• Grizzly

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: August 5, 2014
    Director: William Girdler
    Cast: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall, Joe Dorsey
    Year: 1976
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    The Movie:

    When two hot young babes fail to return from a camping trip in a large national park, a ranger organizes a search party to find them. What he finds instead are their partially devoured bodies. An autopsy reveals that they were attacked by a bear, but the only large predators in the area are brown bears, which rarely attack humans and never eat them. The park’s supervisor blames the ranger for the disaster but fails to close the park, despite warnings from a naturalist that a grizzly is on the loose. And not just any grizzly, no sir; it’s a prehistoric one from the Pleistocene Epoch, one that enjoys the taste of human flesh. Hikers and campers are evacuated from the mountain where the bear attacks occurred, but the grizzly follows. Supervisor and ranger continue to argue over closing the park, until a little boy and his mother are attacked outside their home on the edge of the wilderness. The mother is killed, the boy loses his leg, and the resultant outcry over the incident finally convinces the supervisor to do what’s right and shut the place down while the ranger, the naturalist, and a helicopter pilot search for the marauding anachronism.

    Grizzly was shot by Kentucky native William Girdler, who had begun his directorial career in the Louisville area four years earlier with Asylum of Satan. He followed that film up with Three on a Meathook, loosely based on the true story of Ed Gein, three Blaxploitation pictures, including the infamous Abby, and a low-rent political thriller. Grizzly was Girdler’s best-funded movie—with much of the money raised through his own efforts—as well as his most commercially successful; it raked in nearly $40 million at the international box office, making it the biggest independent film of 1976. Its success convinced Girdler to return to the genre the following year with Day of the Animals. His last film, The Manitou, was released in 1978, the same year he died in a helicopter crash at the age of 30 while researching locations for his next film.

    Grizzly is wildly uneven. One of many nature-run-amok knockoffs that bobbed in the wake of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), it bears more than a passing resemblance to that film in its structure, plot, and character development. The direction is competent if not inspired, a hallmark of Girdler’s career, while the acting is all over the map. The principals—Christopher George, Andrew Prine, and Richard Jaeckel—hand in solid performances. Where the film falters is in its casting of locals (it was shot in Georgia) in most of the smaller parts, of which there are plenty. They talk or scream their way through the picture with all the finesse of a middle school drama class.

    To be fair, they aren’t helped by a script that requires them to act stupidly, all the better to place them in harm’s way. For example, while on the hunt for victims of the bear, one female ranger announces that she’s tired and needs a break, sends her male partner on his way, and promptly strips down for a refreshing dip in a waterfall. (You should be able to guess what happens next. If you can’t, you may want to sign up for Horror Films 101.) Yet, despite its many illogicalities—or, more accurately, because of them—it has enough moments of unintentional humor to hold most viewer’s interests. There’s also a surprising amount of blood and gore for a mainstream picture of the period. How it lumbered into theaters with a PG rating is anyone’s guess.


    Grizzly looks good on DVD, thanks to a new HD transfer in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, which has been dumbed down to 480p. It certainly beats out the transfers on the two previous DVD releases (the first of which, a barebones, full-frame presentation, was particularly bad). There is a great deal of detail, though grain levels in darker scenes are a bit heavy at times. The image is generally solid, its only notable flaw being that it flickers on occasion.

    The audio defaults to English mono, the preferable way to watch the film. There’s also a newly mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with these remixes, the sound levels jump like a Pixies performance, from extremely quiet to extremely loud and back again, making it a good idea to keep the remote in hand to adjust the sound as needed. The disc also lacks English subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired.

    There is a slew of extras. First up are Fun Facts and Trivia with Katarina Leigh Walters, host of Katarina’s Nightmare Theatre. It lasts a whopping eight minutes and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, though fans of Ms. Walters should enjoy it. There’s also a question and answer session, shot at the New Beverly Cinema, with producer David Sheldon and actor Andrew Prine, which provides some insight into the film’s production history. Both Sheldon and Prine come across as gregarious and warmhearted, though Sheldon tends to dominate. The Q&A lasts a mere 12 minutes and moves quickly. “Jaws with Claws: A Look Back at Grizzly” is a 36-minute documentary on the making of the film that includes interviews with Sheldon and Prine, actress Joan McCall, and writer Harry Flaxman. It’s informative, though the sound recording is lower on Sheldon than it is on everyone else. The disc also contains two trailers for Grizzly, both presented in anamorphic widescreen. Finally, there’s a cache of trailers for other nature-run-amok films held by Scorpion: Killer Fish, Dogs, and Day of the Animals, in addition to Screamers (under the title Something Waits in the Dark), The Octagon, Sorceress, The House on Sorority Row, and The Power. Unfortunately, the audio commentary and the original promotional featurette included in the Shriek Show release have not been ported over.

    The Final Word:

    Grizzly is an uneven film, with performances ranging from rock solid to piss poor. Most of the time, director Girdler keeps it moving with moments of gore, semi-nudity of the babe-in-wet-underwear variety, and man-against-nature conflict, though the film drags when the action shifts to man-against-man. The dual-layered disc is a revelation. The image itself has never looked better, even if grain structures are a bit too predominant and the image flickers at times. The mono track is good, and the extras are all worth watching (though the inclusion of the commentary and original promotional featurette would have been welcome). All in all, Scorpion’s release is a borderline-terrific presentation of one of the 1970s lesser horror films.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      I watched this with my son since it had a PG rating. So I was a little surprised by the severed arm flying across the screen and some of the other gore effects. It was a bit much but he'll survive. Most importantly, we enjoyed the film. Not as good as DAY OF THE ANIMALS but well worth checking out.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      I prefer DAY OF THE ANIMALS as well, Jason, though this one is a lot of fun too. And I agree: it's an intense PG. It's considerably gorier than JAWS. I tried to find out whether some shots had been added for the home video release, but this doesn't appear to be the case.