I just saw the 1976 monster bear movie Grizzly. Grizzly is also known as “Claws,” in no small part because it’s a cheap knock-off designed to take advantage of the success of Jaws in 1975. One might say that our titular bear is some manner of “Land Shark.”
In every single monster movie, the beast’s crimes are initially blamed on bears. Monster squirrel attack in Central Park? “Looks like the work of a bear!” A werewolf mutilates a gypsy? “Bear did it,” hapless authorities will speculate. Jason Vorhees is back from the dead (again)? “These machete marks must have been from some manner of land bear!” Shark chomps surfer? “This must be the work of some manner of AquaBear!”
Here in Grizzly, no one doubts for a second that the bear is the culprit. The bear totally did it, don’t get me wrong, but it would be nice if maybe someone had seen a mutilated corpse and noted the missing pic-a-nic basket and declared, “This looks like the work of a rogue badger!”
*Sigh* The plot of Grizzly is a grizzly starts a grisly killing spree and Ranger Michael (Christopher George) tries to stop it. Michael has a wacky friend (Richard Jaeckel) who likes bears a little too much, reminiscent of the man at the center of Werner Herzog’s disturbing documentary Grizzly Man. Like the real man in the Herzog doc, the character gets killed by a bear.
The bear’s rampage is directed toward women at first, which seems to be leading somewhere. Our ranger hero — who looks like an uglier Willem Dafoe, if you can picture something so grotesque — has a woman friend Allison (Joan McCall) who is sort of his girlfriend but not seemingly quite. I was certain this was building to a climax wherein the bear would have Allison cornered, and Michael would rush to the rescue. Instead, Allison beseeches Michael to let her tag along on the big bear hunt, he turns her down, and Allison sits out the rest of the movie presumably knitting Michael a sweater.
Common sense on Michael’s part? Yes. Good storytelling on the screenwriter’s part? Not so much.
As far as the movie: Good movie? No. Entertaining, campy, 70s monster movie? Heck yes! Fellow cinematic masochists of the world watch this one, all others stay far, far away.
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