Grizzly (1976)
Grizzly (1976)

Genre: Adventure and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: May 21st, 1976 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: William Girdler Actors: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall, Joe Dorsey, Charles Kissinger, Kermit Echols, Vicki Johnson

 


 

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t the national park near the Indian Springs Trading Post, ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George) briefs his crew about the post-season influx of backpackers and campers. They simply don’t have enough employees to to cover all those people. Yet the workload doesn’t stop Gail (Vicki Johnson) from flirting with Kelly, or Kelly from flirting with a restaurant owner’s daughter, photographer Allison Corwin (Joan McCall).

Their calm attitudes are about to be put to the test, however, when a ravenous grizzly bear attacks two young women (Catherine Rickman and Mary Ann Hearn) picnicking up at a heavily forested spot. This initial assault is impressively designed, marrying the bear-cam perspective and heavy breathing with swipes of an oversized, clawed paw, as well as with a decent amount of bloodshed. Following in the footsteps of “Jaws,” and still within the PG boundary – despite  boasting some brief glimpses of over-the-top violence – “Grizzly” actually revels in the bloodletting. Even the corpses are generously doused in crimson paint. And moments later, Allison stumbles elbow-deep into a sizable pool (a shallow grave) of the sticky red stuff.

“That’s all we need; a killer bear on the loose.” Although the animal has been switched from a seafaring man-eater to a land-based monstrosity, “Grizzly” doesn’t craft much of an identity beyond “Jaws” in the woods. Pretty girls still make the best victims; the culprit remains mostly hidden until the end; and the ranger in charge must contend with political red tape (personified by Joe Dorsey as Kittridge), restrictive rules and regulations, and a public that is unconcerned with any warnings that might interfere with revelry. The dialogue is routine to match, peppered with expected bouts of anger, grief, relationship drama, and bickering over how best to apprehend the antagonist. Plus, after enough bodies turn up, a rugged, eccentric, professional tracker, Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel), is called in to help.

The biggest difference is, unfortunately, the unintentional humor. The 15-foot, 2,000-pound behemoth (“A bear is a bear”) maintains a frightening presence, but a few of the ambushes are just outright silly – namely, when a shapely ranger strips to her underwear for a swim in a waterfall, in which the gargantuan carnivore manages to conceal itself; and when it topples a lookout tower as if it was capable of formulating an intelligent plan of attack. At least the film has the gall to include a small child in the bear’s rampage, which is not only unexpected, but also one of the most gruesome sequences on display.

Although the scenes are brief, “Grizzly” utilizes real bears and bear footage in conjunction with the man-in-a-fur-suit shots. This gives it a slight sense of realism to counter the limited special effects and editing techniques (gory makeup is far more effective). Strangely, the music (by Robert O. Ragland) never matches the adventure or horror, instead staying peppy and playful, as if a rip-roaring, classic Western, rather than a nature-run-amok thriller. And, by the end, it’s evident that Kelly and his helicopter pilot sidekick Don (Andrew Prine) never had a plan to stop the beast, instead continually resorting to a simple pursuit and cornering tactic that results in more and more deaths and less and less entertainment.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10