The Night of the Grizzly
|The Night of the Grizzly|
|Running time||102 minutes|
|Box office||$1 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
The Night of the Grizzly is a 1966 Western adventure film starring Clint Walker, Martha Hyer, Keenan Wynn, Jack Elam and Nancy Kulp. Directed by Joseph Pevney and written by Warren Douglas, the film was released by Paramount Pictures on April 20, 1966. It was Pevney's final film.
The film's plot centers around Marshall "Big Jim" Cole (Clint Walker), who inherits land in Wyoming and trades his dangerous lawman's life for the comparatively cushy existence of a rancher. But he barely gets his family settled when new dangers plague them – a treacherous grizzly bear is on a murderous rampage; angry neighbors covet Cole's property, and an outlaw he once sent to prison seeks revenge.
In the U.S. the film was rated "G – General Audiences" by the MPAA.
Jim Cole, his wife Angela, along with their children Charlie and Gypsy, niece May, and friend Sam Potts arrive in a small Wyoming town. Jim had inherited a ranch from his late uncle, and decided to give up his former job as a lawman and become a rancher instead. In town they meet Mr. Benson the banker, who tells them about there is still a $675 mortgage on the property. Jim initially hesitates to take the land title when he learns of this, since it would take nearly all their savings but when told that another rancher Jed Curry wants the land for himself, he relents. Mr. Benson then explains that Jed Curry initially owned the property but lost it to Jim's late uncle in a card game, and wants it back for his sons. Meanwhile, a group of town boys make fun of Charlie, shooting a rock into his back. Determined to get back at them, he fights back and gets into a severe tussle. At Mr. Benson's office, Jim finally agrees to keep the land when Mr. Benson hands him the money/landowner's bill and settles the mortgage. Before they leave, Jim and Angela break up the fight involving Charlie and scold him.
In the meantime while the Coles were in the bank, Sam Potts, who used to be Jim's deputy, enters the general store and strikes up a conversation with the owner Wilhelmina Peterson ("Belle"), who immediately takes a fancy to him. In the store as well are Jed Curry's rascally sons, Tad and Cal, who are shooting pool. Sam inquires if there is a saloon anywhere where he could get a drink, but is dismayed to learn that it is a "dry" town. The Curry boys tell him that if he gives them $10 they can get him whisky so he gives them the money and they leave (and don't return).
As they leave the bank the Coles encounter Jed Curry himself, who acts like he is happy for the family but in reality he is displeased that at their acquisition and is planning to get the ranch by any means possible. Sam Potts almost gets left behind because he stayed behind buying clothes from the general store. Back out in the countryside, they continue their journey and eventually arrive at the ranch's cottage, which appears to be nothing more than a tumbled-down shack. But they are not discouraged and think of all the wonderful things that will happen next. During the night, Gypsy wanders outside the cabin and their dog follows, only to get sprayed on by a skunk.
The next morning Gypsy is given a bath to rid her of the skunk spray, which she obviously hates. As Jim is building a fence by chopping wood, Mr. Benson comes by and warns them of a giant grizzly bear called Satan, who is notorious for invading ranches and killing livestock just for the fun of it. He tells them that Satan will have awakened from hibernation and go on the rampage and that many have tried to shoot him but have failed. In addition to the bear, Jed Curry and his sons come by, brandishing a bottle of whisky. Enraged at being cheated of his money, Sam fights with the sons and in the process the bottle breaks. Jed castigates his sons when he learned what they did to Sam and demand that they return his money. He tries to persuade Jim to sell the land to him but he refuses and Jed leaves with his sons.
Jim goes back to town the next day and meets Wilhelmina. He asks if she knows where he can buy some cattle to breed with his prize bull Duncan which he brought along when the family moved to Wyoming. She calls over her sidekick Hank and tells him to show Jim the way to Hazel Squires' place. There, they find the Squires sons getting drunk with home-brewed whiskey, which they initially deny but the smell of the evidence is apparent. Hazel Squires comes along and tells Jim that she can sell some cattle for a buck each. When she goes to the hog pen to check on the pigs, she finds them all missing or dead, which was the work of Satan the livestock-killing grizzly bear. Later that night Jim sings lovingly about Angela.
During the night Old Satan makes his initial appearance at the Cole place, killing the prize bull Duncan, causing Sam's mule to run away and badly injuring the family's dog who tried to attack. The next morning they take the dog to the doctor. While waiting for the doctor to finish stitching up the dog, Jim and niece May go to the general store for coffee. Unfortunately the Curry boys are also there with cohorts and they start harassing Jim. Trying to stay out of trouble, Jim tells them that he has just abandoned a life of hardship in Utah to get a break here in Wyoming, but the boys continue to bully him. They eventually get into a fight, with the Curry sons driven out. Jed arrives and chastises his sons for acting rough, telling them not to antagonize Jim any more if they are to get his ranch, and tells Wilhelmina that they will be responsible for any damages incurred in the store during the fight.
Needing a replacement bull but with no cash to buy one, Jim is compelled to get a loan from the bank, giving Mr. Benson various possessions like saddle and his gold sheriff star as collateral. He then goes to the Squires ranch to purchase the bull as well as cattle for breeding. When Jed Curry learns that Mr. Benson loaned Jim money, he tells the latter not to do it again and reminded Benson that he, as the major stockholder of the bank, had the authority to do this.
While doing work on the farm, the Coles and Sam hear Satan growling in the nearby woods. Later, Sam's mule emerges from the woods, fatally wounded and collapses and dies. Sam grieves for his loss and both he and Jim vow to hunt Satan and kill him.
Satan's life is briefly examined, tracking him as he prowls the wilderness, knocking down trees. These signs are allure to Jim, and as he and Sam are tracking the bear they are attacked and nearly killed, escaping narrowly by jumping off a cliff into a lake. At a dance social a short time later, the Coles and the Currys meet again and have a short tussle before calming down. As the Coles make their way home after the party they find that Satan has killed most of their cattle. Again, Jim goes to Mr. Benson for a loan to buy replacement animals, but this time Mr. Benson apologetically refuses his request, fearing Jed Curry's wrath. Satan's depredations on livestock have reached a crisis point, and Jed Curry posts a $750 reward for anyone who can kill the bear. Coincidentally, a hunter named Cass Dowdy shows up in town with hunting dogs. Jim comes out of the bank and sees Cass, and it turns out that they know each other from the past. Jim had sent Cass to jail for two years for murder. Upon release, Cass vows to get back at Jim for what he did, and decides to hunt Satan for the reward money which he doesn't really want, just to make sure Jim won't get it and thus ruin him financially.
Jim and Sam set a trap for Satan, baited with meat and rigged to close shut if he steps in. The men carelessly dose off while waiting, and while they are doing so Satan attacks again. He drives off one of the horses and kills Sam, who in his dying state urges Jim to continue the hunt for the bear. A funeral is held the next morning and for the entire family it is a sad day. Dowdy has a personal tragedy of his own: his dogs, which had run off the previous night, had been killed by Satan. Urging Jim on to kill the bear, Angela says that unless Satan is brought down the family will continue to be menaced.
More traps are set up for Satan, but so far with no success. One night Dowdy approaches Jim and asks him if he is having trouble with his traps, which he says yes to. Since he is suspicious about Dowdy's intentions Jim advises him to stay away from his traps. That evening, Dowdy visits one of Jim's traps with the intention of sabotaging it, but accidentally gets one leg caught in a steel trap, causing great agony. The next morning, the two meet again, with Jim noticing that Cass is barefoot and dipping his leg in a stream and after finding that one of his boots has holes at ankle height not at the top, he guesses what Cass did and throws both boots into the water. The two have a fight, with Jim coming off the winner and knocking Cass unconscious into the stream. Jim pulls him out and leaves Cass on dry land.
When Jim comes home he is greeted by an angry Angela, who is upset that all he cares about is Satan the bear. Although Jim is entirely focused on getting the reward money and keeping the land, Angela suddenly says she no longer wants to live here, and that if Jim persists in his efforts to hunt down the bear, she will leave. She eventually calms down when he says he is killing the grizzly just to protect his family, including Angela herself. The next morning he is stunned to find that Charlie, determined to end the arguing about the bear and the money, has gone after Satan himself. Jim decides to follow Charlie into the woods while Angela apologizes for her mean attitude.
Calling out to his son, Jim once again attracts the attention of Dowdy, who had recovered after the fight and is determined to get Satan for killing his dogs. He eventually manages to catch Jim and almost kills him, but Jim fights back and fires at Dowdy, wounding him and allowing Jim to escape. Night comes and still there is no sign of Satan. As Charlie is listening to the hoots of owls and the howling of wolves, Satan suddenly reappears. Charlie promptly fires at Satan, who then turns on him and chases him up a tree. The bear is about to claw the tree to pieces when Jim arrives, fires at Satan, and immediately gets the bear's attention. When the bear knocks Jim's gun out of his hand, he is forced to take refuge beneath a bundle of logs. Satan angrily paws at the logs, trying to reach Jim. He keeps away from the bear's paws by stabbing at them with his knife and, just as he is exposed, by stabbing Satan's side. Satan roars in pain but is still not discouraged and is eventually able to reach Jim. Just as Jim is exposed, Charlie jumps out of the tree and distracts the bear, while Dowdy fires at the bear but is fatally mauled. Jim gets out of cover, fires at the bear, and at last Satan falls dead. After comforting a dying Dowdy, Jim and Charlie return home and rejoice, relieved that Satan's reign of terror has finally ended.
- Clint Walker as Jim Cole
- Martha Hyer as Angela Cole
- Keenan Wynn as Jed Curry
- Nancy Kulp as Wilhelmina Peterson
- Kevin Brodie as Charlie Cole
- Ellen Corby as Hazel Squires
- Jack Elam as Hank
- Ron Ely as Tad Curry
- Med Flory as Duke Squires
- Leo Gordon as Cass Dowdy
- Don Haggerty as Sam Potts
- Victoria Paige Meyerink as Gypsy Cole
- Sammy Jackson as Cal Curry
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8