Grizzly – Blu-ray review
Director: William Girdler
Stars: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
After Steven Spielberg’s Jaws came out, everything changed. Not only did it give birth to the Hollywood blockbuster, but it convinced everyone that ‘when animals attack’ flicks were the next hot thing. And for the most part, they were right. One of the first of the Jawsploitation films to come out had nothing to do with sharks or even the water, but it was nonetheless a beat for beat remake of the frightening fish flick. This time things were focused on something a bit more fuzzy and landlocked, a giant grizzly bear. So how is the Jaws on land movie, and is the new Blu-ray from Severin Films worth a get? Well, keep a tight hold on those picnic baskets, don’t wander off into the woods alone, and bring along a bazooka if you got one, and let’s find out.
Okay, stop me if you heard this before. There is a freakishly large animal that comes out of nowhere and starts eating people. One man realizes what’s going on so he tries to stop things early, but his boss won’t shut the beaches…no, sorry, the national park down, for reasons. The critter spends the bulk of the movie offing people, barely (bearly?) being seen while it does. Our main hero, the head (police chief) park ranger teams up with two other people to save the day. One is an expert on this kind of animal and the other is…well, he’s just a Vietnam vet and a chopper pilot as far as I know. In comes a bunch of local yokels that try to hunt the beast, only getting in the way and getting killed. The angry animal even kills a little kid, maybe, it’s unclear, but the critter does hug the boy so hard that one of his arms and legs pops right off! One of the three heroes dies to it, the others pile into a boat…er, sorry, a helicopter, to hunt the beast down, and at the end the only way to stop it is by blowing it up. Thank god they brought along a WWII-style bazooka along with them!
Okay, the stories are VERY similar, but it is the little things that make this movie stand out. One is the direction by William Girdler, who was no stranger to rip offs, having directed the infamous, blaxploitation The Exorcist clone, Abby, just two years earlier and would direct another animal attack flick in the very same year, Day of the Animals. But what his films may lack in originality, they more than made up for it in style. The three main leads, Christopher George, Andrew Prine, and Richard Jaeckel, all do a good job here despite having to know they were obviously aping Jaws. And the action and kills are solid and surprisingly bloody and violent at times for a PG rated film. But then, this was 70s PG, when PG still had some guts.
Let’s get to the extras that Severin has put out on this new Blu-ray. There are two audio commentary tracks on here. One is with producer David Sheldon and actress Joan McCall, and the other is with Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thopson and film writer Troy Howarth. There is a featurette by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower on the career of director William Girdler that I really liked. There is an interview with Girdler business partner and friend, J. Patrick Kelly III, an interview with actor Tom Arcuragi, and an interview with producer Sheldon and actress McCall. There is a vintage making-of feature and “Jaws with Claws,” a vintage featurette that does not hide its influences at all. Radio spots and trailers bring this impressive list of special features to an end.
Grizzly is very much a Jaws ripoff, there are no bones about it, but it is well done, the actors are trying like hell, the bear is awesome, and it’s a whole lot of fun. So get this one and do a double feature with the Steven Spielberg film and have a great time. This movie comes highly recommended from me, and it is a must have for any fan of animal attack flicks.