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Release Date(s)1976 (August 5, 2014)
Studio(s)Scorpion Releasing / Kino Lorber
Grizzly was originally released by Columbia Pictures in 1976 and the film tells the story of a forest and campground site wherein a grizzly bear is killing off some of the campers and locals, even though grizzly bears aren’t native to that region. The movie did surprisingly big business all over the world in 1976, but also started the trend that lasted for many years afterwards of aping the formula set in place by Jaws.
And I think the obvious thing that most people go straight to when talking about Grizzly is the fact that it is INDEED a rip-off of Jaws, which was released one year before. Monster movies, especially movies about killer animals and bugs, had always been around before, especially in the 1950’s, but it was Jaws that created a new formula for it. The formula goes like this: a small town or area of some kind becomes terrorized by an animal that is not a normal animal, but an über animal. The head of the local police assume that the deaths caused by the animal are accidents at first, but are quickly convinced that it’s something else. The mayor of the town, worried about tourism, orders the police to do something about it, but doesn’t believe that it’s anything more than a simple problem with a simple solution. Since they’re not allowed to close the area, the police bring in an expert on the animal, and after several deaths and several attempts to kill it, they’re finally allowed to close the area down, exposing the greedy mayor and nailing the animal in the end. Grizzly certainly follows this formula, but it seems to adhere more closely to Jaws than maybe its creators even realize, or care to acknowledge.
There’s certainly a lot of on-the-nose similarities between the two films: a very young boy is attacked, the animal expert wears a wool hat, jean jacket and jeans, three men set out at the end to find and kill the animal, and the animal is killed by way of an explosion. If you watch the featurette that’s been provided on this DVD, the creators of the film seem to deny that they had the intention of ripping off Jaws, but they also seem a bit skittish about it. With the evidence piled up against them, there’s no way that they should be denying that they didn’t rip it off. However, that’s not to say that it would be necessary for someone to file a lawsuit. The movie certainly stands on its own and deserves its audience. Many people consider it to be a movie that’s so bad that it’s good. A lot of the dialogue and the kills in the movie are pretty laughable, but it’s still enjoyable. How can you not laugh at a grizzly bear knocking the head off of a horse?
Now I haven’t seen the previous two DVD releases of Grizzly on DVD before so I have no basis for comparison when it comes to image quality. I actually wasn’t aware that it was available on DVD in the first place. So judging it on its own, the transfer used for this DVD release is quite excellent without being perfect. According to the back of the case, this transfer was taken from an “anamorphic master in HD from the original interpositive.” There’s a very healthy grain structure present, but there’s a lot of flicker present there, as well. Colors are good, as are blacks, and contrast and brightness are very good. I didn’t notice any overhauled digital tinkery either, but I did notice some very minor film artifacts left behind, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For the audio portion, you have two options: the original English mono and a new English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. I appreciate getting the original mono track which is what I prefer, but this new surround track isn’t too shabby. My main complaint is that the audio levels, particularly with the dialogue, are uneven from scene to scene. Sometimes the dialogue is just too low, but in the next scene, it’s louder. It’s something that should have been tweaked, but oh well. Sound effects and score are mixed in well, and while it isn’t the most enveloping track out there, it does a have a bit of ambience to it at times and some good bass output. Some of the material used to create the mix shows its age at times, but overall, it’s a decent enough mix. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles for this release.
As for the extras, there’s a Katrina’s Nightmare Theater Fun Facts & Trivia video segment, a Q&A Session at the New Beverly featuring actor Andrew Prine and producer David Sheldon, the Jaws With Claws: A Look Back at Grizzly documentary, two theatrical trailers for the film, and a set of trailers for other Scorpion releases. Owners of the Shriek Show 30th Anniversary Edition release will note that absent is the audio commentary by producer/screenwriter David Sheldon and actress Joan McCall with moderator Walt Olsen, the film’s original 1976 promotional featurette, a Reflections of Grizzly fan featurette, a set of radio spots, a poster and photo gallery, and a video trailer for the film. The other DVD of the film that was released prior was bare bones. So this release doesn’t have everything ported over (which is likely a rights issue), but for a title that’s been out of print for a while, it’s a good place to start for a lot of people who just want a copy of it. But if you own the 30th Anniversary release, you might want to think twice before upgrading.
Grizzly is no masterpiece, but it’s a fun B-movie that’s better enjoyed with friends so you can laugh along with it. It was a movie made for bad movie lovers, so it has that going for it the most. All things considered, it’s probably the best of the Jaws rip-offs, but it’s also a fun movie in its own right.
- Tim Salmons