Producer David Sheldon gleefully announces in an extra that Grizzly was the first to follow in the footsteps of Jaws. In fact, it doesn’t just follow but walks in those footsteps, making many of the same creative choices. I am surprised Universal didn’t sue, especially considering how big of a box-office hit Grizzly was. When Grizzly diverges from Jaws is when it missteps, which it does often, but for those on the Venn diagram who enjoy both “nature run amuck” movies and bad movies, Grizzly is for you.
As two women pack up their campsite in an unspecified national park, a bear approaches, which director William Girdler shows through growling sounds and a handheld POV shot that moves more like a man than bear. One at a time, the women are attacked by the arm of a bear, reminiscent of White Fang hitting Soupy Sales with a pie.
When the area is declared dangerous, the campers are ordered out. Leading the hunt (and the cast) are Kelly the park ranger (Christopher George), Scotty the nature researcher (Richard Jaeckel), and Don the helicopter pilot (Andrew Prine). Kelly has to deal with a park supervisor, Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), who wants to re-open the park, and drunken hunters try to capture the animal. To no surprise, it’s just Kelly and the bear in the end. Just when it seems the movie is all done cribbing Jaws, the climax ends inexplicably in the same manner.
Grizzly fails as a thriller/horror film, but unintentionally succeeds as a comedy. The bear attacks are humorous, from body parts ridiculously knocked clean off to wrestling with a guy in a bear suit. Unsurprisingly, Girdler and his team are bad with staging. During the search, a female ranger decides to take a break and soak her feet in a waterfall pool. She undresses to titillate viewers but only down to bra and panties to keep the PG rating. A bear watches her from somewhere above and then somehow unnoticed moves behind the waterfall.
Sourced from a 2K scan of the internegative, the video is displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Colors are strong and the image sharp in brightly lit scenes. The quality noticeably decreases in parallel with the decrease of light. During nighttime exteriors and Charley’s dimly lit office, the shadows swallow up objects. Some scenes lose focus. White specks appear on occasion, and a hair can be seen as a boy plays with rabbit. Film grain is apparent throughout.
The audio is available in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix. Dialogue is clear. Robert O. Ragland’s score sounds muddled when it gets too loud in the mix, which it frequently does to augment the action and scares. When too loud, the effects are turned up to match. The two elements lose any distinction and come out as a blast of loud noise. There’s a slight hiss on the track.
- Audio Commentary – one track by writers Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth, and another with Walter Olsen talking to Shelton and wife/actress Joan McCall.
- Stephen Thrower on the Career of William Girdler (HD, 45 min) – Thrower looks at the filmography of Girdler, which includes Sheba, Baby; Day of the Animals; and The Manitou. Unfortunately, Girdler died in a helicopter crash while scouting a new film.
- Making Movies with Girdler – Audio Interview with J. Patrick Kelly III (HD 37 min) – Identified as business partner and friend, Patrick was also the film’s production manager. He shot the 8 mm footage shown during their conversation.
- The Towering Fury – Interview with actor Tom Arcuragi (HD, 9 min) – Tom plays Tom, another ranger.
- The Grizzly Details – Interview with David Sheldon and Joan McCall (HD 19 min) – the pair sit for separate interviews
- Movie Making in the Wilderness – Vintage Making-Of (SD, 7 min) – See the crew in action.
- Jaws with Claws – Archival Featurette (SD, 37 min) – From 2006, producer/co-writer Harvey Flaxman and actor Prine join Shelton and McCall in separate interviews offering their reflections.
- There are two Radio Spots (audio, 1 min) and two Trailers (SD, 3 min).
Grizzly is an acquired taste, but this Severin Blu-ray will please fans. The new 2K scan presents a better picture than has been seen in a while. The real treat is the special features that allow for a thorough exploration behind the scenes.