A movie that has been accurately referred to as "Jaws with claws" should have easily kept me occupied for 90 minutes but I found myself constantly getting distracted by menial things while this flick was playing. I needed a glass of water. I felt compelled to check my e-mail. I wondered what the weather forecast was for the weekend. This may be because I saw director William Girdler's Day of the Animals a couple of years ago and this seemed awfully familiar to me as Christopher George and Richard Jaeckel are together again in a forest setting battling a dangerous animal with a strong dislike for people. Although I enjoyed Grizzly more overall, I have to say that I missed having someone like Leslie Nielsen hamming it up with the animals.
George stars as Michael Kelly, a ranger who discovers that a giant bear has developed a taste for human flesh and has mutilated some female campers. As usual in these types of flicks, Ranger Kelly is getting resistance from a local politician named Charley (Joe Dorsey) who insists that there is no problem and proceeds to make stupid decisions such as allowing inexperienced local hunters to search for the beast. As the hunt continues, the bear attacks every so often to keep the body count increasing. It mauls a female ranger (Victoria Johnson - 1977 Penthouse Pet of the Year) who strips to her underwear to go for a dip. It manhandles as blonde at a campsite by pulling her out of her tent like Jason would. It terrorizes one of Kelly's men who is manning a small watchtower by smashing the tower until it falls over. It even goes so far as to rip the leg off a young boy who is innocently playing with a bunny. This bear is pretty badass and you see the full extent of just how tough it is when it decapitates (!) a horse with a swift punch of the paw. Kelly eventually assembles a small arsenal of weapons and tracks the goliath grizzly down with the help of his buddy with a helicopter (Andrew Prine) and the expertise of his friend Scotty (Jaeckel).
A nifty trick that is utilized regularly is a shot from the bear's point of view that was a new gimmick at the time. Being from beautiful British Columbia, I often go hiking in the woods and now I certainly have another reason to bring bear spray. I will remember those bear POV shots and imagine Winnie's bloodthirsty cousin stalking me from the closest patch of trees plotting when to strike. Hopefully it won't have the same effect that Alligator had on me when it came to swimming pools as a young lad. Although all of the kill scenes in Grizzly are effective (in a campy way), the pacing during all of the scenes where people are searching for the bear gets repetitive. In addition. there are many talky scenes where Kelly feels sorry for himself and has run-ins with Charley that slow things down aside from one confrontation where Kelly loses his shit and it seems like he may feed Charley to the bear himself.
I really wish I had experienced Grizzly before Day of the Animals as it is a better flick overall. The animal attacks are bloodier and they are staged better. The plot of the two films is quite different but somehow they are forever linked in my head due to Girdler's style and the similar cast and setting. George is great as a forest ranger but it struck me how much the guy smoked. He seemed to be lighting up in every scene and I was half expecting Smokey to show up and give a public service announcement about the dangers of forest fires. Instead, a little statue of Smokey makes a cameo on an office desk. Nevertheless, George always comes across as a cool dude in his many genre roles and I wish he has lived to be older than 52 to give us more of these enthusiastic performances. Jaeckel also always delivers a good performance in movies like this even though he his time as a serious actor was fading away. Overall, Girdler knew how to give us fun scenes and a decent movie and even though things could get a little stale, there is always something to remember in a Girdler picture. A sequel was partially shot but never finished that had a bear wreaking havoc at an outdoor concert. The cast is rumoured to have included Charlie Sheen, George Clooney, Laura Dern, and Deborah Foreman. (Josh Pasnak, 10/14/13)
Directed By: William Girdler.
Written By: Harvey Flaxman, David Sheldon.
Starring: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall.