Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Film Appreciation - I Remember Grizzly
Guest contributor Matt, a.k.a. God of Thunder, discusses William Girdler's Grizzly (1976) for this week's Film Appreciation.
It’s the spring of 2002, and I’m in the second semester of 4th grade. I’m walking through the massive VHS horror section of my local Blockbuster in Brandon, Mississippi. This was no ordinary Blockbuster; it simply couldn’t have been a corporate store. As I walk, I see such obscure classics as Children of the Full Moon (in that glorious big box), Three on a Meathook, Slaughterhouse, the ultra rare Catalina Video version of Alligator, Crocodile (Ha! The terrific cover is much better than the film.) and many other films of this nature. Naturally I already have the rental box of Ice Cream Man in tow, I had seen that gem a couple months earlier and simply couldn’t get enough of it. Suddenly, I stop at the ‘G’ section, and I notice a video box that has caught my eye for a few years – Grizzly. Huh. That’s one big bear! And that poor woman, she’s just smiling away, completely unaware of that ultra-pissed off behemoth standing right behind her!! Gulp! My decision has finally been made; I’m going to rent this movie finally.
Cut to that night, Im getting ready to crawl in bed for the night and am about to put a movie in. I could watch the trusty Ice Cream Man. After all, it’s yet to get old. But I stare back at that rental box for Grizzly. Huh, it’s PG??? Wow. This movie must not be too bloody. Ya know what? Screw Ice Cream Man. Clint can wait. I pop in the tape for Grizzly and begin to watch. Heh, I figured this might have been a TV movie; it looks more theatrical now. OK…. Ten minutes go by, and hey, there’s some creepy music. And what’s that sound? ‘Huughghgh, hugghghgg.’ Oh no, that can’t be good for that chick in the plaid shirt. But, whatever happens, it must not be too gory. Remember, this is rated PG, Matt, you’ll be good to see some slight blood. And definitely no nudity. OK, now this off-screen menace is right behind her, he’s coming! Wonder how it’ll turn out for her… wait, what the hell? Is that her arm that just flew across the screen??? Oh man, and he’s beating her up too! She’s vomiting blood! And that paw that keeps swiping looks so cool…. Wow, perhaps I underestimated this film?
And so it goes until I finally have to stop the tape to get some rest. I remember right before I hit stop, the movie completely surprises me in a scene I never imagined would be there. In it, a small child is outside playing with a rabbit, his mother coming out to check on him. Aaaw, everything’s going great here. It’s kinda touching. Wait….. no….. there’s that breathing again…. No, movie, you can’t!!!!!! It’s not right! Evidently the movie did not hear me and proceeded. Well, there’s the bear again… he’s comin’… oh no, the kid’s leaving the area! He’ll run right into it!!!! Wait, no, he was just going to get his rabbit, he’s fine. Yep. "RRRRAAAAAUUUGUUGGGGHHH!!!" Whoops, guess not. The bear picked the little tyke up and tore him up a nice bit. The mom comes to the rescue with…. a broom… and tries to thwart the grizzly’s evil intentions. Well, she was a bit too late, because the little bugger comes plummeting to the ground, missing a leg. As the mother looks on in horror, the bear takes the opportunity to devour her as well, all in front of the kid. Whoa…. This was surprisingly brutal. Good choice, Matt.
I go to school the next day, the movie’s all that’s on my mind! I keep reliving each scene in my head as the boring school day drones on and on and on, and simply cannot wait to get home so I can finish it! Wonder how it ends! DIIIIIIIING! Alright, it’s over! Time to get back home and finish this crazy movie. Alright…. Most of the cast just went belly up, the entertaining Quint-lite was bearhugged until he spat blood, and then the main dude blew him to pieces with a rocket launcher!!! Wow!!!! This movie rules!!!!!
The rambling previous paragraphs make up a fair summary of my first encounter with what is very easily one of my most favorite of movies, Grizzly. Indeed, after years of wondering, I finally rented this flick and it took hold of me with an iron grip. I simply could not get enough! The movie was, of course, a slightly jazzed up version of Jaws with a smaller budget, but it was extremely easy to forget about this in the midst of all the action on display. It had a killer cast, cool artwork, a creepy forest location, a raging monster grizzly, and a whole lot more gore than I expected from its PG rating. To say I was immediately blown away would be putting it extremely lightly.
I always was hoping that eventually, some company would purchase the rights to the film and give it a dignified release on disc. This wish was unfulfilled for several years; but in early 2006, my prayers were finally answered: Shriek Show had announced that a widescreen, double disc special edition would be released after seven years of a crap DVD! It took an unbelievably long time to get a copy of this as well, for some reason that eludes me. I believe that it went on backorder initially due to popular demand. Finally, I did manage to obtain a copy of the disc and could barely contain my glee upon opening the case. I popped that sucker in and watched Grizzly as I never had before. It was only then that I realized what a horrid crime against the film that the VHS and earlier DVD both were to this masterpiece: the picture had been cropped beyond belief. This widescreen edition was the epitome of a facelift for the film. The photography was finally allowed to properly shine… and as it turned out, the VHS had cut out a scene of Richard Jaeckel’s corpse lying on the ground later in the movie. Was great to actually see new footage from the film. While I thoroughly enjoyed the DVD and it still ranks among my all-time favorite discs, there was still one other matter that was yet to be seen to…