Director – William Girdler
Cast – Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall, Joe Dorsey, Charles Kissinger, Kermit Echols, Tom Arcuragi, Victoria Johnson
Release Year – 1976
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have loved these films for as long as I can remember. Killer sharks, orcas, snakes, dinosaurs, you name it – I have always enjoyed watching man vs. nature. It is especially enjoyable to me when nature is of an overwhelming force, as it is with Grizzly. Cashing in on the massive success of Jaws, Grizzly also turned in large profits thanks to a level of carnage I did not expect from a PG flick about a killer bear.
Horror icon Christopher George (City of the Living Dead, Pieces) stars as National Park Ranger Michael Kelly, the head honcho responsible for keeping the parks visitors safe from harm. When a 15-foot tall grizzly bear slips into the park, the once tranquil landscape is stricken with fear as the bear’s maniacal death toll rises. Facing pressure from his superior to put an end to the madness, desperate measures must be taken to kill the abnormally large and vicious beast.
The story is just like many other killer animal films – very simple. There isn’t much more to the plot than what I mentioned in the previous paragraph, but don’t take that as a negative. We are immediately introduced to our leads, then the first grizzly kill occurs about 12 minutes in. The tone is set as this sequence, which is actually two kills, was much more brutal than I would have imagined. I saw this as a tyke and didn’t remember seeing severed limbs! The kills continue, spaced about 12 minutes apart, with things only minorly slowing down during the end of the second act. It’s the 70s, and it’s a cheap rip-off, so you can expect the usual clichés (which I highly enjoy) associated with how the actors were written back then. Grizzly even tops Jaws’ kill count, so props to the writers for that.
Director William Girdler (Day of the Animals, The Manitou) does a good job of bringing this simple story to life. He first excels with the horror. I was impressed with the kill sequences and how brutal they were. The dismemberments and decapitations were fun and so was the cinematography during the night attack. You don’t see too much of the real life grizzly, an 11 foot giant named Teddy, but I personally found more joy from the animatronic anyway. Christopher George is solid as usual, and was honestly one of the best actors for the job. With the majority of kills occurring during the day time you really need good execution to provide tension, and Girdler excelled with Grizzly.
Overall, Grizzly is a tremendous killer-animal film thanks to some brutal kills. It doesn’t near the excellence of Jaws, but it is sure to please fans of such films with plenty of violence and a solid performance from Christopher George.