Damn I wish I could go back to the days when television advertisements for new horror movies would rock my world off of its foundations. It was truly a golden age, and all of you suckers born after say 1985, don't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about. It's cool, because you can't go home again, and the road to streaming crap-horror straight into your cerebellum is littered with the corpses of misty-eyed geezers such as myself. But that still doesn't mean that when ads for Grizzly started peppering Ye Olde Cathode-Ray Tubes in 1976, it wasn't the coolest damn thing ever.
And now, thanks to Scorpion Releasing, you can experience the cool thrills on a nicely put-together DVD that outclasses both the Shriekshow Evil Animals triple feature from 2007, and the grotty DVD LTD release from 1998. Grizzly, cult director William Girdler's 1976 effort, stars genre vets Christopher George, Andrew Prine, and Richard Jaeckel in an exploitation tale that reminds viewers; if you don't feel safe going back in the water, then you better stay the hell away from the woods too. That's because of the title creature, 18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror.
It's a simple story really, and an obvious retread of Jaws. There's a huge bear in the woods that likes the taste of cute back-packers. After a sprightly, lilting theme song, we see images of the forest literally swamped with backpackers, which is just the way the mayor of the nearby town likes it. Why? Because back-packers buy tons of beer and marshmallows, that's why! Town's gotta survive somehow. So let the bear eat a few. Except park ranger Christopher George objects, and soon he's roped in helicopter pilot and Vietnam vet/pacifist Prine, and kooky naturalist Jaeckel to help him track the bear and settle its hash.
Featuring gorgeous on-location scenery in Georgia, Grizzly reps a mid-level independent thriller that scored big at the box office. George, Jaeckel and Prine really dig into their respective roles, revealing lots of tough-guy posturing that wouldn't have been out of place in contemporaneous cop shows. Jaeckel is especially fun as the sensitive naturalist who likes to wander the woods wearing animal skins, the better to blend in with the natives. Those awesome television ads from the '70s did a better job of implying the true size of the grizzly, while the movie itself mostly relies on from the ground up shots of the bear snarling, or shots of the animal running around the woods, looking pretty much like a normal bear. Only the climactic scene involving a helicopter really does much to convey what an 18-foot tall bear might really look like.
A few quick shots of splashy blood and one fantastic but super quick attack on a bratty little tow-headed kid will have to suffice for bloodthirsty members of the audience, but there's plenty for lovers of questionable '70s cinema to enjoy, including a great scene where the bear topples a fire-tower, and fun stuff like images of panicked back-packers fleeing the forest en-masse. When all is said and done, nothing can match the sheer joy of being a child and getting freaked-and-geeked out by exploitation ads on TV, but screening this excellent DVD edition of Grizzly will satisfy your urge for good old-fashioned '70s cheese pretty well. If that sounds right to you, this one is Highly Recommended.
Boy Howdy, this 2.40:1 anamorphic master in HD, from the original interpositive looks dang good! Lovely film grain, rich colors and deep black levels make for a really impressive viewing experience. There is an extremely limited amount of film damage, which you will notice only if you're looking for it like a film geek, and which doesn't intrude on the movie in the slightest. I also found one instance of aliasing, because I was really poring over the image. Otherwise, details are nicely rendered, and the film just looks really fine.
A brand new 5.1 surround mix created from the original audio elements is equally as impressive, though it at times reveals shortcomings in those original elements, namely an instance or two where heated dialog seems a little overdriven, or times where the quiet bits seem a little bit extra-quiet. Otherwise, a nicely rendered audio image really brings those growls to the front, helps you track the bear as it moves from one side of the forest to the other, and keeps the screams nice and loud.
In addition to the nice presentation, Grizzly tosses out a couple of nifty extras. Paramount of course are the Original Trailers that had me so enthralled as a child. There is also a New Beverly Screening Q & A with Andrew Prine and producer David Sheldon which runs 12 funny and informative minutes, a 35-minute featurette "Jaws With Claws" comprised of interviews with David Sheldon, writer Harvey Flaxman, and actors Andrew Prine and Joan McCall, that's a must-see for fans of the movie, and a silly-but-cool 8-minute Fun Facts and Trivia segment featuring hostess Katarina of Katarina's Nightmare Theater, which manages to be charming, informative, and oddly hypnotic, as Katarina speaks over images of waterfalls moving forward and backward.
Grizzly gets some well-deserved love on this great looking and sounding DVD, with a decent little slate of extras. No, the movie isn't really scary or gory, but it sure is fun, with awesome tough-guy performances from Christopher George, Andrew Prine, and Richard Jaeckel. This "Jaws With Claws" riff on the giant animals attack genre looked cool as hell back in the '70s, and it's still well worth the time of genre fans, making it Highly Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com