A forest ranger (Christopher George) tries heavy firepower on a very big Georgia bear loose in a national park.
Grizzly (also known as Killer Grizzly) is a 1976 horror film directed by William Girdler, about a 15-foot tall, man-eating Grizzly bear that terrorizes a National Forest. It stars Christopher George, Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel. Widely considered a Jaws rip-off, Grizzly used many of the same plot devices as its shark predecessor, a huge box office success during the previous year 1975.
In 1983, a sequel Grizzly II: The Predator was shot, but never released. The abortive project provided early roles for both Charlie Sheen and George Clooney. The giant grizzly bear in the film was portrayed by a bear named Teddy who was 11 ft. tall.
A fifteen-foot grizzly bear figures out that humans make for a tasty treat. As a park ranger tries rallying his men to bring about the bear's capture or destruction, his efforts are thwarted by the introduction of dozens of drunken hunters into the area.
The film opens with a military veteran helicopter pilot and guide Don Stober (Andrew Prine) flying individuals above the trees of a vast National Park. He states that the woods are untouched and remain much as they did during the time when the Native Americans lived there.
Two female hikers are breaking camp when one of them is attacked and killed by an unseen animal. The second girl finds apparent safety within a nearby cabin until the creature tears down a wall to reach her. The National Parks Chief Ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George) and photographer Allison Corwin (Joan McCall), daughter of the parks restaurant owner, decide to follow a Ranger to the primitive campsite to find the two female hikers. They discover the girls mangled body inside the destroyed cabin. Allison stumbles across the remains of the first girl while photographing the search.
At the hospital, a doctor tells Kelly that the girls were killed by a bear. The Park Supervisor Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey) blames Kelly, saying the bears were supposed to have been moved from the park by him and Naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) before the tourist season began. Kelly and Kittridge argue over closing the park, and decide to move all hikers off the parks mountain while allowing campers to remain in the lowlands. Kelly calls Scott, who says all bears are accounted for and this specific bear must be unknown to the forest.
Stopping for a break near a waterfall while searching the mountain, a female Ranger complains to her male partner that her feet are sore and she is going to go soak them in the stream. Her male partner goes on to search R4 while she approaches the waterfall to soak. She does not see the bear waiting for her under the falls and she is attacked and killed. Kelly recruits the helicopter pilot Stober to assist in the search. Flying above the forest, they see what they believe to be an animal, only to discover the Naturalist Scott adorned in an animal skin while tracking the bear. He informs them the animal they are looking for is a prehistoric grizzly bear (a fictional pleistocene Arctodus ursos horribilis) standing at least 15 feet tall. Kelly and Stober scoff at the notion.
At the busy lowland campground, the grizzly tears down a tent and kills a woman. Kelly once again insists on closing the park, but Kittridge refuses. The attacks are becoming a national news story and to counteract this, Kittridge allows amateur hunters into the forest. Kelly, Stober and Scott, now a team, are disgusted by this development. Later, a lone hunter is chased by the bear but he evades the animal on foot, falling into a river and floating to safety. Later that night three hunters find a bear cub, that they believe is the cub of the killer grizzly, so they use it as bait for the mother. But the grizzly finds and eats the cub without the hunters noticing. Scott concludes that the bear must be a male, as only male bears are known to be cannibals. A Ranger at a fire lookout tower on the mountain is attacked by the grizzly, the animal tearing down the structure and killing the Ranger.
Kelly and Kittridge continue to argue over closing the park. Frustrated by the politics of the situation, Scott sneaks away to track the grizzly on his own. On the outskirts of the National Park, a mother and child living in a cabin are attacked by the grizzly. The mother is killed while the child survives, but is severely mutilated. Stunned by this development, Kittridge finally allows Kelly to close the park and ban all hunters.
Stober and Kelly now go after the elusive grizzly alone, setting up a trap by hanging a deer carcass from a tree. The grizzly goes for the bait, but suddenly retreats. The men chase the animal through the woods, but it easily outruns them. When they return, they discover the grizzly has tricked them and taken the deer carcass. Tracking on horseback, Scott finds the remains of the carcass and calls Stober and Kelly on the radio. He is going to drag the deer behind his horse and create a trap by leading the grizzly towards them. The grizzly surprises Scott, killing his horse and knocking him unconscious. Later, Scott awakens to find himself alive but half-buried in the ground. The grizzly immediately returns and kills him.
Kelly and Stober discover Scotts body and in despair, decide to return to the helicopter to find the grizzly from the air. They immediately spot the bear in a clearing and quickly land. The grizzly attacks the helicopter, swiping the craft and causing Stober to be thrown clear. The grizzly kills Stober and then turns on Kelly, who frantically pulls a bazooka from the helicopter. Before the bear can reach him, Kelly fires the bazooka at the grizzly, killing the animal instantly. For several seconds, Kelly sadly stares at the burning remains of the grizzly and then walks towards Stobers body.Christopher George as Michael Kelly
Andrew Prine as Don Stober
Richard Jaeckel as Arthur Scott
Joan McCall as Allison Corwin
Joe Dorsey as Charley Kittridge
Charles Kissinger as Dr. Hallitt
Mike Clifford as Pat
Teddy, a Kodiak bear as the Grizzly
The idea for Grizzly began when the films producer and writer Harvey Flaxman encountered a bear during a family camping trip. Co-producer and co-writer David Sheldon thought the idea would make a good film following the success of Jaws. William Girdler discovered the script on Sheldons desk and offered to find financing as long as he could direct the film. Within a week, Girdler was able to obtain $750,000 in financing from Edward L. Montoros Film Ventures International movie distribution company.
Grizzly was filmed on-location in Clayton, Georgia, with many local residents cast in supporting roles. Catherine Rickman, who played one of the first victims, was actually the daughter of Claytons mountain man, Frank Rickman. Though unintentional, the casting of Christopher George, Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel marked the second time this trio of actors starred together in the same film. They had previously played supporting roles in the 1970 western Chisum starring John Wayne. A Kodiak bear nicknamed "Teddy" performed as the killer grizzly. "Teddy" was 11 feet tall and was the largest bear in captivity at that time. The bear was rented from the Olympic Game Ranch in Sequim, Washington where he was kept behind an electric fence. The crew was protected from the bear by a piece of green string running through the shooting locations, and a ticking kitchen timer. This resembled (to the bear) an electric fence. Actors and crew members were instructed to always stay on the camera side of the string. The bear did not actually roar, so it was tricked into making the motions of roaring by throwing several marshmallows into its mouth and then holding a final marshmallow in front of its face but not throwing it. The bear would stretch for it. The sound was artificially produced. The original artwork for the Grizzly movie poster was created by the popular comic book artist Neal Adams. A novelization by Will Collins was published as well.
Released in May 1976, less than one year after Jaws, Grizzly was criticized as being a thinly veiled rip-off of the now-classic shark thriller. Like Jaws, Grizzly has an unusually large animal preying upon unsuspecting tourists.
Christopher George plays Chief Ranger Michael Kelly, skilled at his job but lacking experience when dealing with the dangers of bears, a role similar to Roy Scheiders Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws. Kelly must rely on the expertise of naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel), just as Brody recruits marine scientist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss).
Kelly is thwarted by Supervisor Charley Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), who refuses to close the National Park for political reasons. In Jaws, Brody is refused permission to close the summer beaches by Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton).
A bounty is put on the grizzly bear, just as an award is offered for the shark in Jaws. The bounty leads to chaos, as hundreds of hunters fill the woods in Grizzly, while huge numbers of boats filled with hunters leave the harbor in Jaws.
During the final hunt for the grizzly bear, Kelly is led by helicopter pilot, Vietnam War veteran and forest guide Don Stober (Andrew Prine), just as Brodys shark expedition is led by boat captain, World War II veteran and sea guide Quint (Robert Shaw).
The bear in Grizzly is killed in similar fashion to the shark in Jaws in that both creatures destruction is dramatized by a large explosion.
The so-called sequel Grizzly II: The Predator was a nickname for an original film entitled Predator: The Concert filmed in 1985 in Hungary but never released to theaters. David Sheldon, the co-producer and writer of Grizzly wrote the screenplay with his screenwriter wife Joan McCall, also reprising her role from the original film. The cast included Charlie Sheen, George Clooney and Laura Dern, who were discovered by them and were unknown at the time, despite all being from families of popular stars. The main scenes for Grizzly II: The Predator were completed, but before the special effects with a huge electronic-mechanical bear could be used, the executive producer Joseph Proctor disappeared with the funds. The filmed footage of the live bear, however, attacking a live rock concert was also shot in Hungary. There have been attempts to re-cut and film more scenes, but to date, the film has never been released. A bootleg version with the original workprint was released in 2007.
The film centers on Park Ranger Hollister (Steve Inwood), who is at odds with Park Supervisor (Louise Fletcher) over a large rock concert that is going to be held in the area. Hollister fears that the local grizzly bear population might be a danger to the attendees. When a grizzly kills a local poacher and three teens, Hollister begins to track the bear with the help of a bear activist (Deborah Raffin) and a local bear hunter named Bouchard (John Rhys-Davies). In addition, four poachers set out together to try to trap the bear, hoping to gain $100,000 reward money. The suggested 18 ft (5.5 m) grizzly finds its way to the rock concert, making the climatic showdown all the more personal for Hollister as his daughter (Deborah Foreman) is working there backstage.
Grizzly was released on VHS by Anchor Bay Entertainment. It was released in the LaserDisc format in 1984 by RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, but only in Japan. The DVD version of Grizzly was first released on December 2, 1998, and was re-released on DVD by Kino Lorber on August 5, 2014.