Year Of Release: 1976
Running Time: 91 minutes
DVD Released By: Media Blaster’s Shriek Show imprint
Directed By: William Girdler
Writing Credits: Harvey Flaxman & David Sheldon
Starring: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall
1. 18 feet of towering fury!
2. 18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!
3. Not since JAWS has the terror been like this!
4. 18 Feet of man-eating terror!
5. The most dangerous jaws on land!!!
Killer Grizzly (TV title)
Review Date: 11.26.06 (updated 1.1.10)
Shadow's Title: "Unbearable"
Michael Kelly – This guy is the head of the park’s contingent of rangers. Most of the time he is an amiable guy, getting along with everyone. It’s probably because he is just damn happy to be there, as he admits to taking the job after escaping a bad relationship.
Don Stober – Don here is a local who claims to have lived in the area all his life. In fact, there is a slight implication that he has some American Indian heritage in his background after he relates an utterly asinine story about Indians and Grizzly bears. Owns and runs a helicopter.
Arthur Scott – “Scotty” here is a naturalist, spending a great deal of his time out in the forest, hiding in the bushes, covered in furs and without a doubt reeking to high heaven of urine and excrement…all so he can track deer and other woodland creatures without them knowing.
Allison Corwin – Her father runs an inn that caters to the tourists and she returns to the area to snap photos for a book. I really have to wonder why she is even in this film, though. She really doesn’t do anything. I mean nothing. I guess the producers just wanted another broad in the film.
Charley Kittridge – The supervisor overseeing the national park where the Grizzly is on the rampage. This jackhole sees his position as a stepping stone to a cushy office job in Washington. When bodies start to pile up in bloody pieces, he refuses to do the prudent thing and close the park.
Ranger Gail – Similar to the rule in slasher films that require promiscuous people to be chopped and finely minced with garden tools, is the general principle in horror cinema that demands that the best looking, sexiest and hottest chick in the film meet an untimely end. That would be Gail here.
Ranger Tom – He and Ranger Gail seem to have the hots for each other, as they constantly toss one another flirtatious looks and try as hard as they can to get paired off when on duty. I’m thinking these two were spending more time screwing in the woods than doing their jobs.
The Grizzly – This here is the film’s title critter AKA ursus arctos horribilis. This is one ursine that is definitely interested in far more than just picnic baskets, and he proves that he is smarter than the average bear when he escapes Kelly and Don’s ingenious trap. Hey, Boo Boo!
Plot Hold your cursor over an image for
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First up we see Paramount studios’ mountain and stars logo, since they distributed this film. Then we get the Film Ventures International logo, and I’m gonna assume that this was the independent outfit responsible for actually making this movie. Finally we open on an outdoor scene, somewhere in the American Northwest (I'm guessing on that last part, as the film was shot in Georgia). We see a wide field ringed by tall evergreens and dotted with the occasional bush or smaller tree. The sky overhead is blue and devoid of any clouds. There are no strong winds to stir up trouble of any sort and the calm, relaxed sounds of birds going about their every day leisure activities can be heard. In other words, all is idyllic and peaceful. It seems the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life, especially the loud and ugly sounds of civilization. Indeed, I can almost feel a nap coming on…
BOOM!!! With a sudden jolt, a helicopter comes roaring onscreen, racing through the air just feet above the ground and threading its way between the tall trees. There goes the neighborhood! Alas, there also goes the peace and quiet. Hell, that helicopter came roaring onscreen so unexpectedly as well as so loudly, that I nearly dropped my soda! Denizens of the forest realm are no doubt pissed that good old Homo Sapiens has once again invaded their turf, dropping trash and property values as they go.
Piloting the helicopter is Don Stober, who is playing aerial chauffeur for a couple of senators. He’s espousing his opinion that urban sprawl and “civilization” are beginning to encroach too much on the wilderness below, and that the government ought to step in and do something. After he has covered all the talking points on his environmentalist memo, we get another exterior shot of the chopper and the music swells as the credits begin to unfold. While the cast and crew names appear on screen, we are treated to numerous beautiful shots of the landscape from the helicopter in addition to some that feature the vehicle in the foreground. Aside from a mildly ominous tone when the film’s title appears, the music during this entire sequence makes me think I may have accidentally tuned in to an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. Oh, by the way...those senators play no part in this film and will not be seen nor heard from again.
After a few minutes of the aerial footage, we finally come down to Earth and see a hideous station wagon (of the hideous 70’s variety and in those hideous 70’s colors) that appears to be driven by a female forest ranger. Next we see the Indian Springs Trading Post, where business appears to be booming. I mean it! The crowds of people milling around, checking out the merchandise, taking photos and preparing to enter the nearby entrance to the National Park must number somewhere around fifty thousand. Ok, that is an exaggeration and I will admit it, but there still seems to be an unusually large amount of people in the area. I’d almost think that someone was giving away free bongs to the first five hundred campers. Either that or the Green Party is holding a rally nearby. Perhaps it’s both! Oh, nevermind. That hideous station wagon eventually makes its way into the park, down a road and to the Ranger Station, remarkably without the female driver hitting anything. She parks, jumps out and then runs over to a small group of assembled people. Ranger Michael Kelly looks at her and jokes about her tardiness, but she says that she wouldn’t miss one of his briefings for the world. Why is that? Does he pass out beer and smokes or something?
Launching into his briefing, Kelly talks about how this is the biggest post-season crowd the park has ever seen. With the skeleton crew they have, the Rangers just will not be able to keep track of the high number of backpackers in the park (I told you there seemed to be an unusually large amount of people in town!). Kelly tells them that they will just have to try and that everyone is expected to go out on patrol. With that he dismisses everyone, saying that as they all know where they need to go, they should get to it. Uh…what was so special about that briefing? He didn’t tell any jokes, pass out smokes or provide munchies! As everyone disperses, Ranger Gail (the one who was driving the hideous car) approaches Kelly and apologizes for being late. Then Ranger Tom saunters over and informs Kelly that he is heading up to “R4.” Gail suggests that she accompany Tom, as it is “really loaded up there.” Loaded with what? Campers? Hikers? Tree-hugging hippies? What?! Tom admits that he could use the help, but Kelly smirks and says that since some dork named Hayes has called in sick, he is going to need Gail to hold down the fort at the station. Continuing to smirk because he is on to their game, Kelly walks away. Tom looks at Gail and says, “we tried.” They make plans to meet up for dinner and then head in different directions. Before we go any further, something tells me that these two particular Rangers have been making excuses to work with one another solely for the opportunity to engage in a few rounds of bumpin’ fuzzies.
We now head over to some type of restaurant, inn or lodge where an older guy is busy ordering around a couple of the young female employees. As he puts it, the season may be over, but that is no reason to let up. Sheesh, what a slave driver! He pauses long enough to light up a pipe. A pipe! Now I know he’s an asshole, as only pretentious assholes smoke pipes! As he’s toking away like the contents of his pipe may be something other than tobacco, a young woman with a hideous haircut walks up. Did you notice how I used the word hideous again? I have a feeling that word is going to be popping up a lot in this review. There is just no better word for me to use when it comes to describing the decade’s aesthetics. I may have lived during that time, but good god the styles for everything in the 1970’s were just so craptacular. I’m even embarrassed to look at old photos of myself and the nightmare that I called a head of hair. I won’t even mention the downright ghastly colors my shirts and pants were. It’s a wonder I made it through the decade without requiring therapy. Hmmm? Oh, yes…the movie….
So Miss Hideous Hair walks up to Mister Bossy (known from this point on as Allison and Walter Corwin, respectively) whom she calls dad, and shows him a bunch of papers. He asks what they are and she replies that she believes that they are unpaid bills. He says he must have misplaced them and promises to get on them as soon as possible. Then she brings up the wine list and gets on his case for charging too little in comparison for what he is paying. What a nag (and just like a broad to have her knickers in a twist over money)! He accuses of her trying to run his business and she tries to deny it, but then smiles in admission. Then she wipes at his coat lapels, as if brushing away crumbs and states that every man needs a helping hand. Could she get any more condescending? Her little gesture, coupled with how she says it, makes it appear as if she expects every male on the planet to starve if a woman wasn’t there to cook his meals. Ok…that was a bad example. Maybe she thinks that without a lady in the house, men would just keep wearing the same old clothes day in a day ou…nope, that one doesn’t work either. You know what I mean! Mr. Corwin has evidently had enough and gently reminds her that she came to the area to shoot pictures and not check in on her father’s business. She informs him that she is progressing nicely, and that she only has thirty or forty more pictures to go. She even convinced her publisher to wait. I guess that means all those photos are for a book.
As she is blathering on, Ranger Kelly enters and calls out her name. He suggests that she write a “how to” book, in particular, one entitled How to Avoid Responsibility. This reminds her that she was supposed to meet him and has completely forgotten about it. No, she was too busy trying to boss her father around. Kelly takes her by the arm and leads her out, Mr. Corwin smiling behind them. Outside, we are then treated to a boring ass conversation, where Kelly accuses her of being spoiled and irresponsible, and she claims that she is that way because her father needs her. Kelly doesn’t buy it and thinks that her dad can get by just fine on his own. He adds that she should worry less about her old man and more about herself. She assures him that has always been able to “get it together.” The funny thing about this entire exchange is how civil they are toward one another despite the nature of the conversation. Hell, they are even smiling as they speak. Around my house growing up, verbal interludes like that were routinely accompanied by yelling, screaming, hair pulling, fist-pounding, door-slamming, foot-stomping, object-throwing and ultimatums being bandied about. And that was just arguing over control of the TV! You don’t even want to know how things went when it got bad.
I know what you’re thinking right about now. You’re thinking, “Wait! Isn’t this movie supposed to be about a killer Grizzly bear and not Georgia-possibly-Pacific Northwest morons with bad hair?” Well, you would be right, and despite dragging its ass in doing so, the movie has finally reached the point were the title creature is going to put in an appearance quite soon. Thus we dissolve away from those two morons and focus on two new morons out in the woods. These two both happen to be women and they are returning to their campsite after a long hike – “at least ten miles” according to one of them. The strange thing is, neither of them appears to be outfitted for a long hike. Neither is carrying anything on them – no canteens of water, no backpack with food, no tools or emergency supplies of any kind. This only confirms that they are idiots. Who goes for a ten mile (at least) hike with only the clothes they are wearing?! Geez, I am not the world’s most experienced outdoorsman by any stretch of the imagination, but even I would not undertake such a task without carrying along a few essentials like water, food and a some basic tools. At least these two morons had the good sense to actually wear boots rather than stomping through the forest in their sneakers…though from what I can see of their camping skills, I wouldn’t put such behavior past them.
So Dumb and Dumber march into their campsite, where one eases to the ground and voices aloud the need to remove her boots. Now there is one of nature’s smells I don’t need to experience. Too bad she didn’t feel the need to remove her shirt. This movie could use some gratuitous bare boobies right about now (and we’re only nine minutes in). The other broad drops to her knees and tends the burning fire. WHAT?! A burning fire? Where the hell did that come from? These two have been gone for the better part of the day on their ten mile (at least) hike. Any fire they left burning when they set out should have gone out hours ago. Yet here it is, still burning. And it’s not even a big fire! Just a handful of small pieces of wood no bigger than one’s arm. Don’t even get me started on the sheer irresponsibility of leaving a fire burning unattended for hours in the woods. It’s a miracle that they didn’t burn down half the forest. Either someone has stopped by on a regular basis to stoke the fire as well as prevent it from spreading, or those logs are from one the fabled Duraflame variety of tree. Of course, it is entirely plausible that both women are somehow related to Barry Allen or Wally West. If so, then they probably just left the campsite about two minutes ago to embark on their hike. Given that one is wearing a pink shirt while the other sports a red one, I will refer to them as Pink and Red.
As the two sit there conversing, the snap of a twig can be heard beyond the nearby trees. The music takes an ominous turn as they take note of the sound and one of them firmly proclaims that “there is something out there.” Well, duh. We focus on the trees and suddenly there emerges…Ranger Tom on horseback. He tells them to not take any risks in this “tricky area” and asks when they plan on leaving. They tell him as soon as they eat they’re gonna head out. He now reminds them to check in with the ranger station on their way out of the area. They assure him they will be gone before it gets dark, then Ranger Tom turns and leaves. The way the two smile at him, you’d think they’d been out in the wilderness for months and he was the first man they’d seen in a long time.
Now we see a wide shot of the countryside. As the camera slowly begins to zoom in on the trees, the sounds of various forest creatures can be heard in the background. Then the view switches to a POV shot of something moving through the trees. Something that is breathing quite heavily. Something BIG…and it ain’t Hurley from Lost. Let’s face it, we all know it’s a bear. Soon, the voices of the two female campers can be heard, so the POV begins moving in that direction. Let me point out that the POV shots make it appear that whatever is moving about in the woods, its gaze seems to be at about the same height as an average human’s.
Returning to Pink and Red, we see them both sitting by the fire, having completed their meal. They decide to start packing things up, but Pink announces her need to go take a crap and walks off into the trees after retrieving a roll of toilet paper from a pack, leaving Red on her own. This is where you can insert your own bear/woods/shit joke. Some more POV shots follow and we soon see that the bear has come upon the campsite. Sadly for Red, she is turned away from the newcomer. The POV shot suddenly raises as if the bear has now stood up on its hind legs. Going by the new angle at which the animal is looking at Red, we must conclude that the bear is indeed the eighteen feet in height the ads proclaimed it to be.
The bear drops back to all fours (at least, according to the POV it does) and walks into camp. Red is so busy, she doesn’t notice the bear at first, but then she hears a sound. She calls out to her friend but of course there is no answer. She turns around just as the bear walks up to her and the next thing we know, a real cheesy-looking fake paw swings through the air. Instantly Red’s severed arm flies through the air to land in a bloody heap. Another swipe of the fake paw and Red is divested of her other arm (really, it’s just a flesh wound). Not too far away, Miss Pink hears all the commotion and comes running. I’m guessing she didn’t get the chance to pinch one off, as her pants are pulled up and she is not running awkwardly. Back in camp, I’m not sure what is going on. We see a close-up of Red’s face as she writhes and screams, but it appears that she is moving, as a tree in the background is quite obviously getting larger and closer. I’m not sure if the bear has grabbed her and is running with her, or the camera is just following Red as she flies through the air. Whatever the case, there is one final swipe of the fake paw and we see Red’s dead form hanging from a tree, her face torn open. Again, I’m not sure what has transpired here. Did the bear lift her up and place her in the tree, or did that last blow from the fake paw knock her ass up into the tree?
Pink how arrives on the disarming scene (groan), and seeing her pal in several pieces and a seriously pissed off bear nearby, she bolts. Not that we see the bear at this point. It still has been represented on screen solely by that fake-ass paw. However, I now think I have figured out why the bear is in a murderous rage. These two broads almost burned down the forest with their unattended fire. This particular ursine is part of Smokey the Bear’s Fire Brigade! At least, part of a vigilante group that has broken away from that organization and condones the use of violence when dealing with possible arsonists. Anyway, Pink now begins to haul ass…and promptly falls flat on her face after three whole steps. She picks herself up and continues to run. Several shots of her barreling through the trees now ensue, until she reaches an old shack in a small clearing. Barely pausing (or is that bearly?), she heads on in and slams the door behind her. Breathing heavily from her run, she tries to catch her breath, but a sudden roar and a fake paw bursting through the wooden panels of the shack's walls puts an end to that. We see that paw take another swipe at the shack and I could swear that over half of the tiny building collapsed. Pink tries to cower in the corner but it appears that the collapse has made it possible for the bear to squeeze inside enough to take another swing at her. This third swipe connects and we get a slow motion shot of her head recoiling from the blow with her final scream echoing on and on and on. Even after we see an exterior shot of the outdoors, that scream can be heard reverberating across the landscape.
Now we return to Ranger Kelly and Allison. They’re parked out somewhere in the woods. She’s walking around taking photos while he drags on a cigarette. Please, god in heaven tell me that these two didn’t just finish the horizontal mambo. There is some inane banter between these two that is best forgotten. Then a green truck pulls up with Ranger Tom in it. Evidently he’s upgraded his horse. Kelly asks where he is going and Tom answers that he is heading back up to “R4.” He explains that they have some missing girls that told him earlier that they’d be down before dark, but they have yet to arrive. Kelly notes that it will soon be dark and asks Allison if she wants to go up to R4 with Tom. She says yes, so they decide to follow Tom up to the area in question.
They arrive near an old shack, which I am assuming is the same shack in which Miss Pink tried to hide earlier (quite futilely if I may add). Tom informs Kelly that the girls had been camped in the trees about a hundred to a hundred fifty yards past the dilapidated structure, and the head ranger decides they should all walk in and check things out. The three begin stomping into the woods, but Kelly calls a halt and says that he wants to investigate the shack before going any further. He walks up to the front door and tries to open it, but it is locked. Pushing and leaning on it doesn’t help, either (odd, cuz as we all know, when a lock fails to release, applying pressure always does the trick). Next he walks around the side and notices that one entire wall is pretty much gone. Indeed, remembering the flying debris depicted just a couple minutes ago when the bear busted into the place and I am surprised any of it is still standing. He enters the interior and is looking around when an object suddenly falls from the ceiling to land at his feet: the bloody corpse of Miss Pink. I want to know what she was hanging from? Better yet, how did she get up there? Did the bear carefully place her in the rafters before exiting the premises in an attempt at covering its tracks?
The next thing we know it is dark and the woods are crawling with rangers armed with flashlights and conducting a search for the other missing camper. At the campsite, Allison is using her skill with a camera to take photos and help document the scene. Strangely enough, the campfire is still burning. Was it burning all this time, or did the searchers get it going again in order to heat up coffee for themselves? No one has found anything that points to the whereabouts of the missing girl and Kelly says that in all likelihood, they are not looking for a full body. I’m beginning to think this bear has had training in crime scene investigation! Not only has it removed Miss Red’s body, but it even went to the effort to collect the severed arms and dispose of them, too! A couple more rangers appear on the scene and after briefing them on the “killer bear” now loose in the area, Kelly sends them out to look for it.
Allison meanwhile, has been snapping more pictures than a tourist at Disneyland and has moved into the trees somewhat in order to capture a different angle of the campsite. Walking around in the dark, she trips over a fallen tree branch and when she puts her hand out in front of her to brace her fall, it lands in something red and squishy…and it ain’t strawberry jam. There in front of her, half buried in the soil, are the remains of Miss Red. Allison lets out a horrified shriek and then things go black…though we can still hear her annoying scream.
We now cut to the coroner’s lab where the body has just been examined. The coroner confirms to Kelly that “it was a big one all right.” He then espouses his theory to the ranger that the dead girls came across a bear cub and got too close, thus incurring the wrath of Mama Bear. Remarkably, unlike every other coroner in filmdom, this one is not eating a sandwich or some other snack while voicing this idea. Kelly says that they found no sign of a cub at the campsite and wonders why the bear has come down from the high country. The coroner puts forth the notion that the bear came down for food, as one of the dead girls was partially eaten and then buried for further munching at a later date. Kelly is not too sure of this idea, as the high country should have enough food for all the bears, giving them no reason to come down into the lower areas.
Charley Kittridge, The National Park Supervisor, comes marching up about now, inflamed because he wasn’t informed of the situation and that he had to hear of it on the radio. There is no love lost between Kelly and Kittridge, the latter grilling the former on what he plans to do about the situation. Kelly says that he has rangers out combing the countryside looking for the animal and has put “R3” and “R4” off limits to campers. Since ultimate responsibility will fall on Kittridge, he is feeling a wee bit nervous and suggests that rather than it being a case of a bear coming down from the high country where the rangers had them tagged and moved, Kelly and his team just failed to move all the bears. Kelly is angered by the suggestion and says that Arthur Scott knows every bear in the region and there is just no way he could have missed one. Kittridge wants to talk to Scott ASAP. There are some more tense exchanges between the two and then Kelly leaves.
Now we see campers hauling ass through the woods. We hear a radio report that informs us (and presumably all these campers as well) about the bear attack, ordering everyone out of the area and cautioning people not to enter the high country. It’s funny, because we get several shots of people fleeing the woods, and not just one or two at a time, but in large groups as if the forest was literally infested with campers. Seriously, it’s like someone just announced a free TV giveaway at the ranger station for the first one hundred campers and the entire state of Washington just came pouring out of the woods. Even funnier is the fact that these people are running as fast as they can. Do they think the bear is armed with explosives and has rigged the entire park to explode? They act as if any minute the forest could go up in fiery detonation of trees, wildlife, hot dog buns and people!
At his office, Kelly is trying to get in touch with Arthur Scott. He finds out that other man is in the field and the person at the other end of the phone is reluctant to connect Kelly to him. Kelly loses his cool and reads the guy the riot act, informing him that he’s got two young girls who have been “eaten to the bone” and that if the other guy doesn’t contact Scott on the field phone, he will be in the unemployment line. While he waits, Allison enters his office and takes a seat.
Now we cut to somewhere in the woods. A family of deer is foraging for food when a sudden beeping can be heard. The sound startles them and they bolt, much to the dismay of Arthur Scott, who was covertly observing them from the cover of some nearby bushes and whose field phone just went off, producing the offending sounds. He answers the call and begins yelling into it, mad that his work was disrupted. On the other end Kelly gives him the low down on the recent deaths, the fact that it was a bear doing the killings, and that Kittridge is holding both of them responsible. He tells Scott to get his “carcass” back down to the station.
After Kelly hangs up the phone, Allison asks him who Scott is. He explains that Scott is a naturalist and knows every bear in the forest “personally.” Allison remarks on how they (the rangers and naturalist Scott) must love their work. Kelly then launches into a speech about how it changes one’s priorities, his past schemes to get rich by hooking up with some wealthy broad and how he became a ranger. Allison thinks he is just blowing smoke up her ass with the story, but admits that she really doesn’t care. Good, because I doubt any one else cares, either! I certainly don’t. Do you? I didn’t think so.
We return to the great outdoors, where teams of rangers are walking through the forest and looking for the killer bear. One such team is comprised of Ranger Tom and Ranger Gail. They come upon a small waterfall and engage in a discussion on the possible whereabouts of the bear. They agree that the animal must be elsewhere. They also seem to be throwing each other big shit-eating grins, no doubt thinking about their secluded location and the possibilities of boom-boom in the woods. Tom suggests that Gail take a break while he goes to check out some ridge close by. She agrees and says that she is gonna soak her feet in the nearby stream.
Tom walks off and we instantly get some Bear-Cam shots of the animal moving through the woods. When we return to Gail, we see that she has undone her ponytail and let her hair fallen loose. She is making her way over the large rocks around the stream and more Bear-Cam informs us that the bear is watching her from up the hill. She approaches the waterfall and gets one of the best ideas this movie has had yet and starts to disrobe. Woo hoo! Fire up the video capture card, I think we’re gonna see us some boobies. WRONG. Skin is all we get as she only strips down to her panties and bra. Still, the scenery has improved considerably in my humble opinion. She makes her way across a log that spans the stream and follows the shoreline up towards the waterfall itself. Most of these shots of her moving about are Bear-Cam shots, accompanied by the sound of heavy breathing. Then again, for all we know, it could be some two-hundred pound voyeuristic geek out in the woods who is watching her every move.
So Gail makes her way to a spot behind the waterfall, so that the water is actually between us and her, obscuring our view somewhat (damn, damn, damn, DAMN). As she enjoys the flowing water and cool mist produced by the falls, a large, shaggy, and quite obviously fake, bear paw grabs her. The strange thing is, from the angle of the paw, the bear must be standing behind her and must be laying on the damn ground, as the paw appears from the bottom portion of the screen. See the image to the left to see what I mean. The bear now roars and pulls the screaming Gail off screen. All we see to mark her sudden demise is the stream waters turning a bright red from all the blood.
Somebody please explain to me what gene it is that compels an attractive woman to divest herself of her clothes (or most of her clothes) and prance around in an area that she knows good and damn well is extremely dangerous? Is it that freakin’ hard to keep your clothes on when a monster/killer/crazed animal/alien could jump out at any time and rip your face off? What would even make a person think that “hey, I know there is a horrible threat lurking around here somewhere, but darn it all, now that I am alone and even more vulnerable I just feel the need to remove a few select garments and then indulge in a leisurely stroll away from any weapons or shelter” is an example of reasonable decision making? Worst of all, Gail was a Ranger. She should have been more aware of all the dangers than your average moron bumbling through the woods. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for attractive women getting nekkid, but don’t be so stupid as to do it when death could be hiding behind any tree.
At some bar or restaurant somewhere – it could be Walt Corwin’s place, but the décor doesn’t quite match to be positive – Kelly is smoking and drinking up a storm. I’m more amazed by the fact that he is smoking in a public place than anything. In our modern day and age, that’s damn near a crime punishable by death. Allison approaches and Kelly wonders when he will stop remembering. Remembering what? His lines? Her hideous hair style? The taste of his last meal? What? She says that it should take about twenty-five years and then uninvited, she takes a seat at his table. Kelly now says, “Poor Tom.” Allison asks, “he liked her, didn’t he?” Kelly just nods. This exchange finally tells us that this is taking place sometime after Gail’s death has been discovered and reported on. Maybe that is what he is trying to forget. He begins to feel like he isn’t doing enough in his job as head ranger and thinks that perhaps he isn’t cut out for this aspect of the job. Pitching tents, taking hikes and giving speeches to school kids…yes. Tracking down killer bears? No. She tries to assure him…I suppose. The truth is I tend to tune her out a lot when she speaks. Kelly wonders where Scott is and more pointless dialog is exchanged.
Next up, it seems to be early morning and a helicopter is lifting off. Inside are pilot Don Stober, who we haven’t seen since the film’s prologue, and Kelly. It should be noted that Don is wearing the exact same shirt and denim jacket that he had on during the prologue, despite at least two days having passed since then. Either he has washed it and is wearing it again, didn’t wash it and is wearing it again or worst of all…is still wearing it after all this time. The cockpit must reek if that is the case. Kelly thanks Don for helping in the search for the bear. They fly out over the forest and Kelly uses a pair of binoculars to look for the animal while Don flies as low as the winds will allow. Don inquires into the bear’s patterns, which somehow brings up the topic of women. Before this can get too far, Kelly thinks he spots something on the ground and has Don take the chopper down. They circle what appears to be a large brown animal moving across a clearing. Don lands the helicopter nearby and Kelly jumps out with his rifle. He aims at the bear but before he can fire the animal tells him to stop. It turns out it is just Scott, wearing some animal skins in his attempt at tracking the bear. Kelly is annoyed that Scott is up here rather than down at camp, where Kittridge is having a coronary over the situation.
Scott tells him that the bear is not one of the native bears they moved to the high country. Don exits the chopper and asks Scotty what he would have done if he had run into “that big brown.” At this Scott informs the other two men that the killer bear is not a brown, but a Grizzly. The others don’t buy it, as all the Grizzlies in the area were killed off years back, but Scott is adamant that the bear doing the killing is indeed a Grizzly…perhaps one that escaped the great Grizzly purge. Despite the average Grizzly being about seven feet tall, Scott says that this one is at least fifteen. Going by the depth of its paw prints, the beast weighs over two thousand pounds. Scott expounds on his findings a bit more and then they all pile into the chopper and leave.
Let’s pause for a moment. Brown bears are the most widespread bear species on earth, spanning three continents. There are several subspecies including the North American Grizzly, the Alaskan Kodiak and Eurasian Brown bears. What does this have to do with anything you may ask? Well, this movie was filmed in Georgia. Again, you may be thinking, “so what?” Well, take a look at the world map. The red areas denote regions where brown bears live. Um…do you see Georgia anywhere near those red zones? No! My only guess is that the movie was filmed in Georgia but was set in the Northwest. Still, in my experience, the Northwest isn’t exactly overflowing with red and yellow-leafed trees.
Night has now fallen once again and we see a large group of campers gathered around their campfires…and when I say large, I mean dozens and dozens. It looks like the average KOA campground, only with about five times as many people in about a tenth of the space. One couple is sitting outside their tent, sharing a kiss. The woman rises, leaving the man with an absolute idiotic expression on his face. I swear the guy must have creamed his shorts just in anticipation of getting some action. He takes a swig from an ancient beer can while she disappears into the tent. Why isn’t he following? Any sane guy is wanting to get laid at this point but he is just sitting there? MORON.
Within the tent, the woman has changed into a nightgown and is now applying perfume. As she admires herself in a mirror, that same fake bear paw that we’ve now seen on two different occasions comes slicing through the top of the tent, accompanied by ursine roaring. The woman screams in horror and then we see her body being lifted up and out of frame by the unseen bear. What follows next is truly ridiculous. As the guy outside looks on in horror and screams, along with every other camper within five miles apparently, we see the woman being beaten back and forth between two trees. Obviously the bear has grabbed her and is doing the same thing we would do with a flopping fish in order to get it to stop twitching. Unfortunately, we cannot see the bear, just the woman suspended in the air. Seeing as how we can make out most of her body and legs, one must assume the bear is holding her by the feet and swinging her back and forth like a stick. Whether the bear is doing this with its jaws or its paws is unclear and open to speculation. What makes this scene so ridiculous is the fact that for some reason, the producers decided to run this footage upside down. Yes, you read that correctly. How can this be confirmed? By looking at the woman’s long blonde hair. As she is being bounced back and forth between those trees, her hair is sticking straight up. Not straight up from her head like Marge Simpson, but straight up in relation to the ground and the horizontal position her own body is in. After using her as a piñata stick, the bear drops her to the ground and then vanishes back into the woods, the screams of all the horrified campers echoing through the trees. Why the bear didn’t take the body with it is beyond me. Maybe it just wanted to send a message to all the campers.
Sometime later the authorities have arrived. The crowd is dispersed and Kelly tries to comfort the grieving husband/boyfriend/whatever of the dead woman. He guides him to the ambulance where the poor bastard will accompany the body to the hospital. When it leaves, Kittridge appears out of nowhere like Batman and begins grilling Kelly and Scott. He is pissed and is trying to blame everything on the other two men. Scott tries to warn him that they have a Grizzly on their hands, but Kittridge doesn’t believe it and calls him crazy. Scott just shakes his head and walks away. Turning to Kelly, Kittridge now tears into him, wanting him to catch the bear. Kelly wants Kittridge to bring in some men from Washington. Hold on a sec…which Washington, the city or the state? If the city, why does he think bringing in the Feds are gonna help? Either way, Kittridge doesn’t like the idea, as it will blow everything out of proportion. He thinks it is just a bear attracted by the smell of campers’ food, and should be easily caught. He tells Kelly to get the job done or he will.
Now we see about half a dozen vehicles traveling down a road. They turn off onto a dirt road and park. Much like clown cars at the circus, each vehicle now seems to disgorge about twenty people each, because in just seconds the area is teeming with men preparing to go bear hunting. Each sporting a rifle, they swarm into the woods like kids on an Easter egg hunt. We get several shots of this mob of morons as they stumble through trees, even passing a sign that says “no hunting” at one point. Whoever said a requisite for operating a rifle was literacy?
Not far off Kelly, Scott and Don are cruising around in a jeep and notice the sudden abundance of gun-wielding morons stomping through the forest. They quickly deduce that all these fools are out to bag themselves a bear. Scott remarks that they’re liable to shoot everything in sight, which Don thinks is a good idea, as they might actually manage to kill the Grizzly. Kelly however, is concerned about the safety of his rangers and turns the vehicle around.
One of those hunters is now seen making his way through the forest. Alone, he is wearing a bright orange hat and vest so that the other fools won’t shoot him by mistake. He finds a tree with claw marks on it, but they only appear to be about six or seven feet off the ground. I suppose the bear didn’t feel like standing when it made those. Some Bear-Cam now informs us that the Grizzly is not far away. We seen the hunter again and then…miracle of all miracles…we actually see a real live bear! No fake bear paws! Granted, all we see are the bear’s feet as it stalks the hunter, but it is still a real bear. Closer examination reveals the bear’s fur to be unmistakably black in color. That last factoid is important for later. Now we get a series of shots that alternate between the hunter, the bear’s feet and Bear-Cam. Too bad the terrain in the shots of the bear’s feet don’t match the rest. In those the animal seems to be walking on grass, while in the others a heavy carpet of dead leaves covers the ground.
The Bear-Cam suddenly rises up as the hunter walks by, letting us know that the Grizzly has now stood up on its hind legs. The hunter turns and looks in horror at…a brown bear. Yes, that is correct: the bear has magically changed its color. Again, the footage of the bear doesn’t match the Bear-Cam shots or the footage of the hunter. The surroundings are completely different between them. Plus, this bear does not appear to be anywhere near the fifteen feet in height that Scott claimed it to be. More like seven or eight. Startled, the hunter drops his rifle, but wastes no time in trying to recover it. Rather, he wisely employs the age-old self preservation technique known as “running like hell.” The bear launches itself after him and a tense chase ensues. Well, not all that tense. The hunter comes to steep ledge and rather than trying to carefully pick his way down, he just leaps out over the edge, grabs onto a nearby tree and slides down like a fireman. The we get close-ups of the bear’s black feet again. The sequence now goes something like this: hunter running through woods, bear feet in pursuit, hunter again, Bear-Cam and so on until the hunter races over another ledge and free falls into a stream. The water rushes him downstream and out of harm’s way.
Kelly, Scott and Don have now shown up to confront Kittridge. Kelly wants to know what all the hunters are “doing out there.” Kittridge says that he didn’t have a choice (I suppose this means that he invited them). Kelly is upset that there is bunch of drunken bums out stumbling through the woods and not professional hunters. Kittridge doesn’t care and he still refuses to entertain the idea that the bear is a Grizzly and not a more common Brown bear. Kelly brings up all the campers that are in the area, but Kittridge insists that they are in no danger as no one has been permitted into “R3” and “R4.” Kelly doesn’t want to underestimate the danger. There is more to the heated exchange, which ends when Kelly vows to handle things his way. He stomps out with Scott and Don following. Outside they encounter Ranger Tom. He informs the trio that a hunter ran into the Grizzly but managed to get away with his life. Kelly joins Tom and has Scott take Don somewhere to “pick up his stuff.” It seems a cunning plan may be afoot.
Um…why not close the park? The season is over after all, as several people mention numerous times throughout the film. The crowds are unusually big for this time of year, but surely they in no way approach what the numbers would be during the peak of the tourist season. Why not go ahead and close the park for a few days until the Grizzly was caught and killed? Were those campers bringing in that much money that closing the place would have produced a significant drop in income? Was the local economy that dependent on the sales of beer, ammo and beef jerky?
Night has now fallen and there seems to be an increased amount of activity at the ranger station. Allison drives up and Kelly says he is glad that she dropped by, but the gang is about ready to head out. She insists on coming with them. In the usual sexist manner, he suggests that she couldn’t handle it, but quickly admits that he doesn’t want to see her hurt. They argue some more about, but he wins and she stays.
Somewhere out in the woods we see three hunters snoozing around a campfire in their sleeping bags. Next comes some Bear-Cam, and then an actual close-up of a bear’s face! The bear enters camp and I suddenly got a flashback to a similar scene that occurred a few years later in Prophecy. I haven’t unearthed that one at the Graveyard yet, but you can check out the clip in question by going to Andrew Borntreger’s review here. Anyway, one of the hunters awakens and screams in horror when confronted with…a bear cub. The others then awake and laugh at him. They collectively reckon that the cub belongs to the bear they are hunting, so one suggests getting rid of it by putting back in the woods. However, one of the Einsteins gets the notion to use the cub as bait. They’ll find a spot a ways from camp, tie the cub to a tree, wait for mama bear to come along and then POW. The others nod in agreement at this plan. Soon enough the bear cub is tethered to a tree while the three stooges wait at their campfire. More Bear-Cam reveals the true Grizzly approaching the cub. The hunters think they hear something as the Grizzly zeroes in on the cub and SQUISH.
Sometime later we see Kelly interrogating the three stooges at their campsite and asking who had the idiotic idea to use the live cub as bait. One of them admits to the idea and the three confess that they didn’t hear much of anything. Scott now reveals that the Grizzly is a he, as only the males are cannibalistic, turning on and eating cubs when hungry enough. Kelly wants to know if this helps them any and Scott says yes, as the Grizzly will no doubt retrace his steps and return to this area. Kelly surmises that the bear could still be around, to which Scott replies, “He could be listening to us right now.” No doubt jotting down notes on who to eat first, if that is the case.
Kelly wants to flush the bear out, now that they know its general location. The three stooges volunteer to help so Kelly has them head up to some place called Pinto Pass. Meanwhile he and the others are gonna hold the line below. Don suggests the three stooges make a lot of noise when descending, so as to drive the grizzly into the waiting arms…and guns, of the rangers. Kelly tells them to be ready to go at daybreak and the three head off. Kelly then tells Ranger Tom that he will not be accompanying the rest of the rangers, so Tom now questions why he cannot be a part of Operation: Bear Claw (I just made that up, they didn’t really call it that in the film). Kelly tells him that he is needed at Arrow Tower. Tom isn’t happy about the situation, but Kelly says that in the tower he has a good chance of spotting the bear and maybe even having a crack at it.
Kelly, Scott, Don and the rest of the rangers now take up their positions. Scott wants the first shot at the bear but Kelly cannot guarantee that. Scott has developed a new tranquilizer and wants to kill the creature rather than capture it. Don teases him and says that Scott is more likely to end up as breakfast than anything. Scott says that since the bear just ate, it is unlikely to be hungry again anytime soon. Don thinks that now that it has sampled human flesh, it will only crave more. To back up his theory he relates a story about some Indians who once inhabited the area and an encounter they had with a herd of man-eating Grizzly bears. I never realized that bears traveled in herds. I always thought they were more solitary animals. Color me wrong. Anyway Scott doesn’t believe the story and says that he ought to have first crack at the bear, especially since he knows bears and can look and smell like one when necessary (so can I if I don't bathe or shave for a month). Don mocks him for this, calling into question Scott’s mother of all things. Insults are traded back and forth but before they start throwing punches, Kelly intervenes and says that Scott can have first shot at the bear, but he isn’t to go out in the woods alone.
Morning arrives and we see Ranger Tom atop Arrow tower, which seems to be nothing more than a simple lookout tower positioned on one of the taller hills in the area. He’s gazing through some binoculars, do doubt trying to locate the Grizzly or some skinny-dipping coeds. He walks to the other side of the tower’s lookout deck and spies a large group of hunters charging through the woods. It’s funny, because this footage looks exactly like the initial footage we saw of hunters running through the trees, only now it has been overlayed with the shape of binocular lenses. Bear-Cam now reveals that the Grizzly is slowly making its way up the hill toward the tower. Right about now Tom gets a call from Kelly, asking if he has seen anything, but all he has to report is the group of hunters “tearing up the place.”
Suddenly, the Grizzly rears up on its hind legs, roars and makes a gesture with its front legs that looks like it is trying to clap. Just take note: the bear is quite brown here and nowhere near fifteen feet in height. Tom looks down and sees the bear at the base of the tower. The animal is pushing on the structure with its front legs and wood can be heard snapping. Tom freaks out and calls for help on the radio. Kelly and Don are soon hauling ass toward the tower. Meanwhile the whole thing is shaking and rocking back and forth under the bear’s assault. Tom grabs his rifle and manages to get off a couple of shots at the Grizzly, but nothing seems to harm it. The animal continues to push on the tower until a support snaps and the entire thing comes crashing to the ground, bringing Tom with it...well, a phony-looking dummy that is supposed to be him. When Kelly, Don and a couple of rangers arrive a short time later, all they find is a pile of rubble and a dead Ranger Tom. Kelly takes a moment to stare into the distance and reflect on things.
Why did the Grizzly go to the trouble to knock over the lookout tower, killing Tom in the process, and not take away the body for food? Was it just pissed off that the lookout tower was there and considered it an eyesore, thus requiring its destruction? Was this the first step in some type of woodland renewal project where the forest creatures took back what was theirs? Perhaps killing Tom was supposed to represent a message of some kind that the bear was sending to the rangers – “you send your boys (the hunters) after me, I’m gonna whack one of your guys.”
At some point later, a TV crew is interviewing locals and campers on the situation. Inside Kittridge’s office nearby, the National Park Supervisor is trying to offer words of support to Kelly on Tom’s death. Kelly says that he has a plan (a cunning one?) but he needs time and men. He shows Kittridge a map of the area with pins denoting where kills have been made by the bear. Kelly wants to follow the perceived pattern and get ahead of the bear. He mentions that the bear seems to know what they’re thinking. Kittridge just scoffs at that notion and reminds Kelly that the Grizzly is just an animal. From a previously unseen seat close by, Scott now launches into his own speech about how intelligent Grizzlies truly are, but Kelly just gets on his case for eating a sandwich (I wonder if he got it from the coroner) and has him take it outside.
Kelly now turns to Kittridge and asks him to close the park and give him another crack at the bear. Kittridge feels that there is no need to close the park and refuses to do so. Kelly now likens the whole affair to a circus, especially since the arrival of the media. Kittridge admits that he was the one who invited all the reporters and when Kelly asks him why, he says it is because he wanted everyone to see the “clean, thorough job” that he feels they (the park staff) are capable of doing. Kelly looses his cool now and brings up the deaths that have already occurred. He accuses Kittridge of not caring one bit whether the bear is stopped, but of being more concerned with his image in the press, hoping to utilize his public image as a stepping stone to a cushy job in Washington. Kittridge tries to throw him out, but Kelly refuses to budge, promising to expose him for who he is and end his career. At this point Kittridge dismisses him from his job, but Kelly just replies with an “up yours” before exiting.
Another night has now fallen and in the Forest Rangers’ HQ, Kelly has proceeded to get himself good and drunk while Scott watches. Kelly seems to have given up, but Scott is still intent on stopping the Grizzly. There is some slight arguing between the two, which ends when Scott leaves.
A new day has dawned (I swear, at least two weeks have passed within this movie) and we see a home where a young blonde boy is playing with a rabbit in the back yard. A woman comes out onto the porch and exhorts “Robert” to stay close. As she heads on inside, Bear-Cam reveals that the Grizzly is spying on the place from up the hill. We then get a close-up of the bear’s brown-furred face as it moves through the trees. Then a close-up of its feet reveals that they are now black. The bear moves closer to the boy as he plays with his rabbit. The bunny hops away under the fence and the boy opens the gate and leaves the yard in order to retrieve his pet. The music rises ominously as he moves off screen, but the boy safely returns to the yard seconds later with the rabbit. Unfortunately, he left the gate open, which has allowed the Grizzly to enter the yard without having to expend the effort in knocking over the fence.
Following its usual pattern, the bear rears up on its hind legs and let loose with a roar that could wake the dead. Somehow this alerts the boy’s mother, who is inside the house, to the bear’s presence faster than it does for Bobby himself. I think little Bobby is supposed to be hard of hearing, since earlier his mother had to call to him more than once in order to get a response. Either that or he has that “selective hearing syndrome” that so many children have, where they only hear what they want to hear unless you repeat it about five million times or what you are saying involves toys and/or candy. Anyway, the mother screams, little Bobby looks up, sees the bear and screams while the Grizzly continues to roar. All in all, some real noise pollution. We get some shots of a real bear on its hind legs as it waves its front legs around and makes mean faces (note that I said faces and not feces, though the latter would be quite mean, too). Then a man in a bear suit reaches down and picks up the screaming Bobby, who punches and kicks at his pseudo-ursine assailant and begins calling for his “mommy” – no doubt because she has warned him about the weird things men in animal costumes do to young children.
Mommy comes rushing out of the house, armed for mortal combat with…a broom. That had better be a +5 Broom of Hammer Blows or something, as it ain’t gonna do a lick of good if it isn’t. Mom races over to the bear, which is busy giving little Bobby an eponymous Bear Hug, and begins hitting the large animal like she was engaged in a game of whack-a-mole. Several shots of the Mother vs. Bear fight ensue, some of which feature a real bear while others showcase that moron in a bear suit. Finally, the Grizzly lets go of little Bobby, who falls to the ground covered in blood and with his left leg missing below the knee. Violence towards children! Something you just don’t see much of anymore in today’s politically correct world gone mad. Mom gazes over at Bobby’s mangled form in horror and we notice that somehow she has lost her broom…not that it was doing any good. The man in a bear suit now moves in to give her the old Bear Hug maneuver while she tries to fend off the creature with her fists. No such luck. Mom is soon lifted off the ground and given a fatal dose of the squish treatment.
Now we jump ahead in time to that night, where a sizable crowd has gathered outside the local doctor’s office/clinic, despite a constant rain. Kelly walks out and confronts Kittridge, who is much more agreeable now to the idea of closing the park and having the press removed. One reporter isn’t happy and tries that “people have a right to know” crap (this guy is played by one of the film’s writers), but Kelly shuts him up and says that he should already have a story – one about greed and wanting to go to Washington. Obviously he is referring to Kittridge, but the park supervisor doesn’t say anything in his own defense. I guess the SOB knows just how culpable he is in recent events. Kelly chews out the reporter for hyping the situation and reveals that the blonde-haired kid Bobby is still alive, but he needs to be moved to the city hospital in order to ensure that he stays that way. Within seconds little Bobby is brought out on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance, his missing leg obvious for all to see. The ambulance roars away and Kelly hops into his own vehicle, a determined look on his face.
Um…how did Bobby survive? Sure, his mom comes running up wielding The Broom of Death and manages to convince the bear to drop her son and turn its attention towards her, but after squishing mom to death, why didn’t it finish off Bobby? It’s not like the kid was going anywhere with a leg missing and all. He was probably still laying just a few feet away, writhing around in a pool of blood and rending the air with his high-pitched shrieking. Hell, the bear should have walked over and stomped him just to shut him up. It’s a freakin’ miracle the kid survived. Earlier in the film we saw the Grizzly chase down one woman and then knock down half a cabin to get to her. Later we witnessed it chase a hunter through the forest for quite some ways. Now it won’t even take two or three steps to kill an utterly defenseless prey?! At least that little white bunny has a reason for escaping brutal death – it could run away! Bobby had no way to get away, thus we must conclude that the Grizzly wasn’t all that hungry. Either that, or after ripping Bobby’s leg off and sampling it, it didn’t like the way he tasted.
One more thing, how did anyone even know that the attack on Bobby had occurred? Again, it’s not like Bobby was in any shape to jump up and hop, pogo stick style, down the road to the closest neighbor’s house. Given the rural setting, the closest house could have been a mile away. Maybe he got up and hopped into the house and used the phone? Since this was long before the 911 system was in such wide use, utilizing the phone to call for help would have most likely involved dialing (actual dialing, too as most phones back then were rotary) at least seven numbers – all while dripping his precious life’s blood all over the carpets. Would he know the correct number to call? Would it have been posted near the phone? Could the little bastard even read the number? Somehow help arrived before the kid bled to death, but how that help knew to even come is still a mystery. Okay, moving on…
It is now another day, and we see the hanger where Don Stober keeps his helicopter. He and Kelly are loading it up with weapons and supplies, no doubt planning on another bear-hunting excursion. They even throw in a bazooka and a flamethrower! What do they think they are heading up against…a Predator? Don is blathering on about his experiences in Vietnam and how he doesn’t kill anything anymore, not even flies. Kelly apologizes for putting him a situation where he may have to kill, but Don admits that he is doing this by choice. Then he inquires into Scott’s whereabouts, to which Kelly informs him that the naturalist has gone off on his own to track down the Grizzly.
Cutting to the wilderness, we see Scott on horseback. He pauses and looks overhead, seeing Don’s helicopter fly by before continuing on his own way. In the chopper Don and Kelly are discussing the Grizzly’s traveling patterns, hoping to locate the critter. Below, the bear in question can be seen standing and roaring at the aircraft as it whizzes by, as if it can sense the ill intent of it’s occupants. Then we get a few shots of the Grizzly as it walks through the woods.
In a wide-open field, Don and Kelly have landed and are unloading a dead buck from the rear seat of the helicopter. Tell me that didn’t stink the place up something fierce! Don tries to hand Kelly a rifle but the head Ranger claims to already have a weapon. Don points out that Kelly’s rifle isn’t going to do the job and relates the advantages of the other gun before swapping it with Kelly’s own. Don now retrieves a rope from the helicopter and ties it around the Buck’s antlers. He begins dragging it toward a tree and we see that the dead animal has a huge slit down its body, no doubt from where it has been gutted. Now I am positive that that thing must have stunk up the helicopter. We cut away quickly to the Grizzly wandering around and then back to Don and Kelly as they hang the dead buck from a tree. Don then heads back to the chopper for their gear while Kelly begins working on their blind.
This is where the bear’s color-changing abilities go into overdrive. We get several shots of black bear feet, but spliced in along with the requisite Bear-Cam, are shots of a brown bear walking. Back and forth the colors go and I have to wonder how stupid the producers thought their audience was going to be, if they did not expect anyone to notice these glaring continuity issues. The ground and terrain between the two sets of shots are different as well. What, did the brown bear have it in its contract that they’d never film its feet? So the Grizzly sees the dead buck hanging from a tree and if sensing a trap, pauses before approaching. Somewhere close by, Kelly has failed to notice the bear’s approach, so clicks the safety on his rifle. The sound alerts the bear, which takes off running. Kelly screams for Don and soon the two dorks are chasing the Grizzly. Lots more brown bear/black bear alternating shots follow as we see all three of them run pell mell through the trees. Eventually the Grizzly outdistances the two men and makes its escape. Kelly and Don, tired from all that running, turn and slowly begin to make their way back to the helicopter.
Turning now to Scott on his horse, we see him making his way through some trees. Then we cut back to Kelly and Don, who have returned to where they had hoped to bag the Grizzly, only to discover that the animal has circled back on them and run off with the dead buck. Disheartened, they figure it’s too late in the day to track the beast, so they head back to the helicopter to sleep.
Soon it is dark, but Scott is still wandering around on his horse. Eventually he comes across signs that the Grizzly has passed through the area. So what does he do? Why, he tethers his horse to a tree, rolls out his sleeping bag, climbs in and gets his rifle ready. Then he settles in to sleep! Isn’t he worried that the Grizzly is going to return and find him snoozing? Evidently not! Now we cut back again to Kelly and Don. They’ve set up their own campsite and fire near the helicopter, where Kelly will be taking the first watch. He stays next to the fire while Don goes and curls up several yards away by the helicopter. Wouldn’t staying by the fire be a more prudent move to make? The bear could easily use the chopper to conceal its approach, grab Don and be gone before Kelly knew what happened. I suppose they didn’t think of that…or just didn’t care.
Another morning arrives and Scott is back on his horse and moving. He comes across a tree with some scratch marks and blood adorning its upper reaches, but doesn’t linger. A few dozen yards away, he comes upon the partially eaten remains of a buck. He climbs down and calls Kelly on his radio, informing him of his find. Kelly says that it must be the same buck they used as bait. Scott is sure it was the Grizzly that was doing the eating. After much pestering on Kelly’s part, Scott finally reveals where he is currently located: “above R4 in zone A21.” Kelly advises him to get out of the area in case the bear returns for the second half of its meal, but that is exactly what Scott is hoping the animal will do. He plans on dragging the remains behind his horse and heading for Kelly’s location. Kelly tries to dissuade him from this course of action, but Scott just ignores him and turns his radio off.
Now we see Scotty on his horse again, dragging the remains of the buck. It’s long about now that we the audience have come to realize that Scott is doing a piss poor job of tracking down the bear. Why? Because the bear has just found him. The Grizzly lurches up from out of nowhere, displaying stealth and camouflage abilities that would make a ninja green with envy, swings its big paw and SPLISH…Scott’s horse is quite suddenly missing its head…which has fallen to the ground. It seems the bear has given Scott an offer he cannot refuse…or ignore. Scott jumps from his headless mount and when the fake horse is shown falling to the ground next to him, we note that it still has a head. More lousy continuity it would seem. Unfortunately for Scott, his rifle is out of reach so he tries to back away from the suddenly advancing man in a bear suit (perhaps recalling what this same clown did to poor little Blonde Robert). A swing of that fake bear paw and Scott is soon laid out like one of Mike Tyson’s early opponents.
Meanwhile, Kelly and Don are back in the helicopter and buzzing around. As they fly the friendly skies, the Grizzly has tossed Scott in a shallow hole and is covering him with dirt. More aerial shots of the chopper denote the passing of time and then we return to Scott, half buried in the earth. Slowly he awakens from his bear paw-induced slumber and begins to rouse himself. He takes in his surroundings and realizes that the Grizzly has buried him for snacking at a later time. What a close call! He begins pulling himself out of the dirt when he hears heavy breathing. He turns, sees the Grizzly and instantly realizes that it is now that later time, and the bear has returned for that aforementioned snack. Scratch one naturalist.
some point later, Kelly and Don arrive and find Scott’s body.
Strangely enough, while quite bloody, he seems pretty much intact. It’s
as if the bear really didn’t take too many bites out of him…if
any. Maybe the Grizzly just knocked him upside the head a few more times
to ensure that his afternoon snack wasn’t going to get up and
escape. Don wants to know how they will get the body back, but Kelly
says they will bury him there and then relay the coordinates so that
someone can come and get him. With another death and the bear still
on the loose, things seem pretty grim.
Now comes a really idiotic part. As they fly about a thousand feet above the forest, Kelly happens to look down and see the bear as it walks across a clearing. Oddly enough, the Grizzly is opting to undertake this troll while walking on its hind legs. Yes, sir…this is evolution in action. Not only has this bear mastered the art of tactical thinking, but it is now learning how to walk erect all the time. Pretty soon it will invent written language and dirty jokes. The close-ups of the Grizzly are shots with a real bear, but the long distance shots of the animal walking on its hind legs are achieved through the time honored technique of suitmation, AKA a dork in a bear suit. Take a look at the screen cap below to see what I mean. It reminds me of Katahadin, the mutant killer bear in Prophecy.
Don brings the helicopter around and dive bombs the bear, which takes off running. They pursue the Grizzly until it vanishes into some trees. They circle some more and then spot the bear again as it hauls ass across more open terrain. Lots more shots of the bear running and the chopper flying now follow, before Kelly instructs Don to land the aircraft. Don isn’t sure, but Kelly sees the Bear run behind some trees again and figures the creature is tired and scared – the perfect circumstances under which to bag the beast. Don relents and sets down the helicopter.
As they sit there trying to unbuckle their safety belts and get their rifles ready, the chopper suddenly rocks. It seems the bear has appeared and once again standing on two feet, uses the other two to push the helicopter into a spin. This shot affords us a very quick, but full on view of the horrendous bear costume. This thing looks like it was dug up out of a closet where it had been eaten by moths for forty years after last appearing in some old Three Stooges short.
The spinning chopper throws Don out on his ass, while Kelly is stuck inside. The bear closes in on the trapped ranger – once again standing on two feet to do so – but Don has picked himself up, retrieved his rifle and opened fire on the animal. This manages to distract the bear and convince it to come after him. Sadly, he runs out of ammo and must wield the rifle like some sort of crude club. Hey, it didn’t work for that lady with the broom, I doubt it’s gonna work now.
The bear advances toward Don, allowing Kelly the opportunity to escape the helicopter. He runs out, takes aim at the bear with his rifle and lets loose with a few shots. Unfortunately, the bear is not falling for the same trick twice and ignores Kelly to continue walking (on two legs) toward Don. For his part, Don does his best to fend off the man in a bear suit when it comes up and hugs him. However, despite his best efforts…and numerous shots from Kelly, poor Don is fatally bear-hugged.
The Grizzly now falls to all fours and turns back toward Kelly. The Ranger has either run out of shells for his rifle or finally come to the conclusion that the shots were doing no good, so he drops the rifle and runs back to the helicopter. Fishing around in the back, he retrieves the bazooka that they had packed when preparing for this trip. He runs back out into the open as the bear slowly approaches, and takes aim at the critter. The grizzly once again rises up on its rear legs and roars. It takes a few more steps as Kelly monkeys around with the firing controls. Finally he gets the bazooka to fire and KABOOM. The Grizzly goes up in an explosion that makes it clear that Bears are comprised one hundred percent of a deadly gasoline-TNT-nitro glycerin mixture. Seriously, I’ve heard of tactical nukes that produce smaller explosions.
The smoke clears and Kelly’s joy at having ended the ursine threat is overturned when he spies Don’s body in the distance. A wide shot shows us Kelly as he walks over to Don and checks on him, but it’s plain to see the pilot is dead. As the Grizzly’s remains burn nearby (why wasn’t it blasted into a million pieces?), the credits begins to roll.
Wait! How is he going to get back to civilization? I don’t think he was a pilot, so he couldn’t fly the helicopter himself. Then again, the chopper didn’t appear to be in the best shape, so it might not have even been flight worthy. If the radio was working he could call for help, I suppose. Otherwise he’d just have to start hoofing it. How long would it take him to make the walk? A day? Two days? A week? What would he eat? I guess he could take along some of that suddenly available extra crispy Grizzly bear meat. If that was too well done, there was always poor Don laying nearby…
This film has garnered a reputation over the years as being a blatant and unapologetic Jaws clone. After having watched the film several times, as well as the revealing and candid interviews on the second disc of the recent thirtieth anniversary special edition DVD, for purposes of this review, I can firmly say…yes it is. However, that does not necessarily translate into a bad film. While often such obvious cinematic xeroxing proves to be quite horrendous when the end product is revealed…or in most cases, unleashed on the public, Grizzly benefits from a premise and setting that are just different enough from the film’s source of inspiration to make for an entertaining romp in its own right, even if the similarities are pretty darn hard to overlook at times. Conversely, the movie doesn’t hold up as well as its watery forerunner upon repeated viewings, and the viewer quickly sees that while the broad strokes are certainly there, the finer points and details to the overall construct are sorely lacking. This movie was made to cash in on an emerging trend, and in the grand tradition of such films, it doesn’t concern itself too much with elements that do not pertain in any way to the newly established conventions of the genre.
Still, some viewers (such as myself) may be willing to cut this film a wee bit of slack. Sure, it was inspired by Stevie’s shark movie, but at least it had the guts to make the threat of a different nature and place the story in an entirely different setting. While the mechanics of the plot may very well be a carbon copy of Jaws – with plenty of vital things left out – I have to give the filmmakers credit for not marching down the easy road of celluloid imitation and foisting some other aquatic horror upon movie-going audiences. There would be plenty of those type of films in years to come, including Tentacles (1977), Tintorera (1977), The Bermuda Depths (1978), Piranha (1978), Up from the Depths (1979), the notorious Italian-made Jaws rip-off, Great White (1980) as well as countless others as the years went by. I think by foregoing the obvious approach of making their threat an ocean-dwelling creature of some sort, the producers managed to convince (I.E. fool) audiences that what they were seeing was not a variation of the Jaws motif. This may explain the film’s healthy box office run. That or it’s just plain entertaining to watch a time or two.
The story structure here is one of the oldest around: a threat of some type is on the loose, killing innocent folks and must be tracked down and stopped. Though it had existed long before, this particular formula was worked to death in the many monster flicks of the 1950’s and is almost always present in some capacity in any film that features a roving monster or crazed animal. In this film, a Grizzly bear pops up and begins intermittently mauling campers at a national park. While this is occurring, the leads struggle to kill the beast while doing their best to cope with the resulting failures and deaths. While that may sound somewhat thrilling, the truth of the matter is that the movie is comprised of a lot of boring talk punctuated by the occasional bear attack in order to keep things interesting. To make matters worse, the story unfolds in pretty much the same manner as Jaws, with similar characters with similar motivations making similar decisions. Basically, trade the bear for a shark and the forest for the ocean and it’s the exact same movie, only streamlined.
In truth, this approach to story structuring is somewhat hard to get around given the nature of the film. Between attacks, there will always have to be scenes with people discussing and arguing about what to do, trying to implement some type of strategy and succeeding or failing to some extent. So condemning Grizzly for emulating Jaws so closely in this regard may be a bit harsh….but just a bit. While the basic template may have to be followed, it didn’t have to follow the shark movie’s example quite so closely.
In my opinion the characterizations are this film’s single worst aspect. What wasn’t lifted, copied and modified from Spielberg’s shark film is just down right dreadful. It’s somewhat difficult to say exactly what anyone’s motivation may be, as the characters are just too cardboard thin to display much of anything beyond that which the part requires of them in addition having the most basic of descriptions. The story needs a concerned authority figure, so BAM, we get Michael Kelly. Aside from the nature of his job, what makes him so driven and so concerned? At least Roy Scheider had kids to worry about and which helped him relate to the plight of the ordinary joe. What is Kelly’s story? We get some half-baked dialog on how the Ranger job he holds changes a man’s values. This is contrasted against Kelly’s former life as a gold-digging husband and what led him to the life he has now. Huh? So, it was the job that made him this way? How convenient. At least we can buy his reason for wanting the bear dead after people under his command get themselves killed. Yet, there is something about his demeanor that comes across as forced and contrived, as if the film is trying too hard to point out his more “Human” qualities.
Worse, whenever the film pauses for more of those quiet “Human” moments, it just ends up grinding to a halt. Any scene that features Kelly and Allison is damn near mind-numbingly boring in its attempts at making them appear to be multi-faceted and layered. The script tries too damn hard to make these characters resemble real people, but instead portrays them as nothing more than flat imitations. In fact, the character of Allison is so flat, undeveloped and useless that one wonders why she is even in the movie. She contributes nothing to the overall story and only exists so Kelly can have someone with which to wax philosophic on occasion. There is also the implication that the two of them are engaged in some sort of pseudo-romantic relationship. Whether they have reached the boinking stage or not is mercifully left unsaid, as the chemistry between the two is about as potent as week-old lager. Still, Allison is hauled out whenever Kelly is perceived to be in need of moral and/or emotional support, leading to the aforementioned sequences guaranteed either to put you to sleep or cause you to grind your teeth at how annoying she is.
The rest of the gang does not fare much better. Charley Kittridge is the human villain of the film and doesn’t have a single scene where he doesn’t come off as a total jerk. Greed is his sole motivation and never once does the film showcase him in any other light. He just flexes his autocratic muscles from time to time, hindering the protagonists and ultimately providing the excuse needed for the film to justify the Grizzly’s continued rampage. Don Stober is the grizzled (no pun intended) local who lends his support as well as the vehicle by which he makes a living (in this case a helicopter), to the search. Some various bits of dialog revealing his time in Vietnam as well as his subsequent vow to never kill again, tries to present him as a tortured man, carrying around a lot of emotional baggage and struggling internally as the hunt for the bear continues, with the chance of him actually having to kill ever increasing. Yet, we never see him as anything more than the guy who flies the helicopter. Out of everyone, Arthur Scott may get the best treatment. As a devoted naturalist – one who is shown at work in the deep forest far from civilization and who is an expert on bears, we certainly get the impression that his concern for both innocent campers as well as the bear are quite genuine. Nothing he does or says conflicts with that notion, and his small personality quirks and eccentricities only add to his character. Indeed, they may very well be the only quirks exhibited by any character in the entire movie.
As for the acting, well it ranges from decent to downright annoying. Lead actor Christopher George turns in an adequate performance with the material with which he has to work. If his character seems caricatured in any way, it’s more due to the lack of development, or more to the point, poor attempts at development, than on the part of the actor. The same can be said for Andrew Prine and his part as Don Stober, which seems more a stereotype than a fully realized person, though he does do a decent enough job at selling his character. Indeed, of the main characters, the only one who manages to rise above the limitations of the story is Richard Jaeckel who instills an earnestness into his character of Arthur Scott that is missing from the rest of the cast. As for the remainder, Joe Dorsey plays a good asshole and Joan McCall turns in a great performance as a super annoying photographer. I realize that the character of Allison was probably not meant to be so grating on the nerves, but that’s the way it turned out.
I would classify the majority of FX in this movie into two categories: Gore FX and Bear FX. The former is done rather well on the small budget and technology of the time. The severed body parts thrown about on screen look adequately life-like to make those who are prone to it rather squeamish. Then again, director Girdler wisely chooses to not let the camera linger on these bloody stumps of flesh for too long, as a closer examination would reveal their more artificial qualities. He is more liberal in his use of fake blood, which is something of a slight detriment as whatever recipe was used to cook up the batch used in this film made for some oddly pasty-looking bloodstains as well as exhibiting some strange coloration from time to time. The fake blood here has what I deem the “Herschell Gordon Lewis look” to it, as it most reminded me of the blood seen in many of that director’s early gore films.
As for the Bear FX…oh, boy. Even though real bears were used in the film, they were too dangerous for the actors to interact with directly, so any shots requiring a person to physically tangle with the title grizzly called for the classic approach: a man in a suit. Again, quite wisely this suit is not featured on screen very much. The most we see are close-ups of the leg/paw as it swings towards the camera during attack scenes. Still, there are a few fleeting glimpses of the outfit as a whole and they are not flattering. It’s obvious from the way the hair doesn’t match the look or color of the real bear that what you’re seeing is fake, and the manner in which the poor performer inside the thing stumbles toward the screaming victims in damn near comical. Hell, despite the few brief instances of screen time, the suit reminds one of those guys running around amusement parks in oversized costumes meant to represent cartoon characters. Well, this suit would be right at home in such a place.
Ideally, music should help set the mood and accent the action, contributing on a near-subconscious level to a person’s perception of, and reaction to, a film. Here we have a killer grizzly bear on the loose, but the music is far more fitting for a nature documentary with one of those narrators describing all the action. It’s rather hard to induce chills in the audience when the musical cues remind one of frolicking bunnies or sweeping shots of wilderness vistas. That is not to say that all of the music is like this, as there are a few brief (very brief) instances where a more ominous and/or foreboding tone is used – especially some parts that are a little too reminiscent of John William’s famous Jaws theme – but they are far too infrequent to make any sort of lasting impression on the viewer.
The film also drags its ass in getting things moving. The first bear attack does not even occur until twelve minutes into the film. Not exactly the best way to grab your audience, but if you despise ADD filmmaking like I do, it’s not that much of an annoyance. As if to compensate for this slow start, the movie then switches gears and throws two additional attacks at the audience before the first half hour has passed. From this point on the movie will continually alternate between some type of encounter with the Grizzly, whether they are fatal or not, and scenes of the protagonists arguing over what to do next. While seeing the bear rampage is why we watch the movie in the first place, it soon becomes apparent that the movie is structured around these set pieces. In turn, we realize that the movie is built around the bear itself and not the characters. Since the characters end up being secondary players in the movie and it shows in their lack of development and thin characterizations, the audience may find it hard to empathize with them in any way. Their plight doesn’t quite seem real to us because they do not seem real, and this dilutes any terror or sense of dread the film may try to create.
This atmosphere of normality isn’t helped by the bear used in the film, either. The real life grizzly, named Teddy, was usually prodded and convinced to perform by using the lure of food. This can be seen in many instances where he stands on his hind legs and waves his front legs around – he is in reality trying to reach the food being dangled above and/or before him. The sad part is…he never for once looks all that angry or threatening in such scenes. Hungry and somewhat annoyed? Yes. Bloodthirsty and mean as all hell? Not really. To make matters worse, the growls and roars emitted by the grizzly were dubbed in, further making the shots of the real bear less frightening. The film does a much better job of portraying the grizzly as an ominous, lurking danger when the beast is off screen, than when it tries to showcase the entire animal on screen as one of nature’s deadliest carnivores.
Visually, the film is rather bland. William L. Asman’s cinematography can only do so much with the bleak forest locales, which themselves may just be the result of lousy color and photography. Since the movie was shot during the months of November and December, many of the trees were devoid of leaves. To avoid capturing this on film and to help promote the idea that the events of the movie were taking place earlier in the year, many of the shots were framed so as to eliminate such trees from view. Any shots – most of them aerial in nature – that do feature a multitude of colorful trees, were filmed several weeks before principal photography began because the producers knew ahead of time that their shoot was going to coincide with the fall season. So don’t go into this one expecting to see a lot of bright hues, cuz it ain’t gonna happen.
In the final analysis, this film has plenty of good and bad points. Any review has plenty of material with which to lean towards either a positive outlook or a negative one. It truly depends on each person’s individual tastes, as all reviews do. Grizzly spends far too much of its time focused on the bear and neglects to infuse any of the humans with anything approaching character development. In fact, most of them are not much more than cardboard cutouts placed in the movie, so any drama or human element the film attempts to put across is more than lacking, it’s just plain bad. Additionally, the real life bear used to play the part of the killer Grizzly is far from menacing in its portrayal. Yes, bears can be quite frightening, but this one looks like it should be hosting a kid’s TV show rather than playing the part of a man-eater. Coupled with the out of place music and the entire affair comes across as a documentary rather than a horror film. I won’t even waste any more time going into the weaknesses of that silly-looking bear suit. That thing definitely belongs on some bargain basement kids program.
On the positive side, the film does manage to keep one’s interest despite an often uneven pace. There are a couple of decent instances where the tension level is cranked up and the fear of the unknown is played upon. The bear attacks themselves are staged well enough given the resources the producers had at their disposal and there is a chilling moment or two interspersed throughout the film. Yes, many of the film’s elements have been obviously lifted from Jaws, but really, is that such a crime? As long as the movie is quite entertaining in its own right, that is all I ask for. Check this one out.
Finally, it's time to take a closer look at the many similarities between Grizzly and Jaws. Once you've examined both of them, I think you'll agree that the two films are nothing alike.
Animals Gone Berzerk - Though we see more than one bear in this film, it’s the title creature that has gone off the proverbial deep end and is snacking on campers.
Annoying Kids - Only one kid in this movie that is briefly seen, and he really isn’t all that unpleasant. Still, all kids are annoying by nature, so this icon has been hauled out for use.
Extreme Violence - People are mauled, bitch-slapped, hugged and beaten to death by the Grizzly. A poor horse also meets a bloody end. Then there is the explosive ending.
Forest Hijinks - If the movie had spent any more time in the forest, I was going to pitch a tent and build a fire myself…under the DVD player.
Gore - While not as bad as a slasher flick, we still get lots of severed body parts from both people and animals, with a few gallons of blood thrown in for good measure.
Skin - We get a brief moment or two of skin when Ranger Gail strips down to her undies so she can “soak her feet.” As she is the hottest chick in the movie, this is a very good thing.
06 Mins – Gah! It’s a monster! Nope, it’s just Allison’s bad hair style.
09 Mins - They left their fire burning! Wait til Smokey hears about this.
10 Mins - It’s Bear-Cam!
21 Mins - Last one out of the woods gets horrifically killed!
26 Mins - Bare skin meets Bear Skin.
33 Mins - I’d venture to say that this KOA is slightly overbooked.
40 Mins - “Only you can preven…hey, wait! Come back!”
46 Mins - Here comes the exploding sleeping bag! Wait! Wrong movie.
56 Mins - “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll…just knock the place over.”
63 Mins - Flagrant use of a man in a bear suit!!
79 Mins - Somebody call PETA!
87 Mins - Camera crew reflected in glass
88 Mins - KABOOM! Somebody call PETA!
Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time a new day dawns within the movie, chug a beer.
for larger image
Kelly goes round and round with Kittridge.
“It’s not bear, it’s Grizzly. There’s a difference.”
Shadow’s comment: And a horse is a horse, of course, of course.
Some moron hunters.
#1: “It’s a lot different from deer hunting.”
comment: You mean it actually has the audacity to not stand
still in your gun sights? You might actually have a shot at being harmed?
How inconsiderate of that bear.
Film & Me
This film was released in 1976 when I was all of seven years of age. While I clearly remember seeing Jaws in the cinema with my parents the year before, and can recall many of the other films that passed through the theaters at the time, I have no memory whatsoever of this film. In fact, the first I had ever heard of it was at some point in the early 80’s when my dad regaled me with details of the film one morning after he had stayed up late watching TV. I was disappointed that I had missed it and made a mental note to look for it in the future. Well, some time passed – I really cannot remember how much, but it wasn’t very long…less than a year perhaps – and one weekend afternoon I was flipping through the TV guide put out by the local newspaper and saw Grizzly listed, though no details were provided on the film, just a title and air time. I checked the date and time and realized the film was already on! I quickly flicked channels over and came across Ranger Gail sauntering around that stream in her undies. At this point I was wondering if I had tuned in to the right movie and began thinking that this film was about something else entirely and the movie title my dad had provided earlier was wrong. Well, just a few seconds later and I had my answer. As Gail bathed under the waterfall, a large fake paw grabbed her and I knew instantly that this was indeed a movie about a killer bear! I settled in to watch, no doubt grabbing some snacks to help enhance the experience.
that was the only time I was ever able to catch any significant portions
of the film. A few times in later years I would come across it while
channel surfing, but it would always be near the end of the film. By
the time the early/mid 90’s rolled around, I stopped seeing it.
Then earlier this year I read that it was coming to DVD and I quickly
earmarked it as a “must buy.” When the disc arrived in the
mail, I eagerly sat down with The Other Half and we
watched it together. She hadn’t seen it in years either and we
had a good time as it unfolded. It was especially fun for me because
I had never seen the beginning of the movie! That one time I was able
to watch it, I had come into it late, so I had never seen those first
two ridiculous deaths!! Still, memory is a funny thing. For all those
years, whenever I thought of that scene where the Grizzly rips the woman
out of the tent and smashes her back and forth between two trees, in
my mind I could see the giant bear holding her in his jaws as he did
this. Of course, when I saw the film again earlier this year, the bear
was nowhere to be seen in that sequence. All we get is a quick shot
of that fake bear paw ripping through the tent. I wonder why my mind
insisted on putting the image of a huge bear in that scene. Hmm…
Shadow's rating: Six Tombstones