Grizzly (1976)

Grizzly (1976)

18 FEET OF TOWERING FURY!!

When an eighteen foot, two thousand pound grizzly bear begins to maul and eat campers and hikers at a state park, it is up to Head Ranger Michael Kelly to capture or kill it. However his efforts are constantly hampered by the Park Supervisor, who insists on keeping the park open.

 

Or Jaws on land. Grizzly was one of the first post-Jaws animal-on-the-loose flicks and it’s basically a shameless rip-off with a different beast, however a surprisingly decent rip-off at that. I don’t know whether the film was already in pre-production when Jaws was released or whether it was dreamt up in a few months after Spielberg’s classic but there’s not a lot of difference between the two films at all. Characters are pretty much the same: Head Ranger/Chief of Police, Naturalist/Scientist, Park Supervisor/Town Mayor. The film follows the same sequence of events with a few kills leading up to pivotal moment where the trio of main characters head off into the woods to hunt the monster. The film even uses Jaws in its many tag lines – “Not since Jaws has the terror been like this!” and so forth. Talk about cashing in!

Like I said, Grizzly is surprisingly decent. It’s not on for as long as Jaws but it certainly makes up for it with a constantly quick pace. There’s never too long to wait between kills and the bear does get well fed. It is the main focus of the film here too, as the characters aren’t given as much development as I’d have liked. The threat of the bear is always lurking so even when it’s not on screen, you know you’re moments away from another mauling.

Speaking of which, the film is pretty bloody! The bear does get quite dirty with its kills and, in the best moment of the film, isn’t fussed about lopping a horse’s head off with one swing of its huge paws. Like the shark in Jaws, the bear here isn’t picky about its next meal and again, I like it. Too often do these films feed the monsters pointless or clich├ęd characters like the dumb blondes, the slimy businessmen, the jocks, etc and leave the decent folk unscathed. Not here I’m afraid! The bear mauls several minor characters as well as a family with a small boy and his mother. When it comes down to the main characters in the final third, all bets are off because not all of them are going to make it out alive. I like a bit of unpredictability in this type of film and Grizzly certainly delivers in the kill section.

Christopher George is no Roy Schieder but he does pretty well in the lead role. You can see the gradual strain of the mounting kills telling on his character throughout the film, eventually leading to an outburst of insubordination to his boss. Richard Jaeckel combines the Robert Shaw/Richard Dreyfuss roles into one here with his naturalist knowing the every move of the bear but his character being an eccentric who wants to do things his way. The performances from both men are pretty good – look at the terror in Jaeckel’s face when he’s finally confronted with the bear and realises that his plan was doomed to fail from the start.

Ah yes, the bear. No models or stuffed animals here. The bear is just a normal grizzly bear which doesn’t look anywhere near as big as it’s supposed to but even then, I wouldn’t want to greet that in the dark woods. There are plenty of POV shots of the bear stalking its victims which do give it the impression of its enormity. Not only content with killing people, the bear smashes up log cabins and pulls down spotter towers.

 

Although it lacks the heart and character of Jaws, Grizzly is one of the better rip-offs out there and certainly holds it’s own in the action stakes. For a mindless, painless and entertaining ninety-one minutes of bear-hugging, cabin-smashing, deer-dragging action, Grizzly delivers.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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