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Grizzly II (1983-2020)

Yesterday, I ended my review of Grizzly (1976) by writing that for two years it was the highest-grossing independent movie ever. The film’s distributor, Edward L. Montaro, took the money and ran. Literally. He never paid any of the SAG actors residuals and fled the country. He also kept the profits without paying the director, producers, and writers. (He was later sued and ordered to pay.) This “curse,” if you will, grew exponentially with an attempted sequel.


Much has been written about Grizzly II: Revenge, and I’m probably a year late in contributing my thoughts. The highlights for me are that in 1983, the day before filming began in Budapest, producer Joe Proctor told his associate, Suzanne Nagy, that there was no money to make the film. He disappeared an hour later. Then, the second unit director had a nervous breakdown before shooting his big scene. Finally, the Hungarian government seized most of the production’s equipment for non-payment of bills.


Despite the rescue of a last-minute Japanese investor, post-production was never completed. In 1987, The Cannon Group, Inc. bought the film and planned to finish and release it. Then, guess what? Cannon began having financial troubles and what raw materials there were sat on the shelf… until 2007 when a working print suddenly appeared on YouTube. Thirteen years later, Suzanne Nagy finally completed the film, and it was released in early 2021.


After watching Grizzly II, I’m guessing that more than post-production was never finished. The movie is a collection of scenes often stitched together with stock footage. I’ve never seen so many credits at the end of a film for companies like Getty Images and Shutterstock! I also wonder if additional scenes were shot. I’m certain, particularly in the opening scene, that there’s some bad CGI for blood splatter that wouldn’t have been available in the 1980s.


Obviously, that’s a part of post-production, but I’m really asking is the base footage of a bear cub and its mother being shot original, or was it added. The same can be asked of the big finale where the bear stares down at the chaos ensuing backstage of a huge concert being held in the unnamed national park. It might be an animatronic bear that was supposedly built and used during the original production, or it might be one added digitally during the assembly of the final product.


Although these things are curious to me, none of them really matter. Nagy and company were somehow able to make a movie that’s as good as it is, which isn’t very, with whatever they were able to find and manipulate into something they could proclaim was “37 years in the making.” How do you promote such a thing? How about give top-row billing to three actors that appear in one scene and have since become big stars?


George Clooney, Laura Dern, and Charlie Sheen are the first three victims of the bear in the second scene of Grizzly II. They’re neither seen nor heard from again. I don’t blame Nagy for capitalizing on their participation. It was worth it for me to see them at this stage in their careers. What Nagy doesn’t advertise are the appearances of two other big names: Louise Fletcher and John Rhys-Davies, even though their additional screen time does them no favors. Fletcher is a zombie and Rhys-Davis is a ridiculous caricature.


IMDb categorizes the film as “Horror, Music.” Uh-oh. Since the event around which the “suspense” revolves is the concert, we get a lot of musical performances by what I am going to assume are made-up 80’s bands that were in real life brought on stage after a Nazareth concert. (The audience supposedly didn’t know they were being filmed and it was the largest gathering in Hungary since the Revolution of 1956.)


The final result can’t really be critiqued like a completed film. I’m not even sure it’s worth watching for the bizarre factor. The more interesting story is what happened with the production. However, if curiosity gets the best of you, which it obviously did me, it’s only 74-minutes to sacrifice. I feel like there’s something to learn here, perhaps by studying more what Grizzly II doesn’t do, than what it does. Watching it really made me think about the process and mechanics of filmmaking.


Written by Joan McCall, David Sheldon

Directed by Andre Szots

Starring Steve Inwood, Louise Fletcher, John Rhys-Davies, George Clooney, Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen

RT 74 min.

Released Jan. 8, 2021

Home Video Showtime

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