Directed By: William Girdler
Starring: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel
Disclaimer: Severin Films has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.
When I posted that I would be reviewing 1976's Grizzly I got a wide range of comments including, "Great cheesy classic", to, "Good luck". William Girdler post Jaws (1975) film is certainly one that I came into with hearing a lot about and even seeing some clips. But alas, I never actually sat down to watch the entire film. Until now. The movie if you couldn't already tell by the name and cover art centers around a fury killing machine, a eighteen foot grizzly bear. A local State Park ranger named Michael Kelly (Christopher George) must stop it at any cost.
For those who like Grindhouse '70s cinema it Grizzly feels almost like a rite of passage. Its kind of why I was excited to finally see it after hearing so much about it. In terms of Jaws rip-offs/nature-run-amok films this is actually pretty good. The movie is saddled with a pretty-paint-by-numbers plot which is pretty similar to the famous Spielberg shark outing and characters arent exactly deep. But, wisely William Girdler's film has a go-for-broke high energy that has plenty of nudity, cheesy dialogue and of course gore! Girdler is certainly catering to a popcorn crowd and where it lacks in depth it makes up for in mindless thrills. I have to say the pure-70's trashiness washed over me in an amazing tide wave of flying limbs and gore as the titular bear goes berserk on everything in sight including a child.
You also have to give filmmakers props for seamlessly using a real bear and a costume bear. While the bear steals the show the film boasts a great cast. Christopher George who cult fans will likely remember for films like City of the Living Dead (1980) and Graduation Day (1981) is fantastic. Christopher had a lot of charm, suave and here he gives a very good performance that helps elevate this B-film. Another genre favorite Andrew Prine (Lords of Salem, Crypt of the Living Dead) also shines in the supporting cast. Hell, this movie even has Oscar nominated actor Richard Jaeckal (The Dirty Dozen).
Critics at the time lambasted the film for being a Jaws clone yet, the film grossed over 39 million dollars on less than a million dollar budget. It was an unlikely hit and over the years it keeps finding a loyal cult-following on various home video releases. Grizzly is a pretty simple, mindless but ultimately incredibly enjoyable film. It never aims to be high art but it is made with a lot of love and passion. This is why I think decades after its released it still finds an audience. Not to mention the film is full of genre legends giving it their all. Certainly a worthy entry into the nature-run-amok genre.
Picture: Grizzly has been released in HD before but I have not seen those so I won't be comparing these with any previous releases. The film looks sharp with a brand-new 2k scan with outdoor scenes looking beautiful. It seems that most of the artifacts and scratches have been cleaned up with any some minor issues present. There is also a really nice uptight in color and overall clarity, especially in darker lit or nighttime scenes. Skin tons have a nature look and I was glad that the visuals didn't look overly processed. Its not flawless but its a very nice looking presentation and its ones that I think fans will be pleased with.
Sound: Grizzly roars nicely with a 2.0 track. Dialogue, sound design and music come through nicely and I have to say its a robust sound presentation overall.
Extras: As always Severin has filled this disc up with some fantastic content both new and vintage.
Included is: Commentary by author and film historian Troy Howarth and Mondo Digital's Nathanial Thompson, Nightmare USA Author Stephen Thrower on the Career of William Girdler (45mins), Making Movies with Girdler-An audio interview with business partner and friend J. Patrick Kelley III (36mins), Towering Fury (8mins) A new interview with actor Tom Arcuragi, The Grizzly Details (18mins) A new interviews with producer David Sheldon, actor Joan McCall, Making Movies in the Wilderness (7min) Short Vintage featurette, Jaws With Claw (36mins) Archival Making Of.
Rounding out the features is radio spots and trailers! Severin clearly has put a lot of love into this release and fans will be excited to take a bite out of these supplements.