Promotional movie poster
|Directed by||William Girdler,
|Produced by||Lloyd N. Adams (executive producer)
Edward L. Montoro,
|Written by||Harvey Flaxman,
|Music by||Robert O. Ragland|
|Cinematography||William L. Asman|
|Editing by||Bub Asman,
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures
Film Ventures International (USA, theatrical), Multicom Entertainment Group Inc. ,
Liberty Home Entertainment (DVD)
|Release dates||May 16, 1976|
|Running time||89 minutes|
Grizzly (also known as Killer Grizzly) is a 1976 horror film directed by William Girdler, about an 18-foot man-eating Grizzly bear that terrorizes a National Forest. It stars Christopher George, Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel. Widely considered a Jaws rip-off, Grizzly used many of the same plot devices as its shark predecessor, a huge box office success during the previous year 1975.
In 1983, a sequel Grizzly II: The Predator was shot, but never released. The abortive project provided early roles for both Charlie Sheen and George Clooney. The giant grizzly bear in the film was portrayed by the mother of Bart the Bear.
The film opens with a military veteran helicopter pilot and guide Don Stober (Andrew Prine) flying individuals above the trees of a vast National Park. He states that the woods are untouched and remain much as they did during the time when the Native Americans lived there.
Two female hikers are breaking camp when one of them is attacked and killed by a bear. The second girl finds apparent safety within a nearby cabin until the bear tears down a wall to reach her. The National Park's Chief Ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George) and photographer Allison Corwin (Joan McCall), daughter of the park's restaurant owner, decide to follow a Ranger to the primitive campsite to find the two female hikers. They discover the girl's mangled body inside the destroyed cabin. Allison stumbles across the remains of the first girl while photographing the search.
At the hospital, a doctor tells Kelly that the girls were killed by a bear. The Park Supervisor Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey) blames Kelly, saying the bears were supposed to have been moved from the park by him and Naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) before the tourist season began. Kelly and Kittridge argue over closing the park, and decide to move all hikers off the park's mountain while allowing campers to remain in the lowlands. Kelly calls Scott, who says all bears are accounted for and this specific bear must be unknown to the forest.
Stopping for a break near a waterfall while searching the mountain, a female Ranger complains to her male partner that her feet are sore and she is going to go soak them in the stream. Her male partner goes on to search R4 while she approaches the waterfall to soak. She does not see the bear waiting for her under the falls and she is attacked and killed. Kelly recruits the helicopter pilot Stober to assist in the search. Flying above the forest, they see what they believe to be an animal, only to discover the Naturalist Scott adorned in an animal skin while tracking the bear. He informs them the animal they are looking for is a prehistoric grizzly bear (a fictional pleistocene Arctodus ursos horribilis) standing at least 15 feet tall. Kelly and Stober scoff at the notion.
At the busy lowland campground, the grizzly tears down a tent and kills a woman. Kelly once again insists on closing the park, but Kittridge refuses. The attacks are becoming a national news story and to counteract this, Kittridge allows amateur hunters into the forest. Kelly, Stober and Scott, now a team, are disgusted by this development. Later, a lone hunter is chased by the bear but he evades the animal on foot, falling into a river and floating to safety. Later that night three hunters find a bear cub, that they believe is the cub of the killer grizzly, so they use it as bait for the mother. But the grizzly finds and eats the cub without the hunters noticing. Scott concludes that the bear must be a male. A Ranger at a fire lookout tower on the mountain is attacked by the grizzly, the animal tearing down the structure and killing the Ranger.
Kelly and Kittridge continue to argue over closing the park. Frustrated by the politics of the situation, Scott sneaks away to track the grizzly on his own. On the outskirts of the National Park, a mother and child living in a cabin are attacked by the grizzly. The mother is killed and the child survives, but is severely mutilated. Stunned by this development, Kittridge finally allows Kelly to close the park and ban all hunters.
Stober and Kelly now go after the elusive grizzly alone, setting up a trap by hanging a deer carcass from a tree. The grizzly goes for the bait and the men chase the animal through the woods. When they return, they discover the grizzly has tricked them and taken the deer carcass. Tracking on horseback, Scott finds the remains of the carcass and calls Stober and Kelly on the radio. He is going to drag the deer behind his horse and create a trap by leading the grizzly towards them. The grizzly surprises Scott, killing his horse and knocking him unconscious. Scott awakens to find himself alive, but half-buried in the ground. The grizzly immediately returns and kills him.
Kelly and Stober discover Scott's body and in despair, decide to return to the helicopter to find the grizzly from the air. They immediately spot the bear in a clearing and quickly land. The grizzly attacks the helicopter, swiping the craft causing Stober to be thrown clear. The grizzly kills Stober and then turns on Kelly, who frantically pulls a bazooka from the helicopter. Before the bear can reach him, Kelly fires the bazooka at the grizzly, killing the animal instantly. For several seconds, Kelly sadly stares at the burning remains of the grizzly and then walks towards Stober's body.
Released in May 1976, less than one year after Jaws, Grizzly was criticized as being a thinly veiled rip-off of the now-classic shark thriller. Like Jaws, Grizzly has an unusually large animal preying upon unsuspecting tourists.
Christopher George plays Chief Ranger Michael Kelly, skilled at his job but lacking experience when dealing with the dangers of bears, a role similar to Roy Scheider's Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws. Kelly must rely on the expertise of naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel), just as Brody recruits marine scientist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss).
Kelly is thwarted by Supervisor Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), who refuses to close the National Park for political reasons. In Jaws, Brody is refused permission to close the summer beaches by Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton).
A bounty is put on the grizzly bear, just as an award is offered for the shark in Jaws. The bounty leads to chaos, as hundreds of hunters fill the woods in Grizzly, while huge numbers of boats filled with hunters leave the harbor in Jaws.
During the final hunt for the grizzly bear, Kelly is led by helicopter pilot, Vietnam War veteran and forest guide Don Stober (Andrew Prine), just as Brody's shark expedition is led by boat captain, World War II veteran and sea guide Quint (Robert Shaw).
The bear in Grizzly is killed in similar fashion to the shark in Jaws in that both creatures' destruction is dramatized by a large explosion.
The idea for Grizzly began when the film's producer and writer Harvey Flaxman encountered a bear during a family camping trip. Co-producer and co-writer David Sheldon thought the idea would make a good film following the success of Jaws. William Girdler discovered the script on Sheldon's desk and offered to find financing as long as he could direct the film. Within a week, Girdler was able to obtain $750,000 in financing from Edward L. Montoro's Film Ventures International movie distribution company.
Grizzly was filmed on-location in Clayton, Georgia, with many local residents cast in supporting roles. Catherine Rickman, who played one of the first victims, was actually the daughter of Clayton's mountain man, Frank Rickman. Though unintentional, the casting of Christopher George, Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel marked the second time this trio of actors starred together in the same film. They had previously played supporting roles in the 1970 western Chisum starring John Wayne. A Kodiak bear nicknamed "Teddy" performed as the killer grizzly. "Teddy" was 11 feet tall and was the largest bear in captivity at that time. The bear was rented from the Olympic Game Ranch in Sequim, Washington where he was kept behind an electric fence. The crew was protected from the bear by a piece of green string running through the shooting locations, and a ticking kitchen timer. This resembled (to the bear) an electric fence. Actors and crew members were instructed to always stay on the camera side of the string. The bear did not actually roar, so it was tricked into making the motions of roaring by throwing several marshmallows into its mouth and then holding a final marshmallow in front of its face but not throwing it. The bear would stretch for it. The sound was artificially produced. The original artwork for the Grizzly movie poster was created by the popular comic book artist Neal Adams. A novelization by Will Collins was published as well.
Edward L. Montoro and Film Ventures International
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on May 1, 1984, Edward L. Montoro said he considered Grizzly to be the best film he ever produced. Montoro founded his production company, Film Ventures International (FVI) in 1968 in Atlanta, Georgia. His company distributed exploitation films and B-movies. Montoro's most successful effort as producer was Grizzly, earning $39 million worldwide. Montoro chose to keep the profits for himself, claiming the film ran over-budget. This caused director William Girdler and the film's co-producers and co-writers Harvey Flaxman and David Sheldon to file-suit. Girdler returned to FVI the following year to direct the similarly themed The Day of the Animals, also produced by Montoro. The film was not as successful as Grizzly, and Girdler and Montoro parted ways.
In 1980 Montoro picked up the Italian film Great White, a thriller about a shark attacking tourists, for release in the United States. Montoro spent several million dollars on advertising, but the executives at Universal Pictures thought the film was too derivative of Jaws (a similar complaint leveled at Grizzly). Universal filed suit and won, and Great White was pulled from the theaters. The lawsuit and setback cost FVI several million dollars.
Mutant was the final film produced by Montoro. Opening in 1984, the film's budget and minor box office performance caused further damage to FVI. Montoro was also involved in a major divorce settlement. Sometime in 1984, Montoro took one million dollars from FVI and vanished never to be seen again. FVI collapsed the following year. It has been speculated Montoro fled to Mexico, but his whereabouts remain unknown.
The so-called sequel Grizzly II: The Predator was a nickname for an original film entitled "Predator: The Concert" filmed in 1985 in Hungary but never released to theaters. David Sheldon, the co-producer and writer of Grizzly wrote the screenplay with his screenwriter wife Joan McCall, also reprising her role from the original film. The cast included Charlie Sheen, George Clooney and Laura Dern, who were discovered by them and were unknown at the time, despite all being from families of popular stars. The main scenes for Grizzly II: The Predator were completed, but before the special effects with a huge electronic-mechanical bear could be used, the executive producer Joseph Proctor disappeared with the funds. The filmed footage of the live bear, however, attacking a live rock concert was also shot in Hungary. There have been attempts to re-cut and film more scenes, but to date, the film has never been released.
The film centers on Park Ranger Hollister (Steve Inwood), who is at odds with Park Supervisor (Louise Fletcher) over a large rock concert that is going to be held in the area. Hollister fears that the local grizzly bear population might be a danger to the attendees. When a grizzly kills a local poacher and three teens, Hollister begins to track the bear with the help of a bear activist (Deborah Raffin) and a local bear hunter named Bouchard (John Rhys-Davies). In addition, four poachers set out together to try to trap the bear, hoping to gain $100,000 reward money. The suggested 18 ft (5.5 m) grizzly finds its way to the rock concert, making the climatic showdown all the more personal for Hollister as his daughter (Deborah Foreman) is working there backstage.
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