Release Date(s)1976 (May 18, 2021)
Studio(s)Film Ventures International (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
After the runaway success of Jaws in 1975, a slew of films followed in its wake. Whether it was nature run amok stories involving every animal and insect imaginable, or shark-related films that affectionally became part of the “Jawsploitation” subgenre, many were made, right up to the present day. One of the most successful was Grizzly, which was shot on location in Georgia for less than a million dollars with William Girdler (Abby, Day of the Animals) at the helm. It was a big hit in the spring of 1976, becoming the top grossing independent film of the year, despite the negative reviews. Notorious producer Edward L. Montoro, who was also partly responsible for The Exorcist rip-off Beyond the Door and the infamous 80s slasher Pieces, even attempted to abscond with the film’s profits. William Girdler and the other film’s producers, Harvey Flaxman and David Sheldon, sued him, but Girdler died tragically before it could be sorted. The film itself is a mix of obvious inspiration, effective bear attack footage, a shocking amount of violence for a PG-rated film, and a range of acting performances.
After two campers are viciously attacked and killed inside a national park, chief ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George) is blamed for not relocating the local bears before the tourist season had officially began. Once the park’s supervisor, Charley (Joe Dorsey), refuses to close the park and people continue to be killed and mutilated, Kelly and visiting wildlife photographer Allison (Joan McCall) seek out the help of naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel), and helicopter pilot and tour guide Don Strober (Andrew Prine). They then attempt to hunt down and kill the beast, which is fully intent on slaughtering anything that walks into its path.
Grizzly comes to Blu-ray for the third time featuring a 2K scan of the film’s internegative. It’s an organic presentation with heavy, sometimes even chunky, grain levels. Good saturation is on display, particularly within the forested enivronments, as well as nice skin tones. There’s a tad bit of leftover crush in the blacks, but shadow detail doesn’t suffer too much. Contrast levels are ideal and everything appears bright but never washed out or overly lit. There’s also a bit of damage leftover, including minor instability, frame splices, and slight delineation issues. It’s a pleasant and crisp presentation overall, actually besting previous Blu-ray releases.
The audio is provided in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a surprisingly robust track that offers a lot of push for Robert O. Ragland’s score. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise, and vocal effects made by the bear come through with plenty of aural fierceness. Other sound effects, including gunfire and the whirring of helicopter blades, have good fidelity as well. It’s also a clean track, free of any obvious leftover damage.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary with Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth
- Audio Commentary with David Sheldon, Joan McCall, and Walt Olsen
- Stephen Thrower on William Girdler (HD – 45:22)
- Making Movies with Girdler (HD – 36:56)
- The Towering Fury (HD – 8:56)
- The Grizzly Details (HD – 18:51)
- Movie Making in the Wilderness (Upsampled SD – 7:00)
- Jaws with Claws: A Look Back at Grizzly (HD – 36:40)
- Radio Spots (HD – 2 in all – :55)
- Trailers (HD – 2 in all – 3:29)
In the new audio commentary with Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson and author Troy Howarth, they avidly discuss the background on producer Edward L. Montoro, the success of the film and the fallout between production entities afterwards, William Girdler and his filmography, the comparisons to Jaws, the proposed unmade sequel and the actual sequel, the careers of many of the cast members, various “rip-off” and “nature strikes back” films, and other subjects. The older audio commentary with producer David Sheldon, actress Joan McCall, and DVD producer Walt Olsen is a bit slower and spottier, but the three manage to talk about the film with good humor. In the interview with author and film historian Stephen Thrower, he discusses the life and career of director William Girdler in vast detail. Making Movies with Girdler features an audio interview with business parter and friend J. Patrick Kelly III, conducted by David Gregory, and set to Super 8 mm behind-the-scenes footage shot during the making of the film. In The Towering Fury, actor (and partial boom mic operator) Tom Arcuragi briefly speaks about his career and his work in the film. The Grizzly Details features separate interviews with producer David Sheldon and actress Joan McCall about their experiences working with William Girdler. Movie Making in the Wilderness is a vintage featurette shot on location by Film Ventures International, featuring interviews with William Girdler, bear trainer Terry Rowland, and location manager Frank Rickman. Jaws with Claws is an archival featurette from previous home video releases and features interviews with producers David Sheldon and Harvey Flaxman, and actors Andrew Prine and Joan McCall. The rest of the extras are rounded out by 2 radio spots and 2 trailers for the film. Everything is housed in a black amaray case with double-sided artwork: tradional home video artwork on one side and the original theatrical artwork on the other. This edition is also available from the Severin Films website with a Limited Edition slipcover.
There are also a few extras from several previous DVD and Blu-ray releases that haven’t carried over. They include an isolated music and effects audio track, a Katarina's Fun Facts introduction to the film from 2014, the Reflections of Grizzly 2005 revival screening footage, the German theatrical trailer, 2 video trailers, a TV spot, Super 8 versions of the film in color and black and white, an alternate Japanese Laserdisc opening, and the 2018 What a Guy... David Del Valle Remembers Christopher George featurette. Though incomplete, the extras that have been provided more than make up for it.
Severin’s re-release of Grizzly offers the film in excellent quality with a set of good extras, including a great new historical commentary and interview with Stephen Thrower (a frequent guest on many of their releases). The film itself is a hoot. Not exactly Shakespeare, but far from being an unwatchable mess. If you’re a fan of this genre of films and you somehow missed Grizzly, this disc should definitely be on your radar.
- Tim Salmons