Children of the 1970s in the UK fondly remember a time before multi-channels and satellite choices, when movies were an event on television. Indeed, before the earliest VHS machines, the only way to see genre entertainment would be at your local. This writer’s nostalgic remembrances bring up trailers for double-bills for Carquake (aka Cannonball in the US) and The Giant Spider Invasion, plus ten-second spots for the likes of Zombies: Dawn of the Dead and - if I can remember when local councils overruled censorship in the UK - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Grizzly is a movie that you can sense would have been heavily advertised on UK television ahead of its Sunday debut release, as that was the day films changed in the UK. Now available through 88 Films in a spanking new Blu-ray release, it is very much another of the popular man-versus-nature affairs in the shadow of Jaws. VHS fans will certainly greet this with cheers, not least in the lead casting of the late, great Christopher George, who cemented his place amongst their affections with the likes of Lucio Fulci’s City Of The Living Dead and James Glickenhaus’ The Exterminator (both released in 1980).
Amidst the sleaze and violence of the latter, George is remembered for two scenes unrelated to title character John Eastland’s rampage of revenge - the midnight picnic with the doctor tending to Eastland’s comatose buddy - and his innovative approach to cooking a hot-dog using two forks linked to an electric socket (please don’t try that at home!)
In Grizzly, George plays Chief Park Ranger Michael Kelly, who has to suddenly deal with the very real threat of a large bear who is attacking campers and hikers in the woods of a vast national park. Inevitably, there is a fair amount of stupidity after warnings that a bear is on the rampage in the area, not least from over-eager hunters trying to claim the prize amidst the danger. Before long though, it is becoming a desperate fight for survival and avoidance of the threat, which sees no sign of stopping…
Marked as a rip-off of Spielberg’s classic Jaws, Grizzly certainly and desperately fails in its intent and overall, you can spot the similarities throughout. The opening credit sequence feels at odds with what the film is trying to achieve, reminiscent of the opening of John Guillermin’s The Towering Inferno and the action scenes are very much more like ones in the above and The Poseidon Adventure. As such, this is as cheesy a cult thriller from the era and the reaction remains constant to the critics who gave it such a negative reception.
However, there is one reason for purchasing this Blu-ray - and that is the excellent 23-minute extra What A Guy!, in which David Del Valle reminisces about George, an actor who was very talented who had worked with John Wayne, but loved life and wanted the top-billing, which he could only find in films like The Exterminator and Grizzly. Some of the publicity within the extras are an eye-opener, even for the fans of these films.
Del Valle also stresses that Grizzly demands to be seen with an audience. We agree. See it with friends.
GRIZZLY (1976) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM GIRDLER / SCREENPLAY: HARVEY FLAXMAN, DAVID SHELDON / STARRING: CHRISTOPHER GEORGE, ANDREW PINE, RICHARD JAECKEL / RELEASE DATE: MAY 14TH