Thursday, January 6, 2022

GRIZZLY II: REVENGE (2020) Movie Review

Grizzly II: Revenge (2020) d. Andre Szots (USA) (74 min)

Other than the fact that its plot centers around another big killer bear on the loose, this has no connection to William Girdler’s 1976 “Jaws with Paws” drive-in classic. Screenwriters Joan McCall and David Shelton borrow from the “This Time It’s Personal” playbook with a mother bear avenging the death of her cubs at the hands of poachers by murdering everyone in her path. Shot in 1982 in Hungary (with American money), the drama that went on behind the camera is far more fascinating than anything that transpires before it, ranging from the collection of talent assembled to the financial wheeling and dealing that ended up with the workprint languishing on backroom shelves for nearly four decades.

The film opens with three young hikers being brutally slain, the weekend warriors in question played by none other than future mega-stars George Clooney, Charlie Sheen, and Laura Dern. However, we also have Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher as a National Park official, Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl, Real Genius, April Fool’s Day) as the daughter of park ranger Steve Inwood (Staying Alive) recruited to help out with a massive music festival, and Deborah Raffin (Scanners II, Death Wish III, God Told Me To) as a benevolent naturalist out to protect the bear.

But, wait, there’s more! John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark) chews up the scenery as a celebrated wildlife tracker, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise) appears unbilled as a sound engineer for the aforementioned music festival, and Charles Cyphers (Halloween, The Fog) and Jack Starrett (the bad cop who abuses John Rambo in the original First Blood) yuk it up as nefarious beer-swilling gun-toting rednecks. Whew!

As far as the other travails go, it’s a long and tangled web, but the short version is that the Hungarian government seized the production equipment for non-payment and the onscreen music festival was actually footage from a Nazareth concert (with the film’s performers stuck in to serve as the opening acts!) There’s a fantastic article detailing the whole affair here:

What Do George Clooney, Nazareth, and a 16-Foot Mechanical Bear Have in Common?

No surprise, it’s not a great movie by any stretch (as evidenced by its 3.2 rating on IMDb), with minimal killer bear action and some really creaky animatronics, but the added zing of seeing all these familiar faces and knowing the chicanery going on just off frame keeps things just entertaining enough.

Trivia: Distributor Gravitas Ventures put out Birdemic II AND Grizzly II. I guess we know their niche.


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