Friends, you might have heard of a film that was released in the Summer of 1975 that kind of shattered box office expectations and records – I am of course referring to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Much like with a real life shark feeding frenzy, with that much money generated by the film, other Studios and filmmakers were quick to jump into the water to deliver something similar. For the next couple of years you had all manner of animal attacks films – which for what it is worth is one of my favorite horror subgenres – just a few include Mako: The Jaws of Death, Dogs, Tentacles, Piranha, and of course Grizzly.
Directed by the late and great William Girdler (Abby, Manitou), the film focuses on an 18 to 20 foot tall grizzly bear that has decided to make a National Park it’s buffet. Dealing with both the animal and the carnage it leaves behind is the chief ranger, Michael Kelley, played by The Rat Patrol and The Immortal‘s Christopher George. The chief ranger is feeling pressure from a park supervisor to keep the National Park open while receiving the lion’s share of blame, at least he has the support of a naturalist – played by Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen, Chisum) and a helicopter pilot (Andrew Prine) that doesn’t mind bending the rules. An interesting fact is that all three of the actors had worked together previously in Chisum, the 1970 film starring John Wayne and the likes of Linda Day George, Ben Johnson, and William Conrad. In addition both George and Jaeckel would the following year appear in Girdler’s Day of the Animals – one of my absolute favorite animal attack films of all time.
Make no mistake about it, Grizzly is most definitely Jaws on land – that is not to say it isn’t a wonderful B-movie however – or that it didn’t prove popular at the box office. While the movie may not have earned over $470 million dollars like Jaws did, Girdler’s film gobbled up $39 million on an estimated budget of $750,000 – which is nothing to sneeze at. Although I have read online that those profits had to be obtained by going to court against the producer and distributors of the film.
Which brings us around to the point of this article, this short 1976 featurette for Grizzly – showing a behind the scenes look at the making of the film, as well as the dangers of working with the ‘trained but not tamed’ Kodiak bear named Teddy.