of the big name stars of their era, but who weren't what you'd call pretty boys. Christopher George and Andrew Prine are two such guys, and they give the best performances of the flick hands down. Prine might well outshine George, even if just for the scene around the campfire where he's telling Richard Jaeckel about the herd of Grizzlies eating the Indian party, cause he absolutely nails it. Guy's got kind of a Brad Dourif vibe about him when he gets deathly serious, I like it. Jaeckel is also entertaining as the niave, but well-intentioned naturalist helping George and Prine track the grizzly, and Joe Dorsey, while not as good as Murray Hamilton in Jaws, is also pretty decent as the antagonistic head of operations. So it's really a pretty solid cast of character actors, who all give decent to excellent performances.
Here's who matters and why: Christopher George (Pieces, Graduation Day, City of the Living Dead, Mortuary, Day of the Animals, Whiskey Mountain), Andrew Prine (The Lords of Salem, Sutures, Glass Trap, Witchhouse II, Serial Killer, Eliminators, Amityville II, The Evil, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Nightmare Circus, Wonder Woman 1974, Hanna Queen of the Vampires, Simon King of the Witches, Night Slaves), Richard Jaeckel (Starman, Blood Song, The Dark, Mako: The Jaws of Death, Day of the Animals, The Green Slime), Joan McCall (Devil Times Five), Joe Dorsey (The Philadelphia Experiment, Brainstorm, Pet Sematary II, WarGames, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones, The Visitor, The Manitou), Charles Kissinger (The Manitou, Abby, Three on a Meathook, Asylum of Satan), Tom Arcuragi (UFO: Target Earth), Victoria Johnson (Starship Invasions), Mike Clifford (Village of the Giants, Lord of the Rings 1978, Satan's Touch, Day of the Animals), Sandra Dorsey (Sleepaway Camp III, Frankenstein 2004), Gene Witham (The Cursed, From a Whisper to a Scream). Christopher George would pass away only seven years later after completing Pieces and Mortuary, but George is likely to be best known as Sgt. Sam Troy on Rat Patrol, while Andrew Prine had previously played James Keller in The Miracle Worker, and would later go on to play Brig. Gen. Richard Garnett in Gettysburg.
The special effects leave something to be desired, although, to their credit, they only stuffed the stuntman into the bear suit when it was absolutely necessary, and the editor *usually* cuts before the scenes get too ridiculous. There is one brief shot of the bear attacking the helicopter where you've got the guy in the suit, and that particular shot is so hilarious that even though the scene is literally less than a second long, its badness is very apparent. Most of the other scenes involving a man in a suit are less obvious, but they are there, and it is noticeable. The gore effects are a bit better, and would actually be pretty gruesome if not for that extremely vibrant 1970s blood they use. The severed limbs (including what I'm pretty sure was a real horse's head) and lacerations are fairly well done, but the blood coloration really holds them back. The shooting locations are without question the highlight of the flick, with principle photography being shot around the small town of Clayton, Georgia, population approximately 1600 at the time of filming. Clayton was also the location used for Old Yeller and Deliverance, and although you never really get to see the city itself (as the flick takes place in a fictional national park), the surrounding forests, meadows, and waterfalls are gorgeous. You've really gotta see the movie to gain a proper appreciation for its wilderness locations, which are presented spectacularly by the film's top notch cinematography. The soundtrack, while not all that special, is solid, and very typical of '70s flicks shot in the wilderness. To me, it's a little too upbeat at times, although one could make an argument against that notion on the basis that the movie made it past the MPAA with a PG rating. That was, of course, due to the era in which it was produced, which predated the PG-13 rating, but I still think it should have been a little darker in tone. The composer, Robert Ragland, went on to compose soundtracks for many other low budget Horror titles, including: Mansion of the Doomed, Q: The Winged Serpent, Evils of the Night, The Supernaturals, Deep Space, and Alien from the Deep (as well as The Touch of Satan, and Abby, which he'd done prior to Grizzly), but he never really produced any truly iconic scores. At the end of the day, Grizzly's soundtrack is essentially "so okay it's average." Overall, I think Day of the Animals is the better flick, but Grizzly is still a decent entry in the nature run amok cycle, and one I'd recommend both to fans of said subgenre, and '70s Horror in general.