There are Jaws ripoffs, and there there is Grizzly. As usual in the movie business, creatively bankrupt producers form a feeding frenzy to copy the success of a big hit. Jaws was one of the biggest of the seventies, and the copycats bred like rabbits.

There was the big budget Orca. And there were numerous low budget offspring, many of which were entertaining in a beery, drive-in kind of way. Tentacles, Alligator, Mako: The Jaws of Death, Great White, Piranha. Even goofy-assed Blood Beach falls into the category.

The trend crawled out of the water and onto land to give new life to this subgenre. Animal attack films were very popular among low budget movie fans. There was The Day of the Animals, Kingdom of the Spiders, The Pack, Nightwing, and Empire of the Ants. Killer bees were everywhere.

One of the biggest and most ferocious copycats was William Girdler's Grizzly. Girdler and his screenwriters used Jaws as a template and roared into theaters. The similarities are plentiful. You've got the greedy bureaucrat demanding the state park remain open despite the obvious threat. It takes the death of a small boy to change his mind. Three beast hunters go out in search of the monster. There are a herd of irresponsible drunkards bumbling through the woods trying to capture fame and fortune. A campfire tale recounts a legendary and terrifying grizzly bear massacre. A lone survivor blows the bloodthirsty killer to kingdom in an explosive finale.

Genre veteran Christopher George stars in Grizzly. A rugged but supposedly dashing park ranger, George spends half the movie with a chiseled look of grim determination on his face, and the other half grinning like a chimpanzee. I wish they would have gotten John Saxon instead.

Grizzly is professionally shot and the entire production looks good. The bear is shown sparingly during the attacks, and it looks pretty silly a lot of the time. There's some juicy gore scenes, and I'm surprised it managed to get a PG rating. A shot of a kid with a gnawed-off leg would alone have been enough to land an R just a few years later, when the MPAA was clamping down on all horror movies.

It may sound like I don't like Grizzly, but I do enjoy the movie. I liked it when I saw it on cable way back in the late seventies, and I enjoyed watching the recent Severin release. I feel a tremendous amount of affection toward almost all of the cheesy movies from the classic exploitation era. You could do way, way worse than Grizzly.

Written by Mark Sieber

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