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Theatrical release poster by Neal Adams
|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|
|Edited by||Bub Asman|
|Distributed by||Film Ventures International/Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$39 million|
Grizzly (also known as Killer Grizzly on U.S. television) is a 1976 American horror thriller film directed by William Girdler, about a park ranger's attempts to halt the wild rampage of an 18 ft (5.5 m) tall, 2,000 lb (0.91 t) man-eating grizzly bear that terrorizes a National Forest, having developed a taste for human flesh. However, a drunken hunting party complicates matters. 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, which had been a huge box-office success during the previous year. The giant grizzly bear in the film was portrayed by a Kodiak bear named Teddy, who was 9 ft (2.7 m) tall.
The film opens with military veteran helicopter pilot and guide Don Stober (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 Native Americans lived there.
Two female hikers are breaking camp when they are suddenly attacked and killed by an unseen animal. The national park's Chief Ranger, Michael Kelly (George), and photographer Allison Corwin (Joan McCall), daughter of the park's restaurant owner, decide to follow a ranger to the primitive campsite to check on the female hikers. There, they discover the mangled corpses of the two girls, one of which has been partially buried.
At the hospital, a doctor tells Kelly that the girls were killed by a bear. The park supervisor, Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), blames Kelly for the attacks, saying that the bears were supposed to have been moved from the park by Kelly and naturalist Arthur Scott (Jaeckel) before the tourist season began. Kelly and Kittridge argue over closing the park, before deciding to move all hikers off the park's mountain while allowing campers to remain in the lowlands. Kelly calls Scott, who had been traveling with a deer family. Informing Scott about the bear attack, Kelly also tells him to come back.
During a search of the mountain, a female ranger stops for a break at a waterfall. Deciding to soak her feet and finally taking off her clothes and showering in the waterfall, she is unaware that the grizzly bear is lurking 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. Telling them all of the bears are accounted for and this specific bear is unknown to the forest, Scotty informs them that the animal they are looking for is a prehistoric grizzly bear (a fictional Pleistocene Epoch Arctodus ursus horribilis) standing at least 15 ft (4.6 m) tall and weighing between 2,000 to 3,000 lb (0.91 to 1.36 t). Kelly and Stober scoff at the notion.
At the busy lowland campground, the grizzly bear 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. Now a team, Kelly, Stober, and Scott are disgusted by this development. Later, a lone hunter is chased by the grizzly bear, but he manages to escape the animal by jumping 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 bear, so they use it as bait for the mother. However, the grizzly bear finds and eats the cub without the hunters even noticing. Scott thus concludes that the grizzly bear must be a male, as only male bears are cannibalistic. Kelly assigns fellow ranger Tom at a fire lookout tower on the mountain. However, he is attacked by the grizzly bear. The animal tears down the tower and kills Tom.
Kelly and Kittridge continue to argue over closing the park. Frustrated by the politics of the situation, Scott sneaks away to track the grizzly bear on his own. On the outskirts of the national park, a mother and her young child are attacked by the grizzly bear. The mother is killed while the child survives, albeit severely mutilated. Stunned by this development, Kittridge finally allows Kelly to close down the park and ban all hunters.
Stober and Kelly now go after the elusive grizzly bear alone, setting up a trap by hanging a deer carcass from a tree. The grizzly bear goes for the bait, but suddenly retreats. The men chase the animal through the woods, but it easily outruns them. When they return, they discover the grizzly bear tricked them and took the deer carcass anyway. The next day, Scott, tracking on horseback, finds the remains of the deer carcass and calls Stober and Kelly on the radio. He plans to drag the deer carcass behind his horse and create a trap by leading the grizzly bear towards them. However, the grizzly bear ambushes Scott, killing his horse and knocking him unconscious. He subsequently awakens to find himself alive, but half-buried in the ground. Just as he finishes digging himself out, the grizzly bear returns and kills him.
Kelly and Stober discover Scott's mutilated body and, in despair, return to the helicopter to track the grizzly bear from the air. They soon spot the grizzly bear in a clearing and quickly land. The grizzly bear attacks the helicopter, swiping at the craft and causing Stober to be thrown clear. The grizzly bear kills Stober before turning on Kelly, who frantically pulls a bazooka from the helicopter. Before the grizzly bear can reach him, Kelly fires the bazooka at the grizzly bear, exploding him to death. For several seconds, Kelly sadly stares at the burning remains of the grizzly bear, before walking towards Stober's body.
- Christopher George as Michael Kelly
- Andrew Prine as Don Stober
- Richard Jaeckel as Arthur Scott
- Joan McCall as Allison Corwin
- Joe Dorsey as Charley Kittridge
- Charles Kissinger as Dr. Hallitt
- Mike Clifford as Pat
- Teddy as the grizzly bear
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. 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 George, Prine, and Jaeckel marked the second time this trio of actors starred together in the same film. They had previously played supporting roles in the Western Chisum (1970) starring John Wayne. A Kodiak bear nicknamed Teddy performed as the killer grizzly bear. 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.
Critical reception for Grizzly in 1976 was extremely negative, with most critics criticizing the film for being too similar to Steven Spielberg's thriller Jaws. Vincent Canby, from the New York Times, criticized the film's poor plotting, cinematography and editing. He wrote, "Grizzly, which opened yesterday at the Rivoli and other theaters, is such a blatant imitation of Jaws that one has to admire the depth of the flattery it represents, though not the lack of talent involved." Donald Guarisco from AllMovie gave the film a negative review, criticizing the film's script, cheap gore, and overuse of clichés, and saying, "This energetic but clumsy horror effort is too contrived and poorly realized to be worthwhile for most viewers." Film critic Leonard Maltin awarded the film two out of four stars, calling it an "OK rip-off of Jaws".
Despite the negative reviews, Grizzly was the top grossing independent film of 1976, earning nearly $38 million worldwide, and held the record until Halloween was released two years later in 1978. The film's executive producer, Edward L. Montoro, president of Film Ventures International distributed the film in the U.S. and Canada and sold the worldwide distribution rights to Columbia Pictures for $1.5 million. Montoro later tried to keep the profits to himself instead of paying the film's director William Girdler and producers/writers David Sheldon and Harvey Flaxman. The three sued Montoro and he was eventually ordered by the Los Angeles County Superior Court to pay Girdler, Sheldon and Flaxman their share of the profits from the distribution of the film.
The original music score by Robert O. Ragland has since been largely well received. Ragland commissioned the National Philharmonic Orchestra for the film's theme. The original soundtrack was finally released on CD and MP3 format in September 2018.
The DVD version of Grizzly was first released on December 2, 1998 by Shriek Show, and was re-released on DVD by Scorpion Releasing on August 5, 2014. Scorpion Releasing issued a limited-edition Blu-ray in September 2015 exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment.
A sequel, now known as Grizzly II: Revenge (originally known as Grizzly II: The Predator and Grizzly II: The Concert), was filmed in 1983 in Hungary by director André Szöts. David Sheldon and wife Joan McCall wrote the Grizzly II screenplay. Suzanne C. Nagy and her company, GBGB International, is holding the sequel rights. The casting included George Clooney, Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen, Louise Fletcher, Steve Inwood, John Rhys-Davies, Deborah Raffin and Deborah Foreman. It also featured live performances by Toto Coelo, Landscape III, and other musicians.
The main scenes for Grizzly II: The Predator were completed, but before special effects featuring a huge electro-mechanical bear could be used, the executive producer, Joseph Proctor, disappeared with all of the funds, with some sources saying that he was jailed during the time of the filming.
A bootleg version with the original workprint was released in 2007 from a bad quality VHS tape. In 2019, GBGB International took over the completion of the film. The completed version was first time shown at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival on February 17, 2020. Since then, the movie was shown in various film festivals like the Monmouth Film Festival, Lisbon International Horror Film Festival, Knoxville Horror Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, LA Crime and Horror Film Festival, and Popcorn Frights Film Festival.
Various articles such as Empire Magazine and The Ringer are welcoming the great news that finally after 37 years, the cult-movie lovers can see this almost-lost movie. Other articles and interviews published are on MovieWeb, Bloody Disgusting, Birth.Movies.Death., Zenless Popcorn, Movies in Focus, Killer Horror Critic, and First Showing.
In August 2020, GBGB International licensed the film to Gravitas Ventures. The debut of the film is January 08, 2021.
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- Canby, Vincent. "Movie Review - Grizzly - William Girdler's Not-Quite-So-Toothsome 'Grizzly' - NYTimes.com". New York Times.com. Vincent Canby. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
- Guarisco, Donald. "Grizzly (1976) - William Girdler". Allmovie.com. Donald Guarisco. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
- Maltin, Leonard (September 2012). Leonard Maltin's 2013 Movie Guide. New York, New York: Penguin Press. p. 565. ISBN 978-0-451-23774-3.
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- Raftery, Brian (2020-08-31). "What Do George Clooney, Nazareth, and a 16-Foot Mechanical Bear Have in Common?". The Ringer. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
- "'Grizzly II: Revenge' Trailer: Long-Lost Horror Sequel Is Finally Getting Released". Movieweb. 2020-02-19. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
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- Todd, Andrew (2020-02-19). "After 38 Years, The Legendary GRIZZLY II Is Finally Finished". Birth.Movies.Death. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
- info0638777 (2020-03-07). "ZENLESS POPCORN: Interview with Suzanne C. Nagy". Grizzly II. Revenge MOVIE. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
- Browne, Niall (2020-05-29). "Review: GRIZZLY II: REVENGE Sees An Angry Bear Have George Clooney, Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen For Dinner!". Movies In Focus. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
- "[Interview] Producer Suzanne C. Nagy Discusses the Troubled Production of 'Grizzly II' and When We Can Expect to See the Film!". KILLER HORROR CRITIC. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
- "Search Results for 'Grizzly Ii' | FirstShowing.net". www.firstshowing.net. Retrieved 2020-11-24.