Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Grizzly (1976)

Reviewed By: Billy

Considering that William Girdler directed Abby – the blaxploitation version of The Exorcist that gave us a possessed Carol Speed telling victims “You know what, baby? You would just be out of sight if you had a couple more inches!” – and Christopher George starred in Pieces, the greatest slasher movie ever made, it’s gonna be hard for Grizzly to go wrong. The director and star team up for this mid-70s Jaws re-hash, which drains all the tension and innovation from the Spielberg movie and comes out with what could easily pass for an insanely hokey National Park Service instruction video.

Speaking of hokey, the opening music here is just totally inappropriate. I know Girdler was chasing Jaws all the way, hoping to duplicate that movie’s respected film score, but this one kind of sounds like the soundtrack rejected from Mary Poppins for being too upbeat. And in the most embarrassing import from across the pond this side of Posh Spice, I give you this credit:

Anyway, as you can tell by the title, instead of a shark we’re dealing with a bear this time. And no, sexy beast Christopher George (an honest to God "Playgirl" centerfold…Google it) doesn’t play Grizzly, although I believe it’s the perfect nickname for him. George plays the head park ranger Michael Kelly, a cool dude in charge of a forest reserve where, unfortunately for him, a bear has begun attacking backpackers. Once the fur begins to fly, Kelly orders all campers to vacate the park, and in classic William Girdler subtlety, we get some awesome shots of panicked backpackers literally racing to get out of the park, as though they’ve just been told the entire place will be hit by an atomic bomb in 30 seconds:

Twelve minutes in, we get our first attack, and it’s WONDERFUL. The bear POV shots are classic, if only because we appear to be looking through the eyes of a drunk, 80-year-old asthmatic. Seriously, our Grizzly seems to be very unsteady on his feet, and judging from the sounds of his breathing, he’s way out of shape for a killer bear. Rather than try to describe the special effects extravaganza that is a William Girdler bear attack, let me just give you these snapshots of brilliance:

The next attack is equally impressive, given the fact that a female park ranger – in the middle of searching for a savage Grizzly bear! – strips down and decides to skinny dip in a stream for awhile. The only thing I can assume is that this lady has a sincere death wish, although dressing yourself up in a deer carcass and begging the bear to kill you probably would’ve been an easier way to go. Anyway, her death is quick, but it’s hard on poor Christopher George, who ends up drinking in a lodge bar questioning the meaning of life while flirting with a girl who appears to be age-appropriate to play his granddaughter.

The hunt for the Grizzly is long and intense, as I’m sure any hunt for a 15-foot tall, 2,000-pound creature would be. Strangely, though it’s acknowledged that the bear only seems to go after beautiful young women, nobody comes up with the idea of using some hot female park ranger as bait and waiting the thing out. Instead, Christopher & co. seem to drive their jeeps around in circles for a good 45-minutes, which in turn led me to my fast-forward button for added viewing pleasure.

Finally, after a few lame chase scene, Grizzly returns in a big way, knocking down an entire forest service watchtower and killing one of Christopher’s favorite rangers in the process. Well, hell hath no fury like Christopher George when he’s making his pissed face:

…which means the Grizzly’s in deep sh*t now. Especially when, in the next scene, the Grizzly actually eats off a child’s leg:

Okay, it’s official…this movie is WAY better than Jaws and is probably the greatest animal attack movie ever.

Anyway, you know what’s coming: a one-on-one battle of the bears, starring Grizzly and Christopher George. Things come to a satisfying conclusion when Chris literally fires a cannonball at the bear and blows it up. I’m not kidding. The bear explodes in a giant fireball. The end.

So, obviously this is a great movie. Next to Abby, this one’s use of locations and real animals makes it look like Gone With The Wind, rating it a major triumph for Girdler. And, again, it’s hard to imagine a movie today brave enough to kill off a little kid – not to mention the fact that any giant-animal-killer movie made today would also feature a CGI-Grizzly disaster, rather than a creatively edited zoo animal, as is the case here. Therefore, Grizzly easily rates…



  1. Great review! I haven't seen this movie, but I may definitely have to check it out now. And, believe it or not, I actually have the paperback novelization of this flick sitting on my bookshelf!


  2. Okay, I thought my Girdler love had reached its peak with my recent viewing of his swan-song THE MANITOU, but this...this looks fantastic. I really need to get my big hairy claws on a copy of this flick!

  3. Wonderful review, Billy! I loved everything about this one. I was actually laughing loudly while trying to read it all.

    Jonny Metro- great line in "...may definitely have to". I may use that the next time I am pretending to care about something. LOL


  4. My Girdler love runs deep, man. I love this movie and the rest of his varied oeuvre - Three on a Meathook; Sheba, Baby; Day of the Animals. Too bad he died so prematurely. I think he really would have a prolific director.

  5. This sounds absolutely amazing. Checking out, ASAP. Epically awesome review Billy.

  6. I like Christopher George, but I far prefer DAY OF THE ANIMALS to this one. Still, cool to see you guys give GRIZZLY some bear-hugs. :)

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  8. Thanks for the comments, guys. I'm on a real William Girdler trip right now. Coming in a few days I'll review "Day of the Animals" -- which is equally insane!