Monday, March 6, 2017
A Quick Look: GRIZZLY (1976 - color)
Although this paste-together still might not be the most convincing image, the fact remains that GRIZZLY is a great drive-in movie. Though basically, and rather bluntly, JAWS set in a National park, the film manages to be far better than one might expect. A huge killer bear begins slaughtering the patrons of a tourist park, prompting action from ranger Christopher George. Though he has the support of naturalist Richard Jaeckel and helicopter pilot Andrew Prine, Joe Dorsey's Murray Hamilton-like commissioner stymies any serious attempt to kill the bear until it's too late. Director Bill Girdler had been toiling on cheapo knock-offs of bigger movies, and GRIZZLY was his first real shot at the majors -though it, too, was a knock-off of a hit film. Oddly, it may be GRIZZLY's similarities to JAWS that make it stronger than most blatant rip-offs of Speilberg's epic. Girdler even cast Susan Backlinie (Crissy Watkins of JAWS) to play one of the bear's first victims! Backlinie would play a much larger part in Girdler's follow-up effort, SOMETHING IS OUT THERE/DAY OF THE ANIMALS. A huge success, the film was one of the biggest independent hits of the decade, holding a record until HALLOWEEN came along a couple years later. A handsome movie, it got a lot of play on television in the following decades. Seems like TBS used to run it periodically in my younger days. Interestingly, the film was a bit of a reunion for it's three male leads, as they all acted in CHISUM if I recall correctly. Girdler would make a handful of movies after GRIZZLY, but was tragically killed in a helicopter crash while scouting locations. He was only 30 years old, and had only been married about half a year. A gorgeous DVD release was issued in a boxed set with Girdler's DAY OF THE ANIMALS and the TV movie DEVIL DOG: HOUND OF HELL. I highly recommend this release. The transfer for GRIZZLY even has a faint (only noticeable if you know your film) flicker that makes the film look as if it's being screened at the drive-in!