GRIZZLY (1976) Review

aka CLAWS aka KILLER GRIZZLY
Directed by William Girdler
Written by Harvey Flaxman, David Sheldon, & Andrew Prine
Starring Christopher George, Richard Jaeckel, & Andrew Prine

“If ya feel a wet snout in ya face, whatever you do, don’t move. And don’t kiss it back ’cause it ain’t me.”

Guess the movie…a predator makes its way to a well populated area. A lawman tries to shut down said populated area, but the leaders of the community don’t want to lose money, giving the predator the perfect opportunity to sink its teeth into unsuspecting human prey. A trio of men set out to take on the beast in an ultimate battle of man vs. nature.

If you guessed JAWS, you’re wrong, Boo Boo. It’s GRIZZLY. But the folks who made this one certainly have seen Spielberg’s classic a few times because this is basically JAWS WITH CLAWS AND FUR. Directed by William Girdler who also directed DAY OF THE ANIMALS, SHEBA BABY, and THREE ON A MEATHOOK, GRIZZLY is a rip-off, but a pretty fun rip-off mainly due to some charismatic acting from Christopher George (from one of my personal faves PIECES, DAY OF THE ANIMALS, ENTER THE NINJA, and MORTUARY) playing the Roy Scheider role and Richard Jaeckel (from THE DIRTY DOZEN, AIRPLANE II, and DAY OF THE ANIMALS) doing his best Richard Dreyfus. The majority of the budget seems to have gone toward the National Philharmonic Orchestra of London, who slum it here to provide a pretty fantastic score to a less than fantastic movie. Treading in the wake of JAWS, the film was a pretty successful rip-off and it was even adapted into a prose novel at the time.

The film starts off with the mauling of a pair of scantily clad woman (one who looks a lot like Penelope Cruz) in a sequence that is actually pretty gory for the time with a lopped off arm and a few slashes from what looks to be a man’s arm covered in fur with a bear claw on the end. Instead of the usual “Duh-nah! Duh-nah!” cellos from JAWS, each attack is prefaced with the bear’s POV accompanied by some bear breathing. The breathing gets a bit incessant at times, leading one to think we not only have a man-eating bear on our hands, but an asthmatic one as well. Our heavy breather seems to have a preference for young ladies, especially hot ones who go off on their own to go swimming in mountain streams or sleeping in their tents.

The story pretty much follows the same plot of JAWS beat for beat, even down to a trio of nature men going out into the wild for some male bonding. There’s even a Quint-like story told by a campfire, though not as harrowing as Robert Shaw’s monologue about the sinking of the Indianapolis, delivered by Andrew Prine (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, AMITYVILLE II). As with JAWS, there’s also a park commissioner who seems to want to populate the scene with beer-swilling weekend hunters, nosy reporters and moronic tourists despite our trio of heroes’ attempts to close the area and hunt the beast themselves.

The main problem with the film is that once the bear is seen, he’s really not that scary looking. So whenever the camera pulls back to see the real bear, it just sort of looks like it’s doing tricks taught to him by a trainer…mainly because that’s exactly what’s going on. To top it off, the bear awkwardly walks on its hind legs most of the time, which looks more goofy than scary. Director Girder does a much better job with the tighter shots earlier in the film, amping the intensity level with quick cuts and special effects. And the director deserves props for going the real bear route; otherwise it may have looked like this…






A little research shows that comic book artist Neal Adams did the sweet art for the poster with a bear looming over a distressed damsel. Digging a bit deeper I found that a sequel to the film was supposedly shot in Hungary called GRIZZLY 2: THE PREDATOR starring George Clooney, Charlie Sheen, Louise Fletcher, John Rhys-Davies, and Laura Dern. Apparently, additional scenes were filmed in which the bear attacks a concert and it was to be renamed PREDATOR: THE CONCERT, but it was never released. If anyone has any info on this, I’d love to hear about more about this unreleased gem.

GRIZZLY is far inferior to JAWS, but there are some nice scenes of gore (there are lopped off appendages galore—a horse head, arms, and a legless kid) and a few scenes that are cut effectively to make for some chilling moments such as the tent scene. The ending is a bit ludicrous with the bear burying one man for some reason then just killing him and the way the bear is taken out in the final minutes caused me to laugh out loud more than shiver. While I’m averse to doing anything as trite as having a categorical ratings system for this column, this movie is one of those films you can sit and watch with your friends whilst drinking beer or booze or other drug of choice and going all MST3K on it.

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