Directed By: William Girdler
Starring: Christopher George, Andrew Prine, Richard Jaeckel
Tag line: "The most dangerous jaws on land!!!"
Trivia: Warner Bros. originally expressed interest in financing the film and was reportedly furious that producer Edward L. Montoro and Film Ventures International (FVI) had taken the project
The sole purpose of Grizzly, a low-budget horror film released in 1976, was to cash in on the incredible success of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, and much to the filmmakers delight, the movie did more than just copy the Jaws formula; Grizzly also mirrored its box-office success.
Park Ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George) finds himself pitted against a 2,000-pound grizzly that’s making a snack out of campers in the area. To help him kill the monster, Kelly enlists both Scotty (Richard Jaeckel), a skilled outdoorsman who knows a little something about bears, and helicopter pilot Don Srober (Andrew Prine), whose chopper proves useful in tracking the grizzly. But can these three bring down the beast before it has a chance to kill again?
The similarities between Jaws and Grizzly are numerous, from the film’s setting (a vacation hot-spot on the eve of its busiest weekend) to its conflicts (Christopher George’s park ranger has to fight both the killer bear and local big-wig, Kitteridge, played by Joe Dorsey, harkening back to the problems Chief Brody experienced with Amity Island’s short-sighted officials). We even get an occasional glimpse of the action from the bear’s perspective, as he makes his way through the trees (reminiscent of the suspenseful underwater scenes in Jaws). As for the grizzly attacks themselves, they’re fairly bloody. The first to fall victim are two young girls, Margaret (Mary Ann Hearn) and June (Catherine Rickman), who are torn to shreds while setting up camp. Margaret even gets her arm ripped off, yet this pales in comparison to what happens to poor little Bobby (Brian Robinson) later on. With plenty of tense moments to go along with the violence, Grizzly leaves you terrified of the woods in much the same way Jaws made you fear the water.
Even the tag lines for Grizzly don't bother hiding the fact it owes everything to Spielberg's now-classic shark story (“The Most Dangerous Jaws on Land!” one poster cried out). But in the end, it didn't matter how blatant a rip-off Grizzly was; audiences gobbled it up like there was no tomorrow. The film took in millions at the box-office on its way to becoming the most successful independent film of 1976.
The lesson learned from these 2 movies is clear: whether on land or in the sea, '70s audiences loved watching animals eat!