The popular trend now is to jump on the whole Cocaine Bear bandwagon, and let’s be honest here… I’m going to jump right on board and shovel in scoops of coal to drive faster (I think I can! I think I can! Choo! Choo!). The movie offers no apologies and director Elizabeth Banks has been very vocal on her appreciation of the B movie junk which assures her epic masterpiece a placement of pride on this mantel of schlock-dom. Long before wild bears were Scarfacing it in the wilderness, there was another not-your-average-bear feeding on random campers lurking in its backyard and making sure every darn firepit was smoldered to prevent forest fires. I’m speaking, of course, of 1976’s “Jaws on Dirt” epic wilder-beast sleaze Grizzly.
Personally Grizzly holds sacred ground in my heart, as the box art (by comic legend Neal Adams) used to scare me to death (or I might have been playing dead to ward off my mama bear). Buried among the hundreds of VHS titles like Porkey’s II: The Next Day and Thunder Warrior II my grandmother got from a mail order scam (six for a penny for the first three months, so act now!) was the VHS with the poster you see above, and what a poster! Even though it scared me, like a predator stalking its prey, I had to devour it (even though I didn’t get to watch it until years later). The film overall does well in capturing real footage of bears attacking, but the make-up artists were hibernating a little when it came to the animal costume close-ups. Not since the era of men in gorilla suits lumbering around the studio cafeteria has there been more believable animals on screen! The idea came about when producer Harvey Flaxman encountered a bear while camping and knew there were ferocious coins to be found. The timing was just right after Steven Spielberg decimated the landscape with his 1975 blockbuster Jaws, so the studios smelled blood in the air. Pretty soon local drive-ins were shouting “curse the beasts and save the children!” (imagine the song with those lyrics) with films like Tentacles (killer octopus), Orca (killer whale), and Alligator (killer… well, alligator), making the Washingtons roam the range of cinema wasteland.
As if with a poster like this you were curious about the plot (it’s about a killer bear, right?), I’ll oblige those few who direly need the details. In the misty morning mountain tops, people are enjoying the fresh air. Unfortunately for those who like to hang their picnic baskets high (and get high), there is a mean little (big) fluffy varmint whose sensational appetite turns from salmon in the streams to human sushi fillets! Naturally (smell those pines) the Sheriff and numerous scientists (who are randomly on vacation) scoff at the notion that a grizzly bear (or Pleistocene Epoch Arctodus ursus horribilis for you Ursidae nerds) this large simply cannot exist… until it rips off one of their arms and eats their spleens! Filled throughout with amazing aerial photography (it’ll make Stanley Kubrick bearhug the cinematographer), beautiful wildlife (the ones that don’t gnaw you), and enough 70s mustaches to put Ron burgundy, Tom Selleck, and Sam Elliot to shame!
Breezing through the trees at eighty-nine minutes, and directed by William Girdler (who also directed Three on a Meathook and Project: Kill), the film was a bigfoot-sized hit, bringing in almost $40 million on a cub scout size budget of $750,000. This movie also made the rounds recently for the long-forgotten release of its legendary bad sequel, Grizzly II: Revenge, which had extra work from the likes of Charlie (tiger’s blood) Sheen, Laura (Jurassic Bear) Dern, and a mulleted George (silver fox) Clooney. So get off the couch for some mountain climbing (done a lot in this celluloid landscape), claw through a bag of chocolate-dipped beef jerky, and enjoy this outdoorsy yarn, but just remember: only you can prevent yourself from getting eaten by a grizzly by sideswiping your best friend!