Park Ranger Michael Kelly is having a bad time. His park is getting ravaged by a giant 18-foot grizzly bear that seems to be circling through the range and attacking humans in the process. Arthur Scott, esteemed wilderness expert, says that the bear is just trying to get home, but it’s doing a bad job of it and killing a bunch of park visitors in the process. But park manager Charley Kittridge doesn’t want to shut down the park and risk losing money, so Kelly has to hunt the bear down quickly without causing any damage. That doesn’t go so well. This is basically Jaws, but on land with a bear.
Director: William Girdler
Actors: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall, Joe Dorsey
Genre: When Nature Attacks/Horror
Release date: 1976 (original) / 2018 (Blu-ray)
Note: screenshots not from the Blu-ray.
Grizzly Film Review
It’s hard not to find similarities between Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Grizzly. Screenwriters Harvey Flaxman and David Sheldon practically take every scenario from Jaws and base it on land with a killer bear, from the characters to the overall heft of the story. And unlike a lot of other animal exploitation films of the time copying Jaws‘ formula, Grizzly actually shows that copying a script isn’t such a bad idea as long as the execution is well-done. It helps to have genre actors like Christopher George and Richard Jaeckel too, but this grizzly-gone-wild film manages to conjure up a bear of an experience despite its familiarity.
The film follows George’s leading character Kelly, a park ranger who’s trying to do the right thing after a series of grizzly bear attacks turns his park into a slaughterhouse. In true Jaws politicking fashion, the park owner Kittridge (Joe Dorsey) doesn’t want to close the place down because the bear is actually driving sales up due to media spectacle, and that means that Kelly’s work gets even harder when civilians are mauled all over the place. Even wilderness and bear expert Scott (Richard Jaeckel) can’t do much besides bow down to the power of the great grizzly bear, a nearly unstoppable killing machine that probably just wants to settle in and find its home except all of these humans keep getting in the way.
Grizzly follows the same patterns as Jaws, perhaps its only big flaw being that it does not recreate the opening kill attack that made Jaws immediately eye-popping. However, replacing water for land makes for a different experience than, say, Orca or Mako: The Jaws of Death; this is all new setting, and much of the differences in the two films come from the attacks themselves, which are often more visceral and explicit than anything Jaws puts on screen. There’s a pretty brutal kid attack that surprisingly shows quite a bit of gore, an exploitative element that director William Girdler adds to this film that Spielberg would never do with a more mainstream blockbuster.
Also important to note is that Grizzly never truly finds sympathy with the bear; it’s consistently treated as a killing machine that unfortunately gets caught up in human affairs. There’s not a lot of empathy to the creature besides Scott’s attempts to make nice with it that backfire, and this is another tale of nature running amok that doesn’t have the touchy-feely component that Orca brings up. Girdler does recognize the impact that humanity has on nature in parks like this, and Kelly does feel remorse for eventually having to bring down the bear, but ultimately the gritty nature of Grizzly supersedes any empathy for the animal.
Girdler’s direction is fast-paced and he effectively splices killing scenes in between Kelly’s increasingly desperate attempts to do something about the deaths. The biggest mistake is a love story element between Kelly and Allison Corwin (Joan McCall) that falls flat; Allison is basically pushed aside throughout much of the film, and it seems like a waste of time following this unnecessary subplot. Other than that, though, the special effects are quite good and Grizzly does make use of an actual grizzly bear in the wild, although most of the animal attacks are smartly shot from the bear’s perspective showing only the arms or a quick shot of its bite.
Fans of nature-attack cinema will find a lot to love about Grizzly, and it’s probably the best Jaws knockoff that I’ve seen. Girdler would go on to direct the equally impressive Day of the Animals and The Manitou, but for those looking to see where he really found the perfect mix of exploitation mixed with mainstream appeal, Grizzly should maul the viewer with a particularly brutal panache – all scored by the National Philharmonic Orchestra of London, no less!
Quite a bit of bear-related violence here with some bright red blood, including some vicious maulings, a guy falling out of a lookout tower, and a little boy’s appendages being ripped off. It’s surprisingly vicious at times and that’s what makes it a great exploitation film.
Nothing really except for some underwear.
- High Definition Blu-ray Presentation of the Film
- LPCM Mono Soundtrack
- Optional English Subtitles
- What a Guy! – David Del Valle Recalls Actor Christopher George’s Life and Career.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Limited Edition Booklet Notes by Dr. Colin Waddell
- Reversible Sleeve with alternative cover image
- Region Code: B
- Picture Format: HD 1080p 2.35:1
- Audio Format: LPCM 2.0
- Language: English
- Subtitles: English
- Certification: 15
- Running Time: 91 Mins Approx
Grizzly Blu-ray Review
88 Films has released Grizzly on Blu-ray with a new HD transfer with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality looks pretty good, with a medium-to-high grain presence depending on the scene. The clarity can vary and sometimes scenes appear quite soft, but color depth is very good. This film may never look excellent due to its age and film preservation, and it’s important to note that this 88 Films presentation does feature some rougher shots at times. But overall I think fans will be happy with the PQ here.
88 Films includes a linear PCM 2.0 audio track that sounds quite good, with no hiss or warble. The dialogue is clear and the Philharmonic Orchestra comes through well especially in the swells of the opening scenes. An English subtitle is included that sports the occasional error and incorrect wording.
Special features on this Grizzly Blu-ray are limited, but the disc does have an interesting interview with David Del Valle who reminisces about Christopher George, not just in Grizzly but as a person in life. He has some interesting anecdotes about the man and also discusses some of the other great when animals attack films that came out of that era, like Frogs and Day of the Animals (in which George also starred).
The package also comes with reversible cover artwork and a slipcover, as well as a pull-out essay from Calum Waddell about the history of the nature attack film era. It’s an interesting read and tackles many of the same movies expressed above, as well as Grizzly‘s context.
This is a solid Blu-ray and though lacking some of the features of the Scorpion Releasing Blu, the quality is at least par or even better than what I’ve seen of that release, making this worth a pickup for fans of nature horror.