Grizzly

This movie has gotten a lot of flak over the years as a land-based Jaws copy. That criticism is obviously true to some extent. However, the bulk of movies today are often just re-hashes and remakes of stories that have been done to death (2012’s subpar “The Amazing Spiderman,” anyone?) Other film makers, like the folks behind the initially highly rated Paranormal Activity series, copied first off a previous film (The Blair Witch Project) and then off themselves for their own fleet of subsequent and vacuous sequels. Many of these films are lauded by the same critics who criticized movies like “Grizzly” – one of the many inconsistencies that are all too apparent if you follow the careers of film critics. William Girdler, who directed Grizzly, said he made films for movie fans and didn’t care what critics thought. He wanted the audience to enjoy his films and he didn’t care what a critic, paid to criticize, had to say. “Critics,” he said, “don’t buy tickets, so I don’t care.” Girdler tragically died in a helicopter crash at the age of 30.

In comparison to any of the films above and countless others, “Grizzly” was and remains far more original. Think about it. In general I think we are getting ever less discriminating, less demanding and more accepting of rehashed crap. Granted, “Grizzly” did some of this too, and perhaps is an example of a film that led us, to some extent, to where we are today in commercial film making. I guess I am arguing its sins were smaller at the time, more readily recognized for what they were and darnit – considered within its time frame it was a much cheaper yet better constructed film than many wasteful, newer, fancier, flashier products that are fed to us by major motion picture companies today. It is well directed, has a good cast, is paced well and is entertaining throughout.

I love the opening shots of this film, which set the pace for the entire picture. A serene forest scene features some birds chirping, but otherwise silence. Suddenly, with an explosion of noise a helicopter shoots across the sky from the upper quadrant – creating a perfect visual collision of wilderness and human intervention. That concept is the foundation for virtually every film of the “human vs. nature” movies that followed Jaws, but few films capture it so succinctly and with great effect – and in the opening scene! The opening credits roll a short time later as we pan over the wilderness from the vantage point of the chopper while the film’s enjoyable and thoroughly 70s sounding soundtrack begins. The cast does a good job and takes the material seriously. Christopher George was particularly well cast, I thought. George, incidentally, died in 1983 at 54 years of age. This is one of his best roles. Richard Jaeckel also does well with the material. The characters are pretty well developed and more importantly, they are likeable. You care about what they are doing.

It does have its problems. The claimed size of the bear isn’t communicated all that well in some later actual shots of a real bear, and there are some other minor quibbles I have – but they really aren’t important. This is a fun film to watch. The DVD release from “Shriek Show” is a good print and includes a few extras. If you saw it in the 70s, check it out again. If you have never seen “Grizzly” – do yourself a favor and watch this enjoyable, well made film featuring a talented director and a capable, if lesser known leading actor who both died far too early in their professional careers.