Grizzly (US: Pyramid, 1976)
Tagline: "18 Feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!"
I have to say I loved this cover the moment I saw it.
Excellent work by comic book great Neal Adams. We'll
never know how a bear that damn big snuck up on our
sexy little camp bunny, but hell, who cares? Nobody
ever said this stuff has to make sense. Anyway, as you
might have guessed, we're going slumming again with
another movie novelization. Grizzly was one of the
many movies knocked out to cash in on the success of
Jaws. Sort of a Jaws on land, if you can dig that. I was
twelve years old when I saw Spielberg's amazing film. This one showed up a year
later and I remember we were all very excited to see it. Like most movies back
then, it took forever and a day to show up at the theater in our small town...but
when it did, man, we were pumped! A whole bunch us walked downtown to catch
Grizzly on a Friday night. And you know what? Even though it was (obviously) not
in the same class as the shark movie, we liked it. We really did. Fast forward
thirty-odd years. I watched it on DVD and, well, to be honest, the thrill was gone,
baby. Then I read the book and...well, that's what we'll get into now.
Okay. Now realistically, a novelization is probably only as good as the script it's
based on. Very often with these, the writer has no opportunity to see the film
before he types out his version. And it's not unusual that he's given an earlier
version of the script to work from. Check out Alan Dean Foster's novelization of
The Thing. It's fun...but it's different and the shape-shifting monsters are never
really described in any detail (probably because Rob Bottin wasn't done making
So far, here at Horror's Guilty Pleasures, we have looked at three other
novelizations, which proves we can slum with the best of 'em-- Piranha, Return of
the Living Dead, and Inseminoid. Piranha was very good. Return of the Living
Dead was fair. Inseminoid...well, like the movie, fucking indescribable.
Let's take a look at Grizzly. It was written by Will Collins who I've never heard of
and was probably the producer's brother-in-law or something. No matter. Collins
writes with all the flair and imagination of a newspaper article. In other words: stiff,
stilted, and dry. He follows the script blow-by-blow, which is fine. The story is
this: one peaceful summer at the National Park (the name is no more specific
than that) a gigantic bear starts eating people which, of course, causes no end of
trouble for rugged ranger Mike Kelly. Our first two victims are a couple of college
girls. Collins uses the common 1970's technique of shifting the point-of-view from
the victim to the monster, victim to monster. The first girl (Maggie) gets it:
"But Maggie knew only terror and disbelief. Her blood was pulsing from her torn
arm in six-foot jets, her organs had gone into final spasm..."
Six-foot jets yet! Damn! Poor old Maggie. We knew her well...what? Oh, she's not
dead yet? Let's see:
"With a single stroke her chest was ripped open to and through the bones. What
had been desirable breasts, cradled in lace only moments before, now became
raw, bleeding meat."
Not too shabby. A bit of flair there. If only Collins had left it alone. Instead, he
closes the death scene with this:
"...the last word that choked from her bleeding lips was, "Mommy!"
Yeah...that's a little cornball. What might have been an effective creature-kill and
desirable breasts reduced to hamburger becomes, sadly, laughable. But maybe
I'm being too harsh. Let's examine the rest of the plot. After Maggie's death, her
friend hides in an abandoned cabin where the bear finds her and has her for
lunch. Enter out lantern-jawed hero, Mike Kelly. He has the remains moved to the
hospital where the resident sawbones tells him, yup, a bear killed the girls. Now
there's trouble. Park Supervisor Kittridge blames Kelly. The bears were supposed
to have been shooed out of the park by Kelly and Arthur Scott, a naturalist and
bear enthusiast who wears bearskins and follows grizzlies around up in the
boonies. I'm sure you see the parallel here with Jaws: Kelly is Chief Brody, Scott
is Hooper, and Kittridge is Mayor Vaughn (the asshole who wanted to keep the
beach open even when a giant killer shark was biting people in fucking half). All
we lack here is a good Quint-type. They try with Don Stober, but fail horribly.
Stober is a wise-assed helicopter pilot that channels his Native American
forbears...even though he's obviously white as rice. But back to Kittridge. He's an
admirable prick on all accounts. Like Mayor Vaughn keeping the beach open,
Kittridge wants to keep the park open even though Kelly wants it closed. And like
Vaughn letting loose the crazy, beer-guzzling fisherman to catch the shark,
Kittridge responds in kind by putting a bounty on the killer grizzly and allowing
every drunken redneck hunter in the state to roam through the wilds of the park.
Scott, the naturalist, tells Kelly (and Kittridge) that the beast in question is
fifteen-feet tall and weighs 2,000 pounds and it's got a name: Arctodus-Ursus
Horribulus. That's Latin meaning Big-ass Motherfucking Bear. A prehistoric bear
right out of the Pleistocene. A throwback. Kittridge could care less. A buck is a
buck. More deaths follow. A woman's tent is torn open and she is eaten. A mother
is savaged and her son mutilated. This is a good one and a chance for Collins to
practice his artistry with implausible dialog. Okay, it's not his fault. It's in the
script, right? When the mother discovers the giant carnivore tearing apart her little
boy and smashing his broken body against a tree, she grabs a fireplace poker
and goes after the bear, saying:
"Get away, you! Shoo!"
Really??? Get away? Shoo? Somehow, I expected a more violent, pissed-off
mother-love reaction. But this woman is not the dumbest of the victims. No, that
distinction goes to one of Kelly's rangers. A hot ranger chick who wants to get it
on with her ranger boyfriend. Even though they're trained professionals, what's a
little sex in the woods? After all, they're tired (and horny) from tracking the big
fella. So, while her boyfriend scouts downstream, the hot ranger chick strips
naked and skinny dips in a waterfall. Guess what happens?
And I'll leave you hanging right there, my friends.
Pros: There few and far between here. Other than Maggie and six-foot jets of
blood, there's not much here to recommend. The ending is pretty cool,
though...even though, once again, it mimics Jaws.
Cons: The writing is dull, dry, and uninspired. Collins was clearly bored and, early
on, so are we.
Overall: Avoid this like the clap. If you spot a copy of Grizzly, by all means keep
your hands in your pockets. Don't put yourself through this. I suffer for my "art",
but there's no reason you should.
One bloody skull out of five.
Our next guilty pleasure:
"Courage, treachery, greed...and primal fear unleashed on a city."