"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" - Al Pacino in Grizzly II. Nope, that came from a different sequel no one was looking for, that started with the letter G. Or maybe it was the feeling I had before sitting down to watch this mess for the second time.
Al Pacino is not here but you get a young George Clooney, Laura Dern & Charlie Sheen appearing in this film. You'll know that from the newly revised movie poster that features them as top billing. SPOILER: they die within the first 5 minutes, off screen. No judgement here, they're trying to gain interest for a 37 years in the making sequel to a Jaws inspired rip off.
On the other hand, you have the appeal of it being a "lost" film. I get it, it's the reason I searched out the bootlegged, work-print copy that I reviewed back in 2014 (here). Especially when you learn of all that's been written recently about the production nightmare that was Grizzly II. The Ringer website wrote quite the interesting piece on that, which I'll link down at the bottom.
So in 2021, thanks to producer Suzanne Nagy and distributor Gravitas Ventures, the world will finally be able to witness this in all its bizarre, (unfinished?) Bearsploitation glory. Or what could have been.
Let's get down to it, what's new, what was expanded on, did they cut out all of the Michael Jackson music that loops through the concert sound check footage?? Well yeah, of course they did. They're not trying to pay royalties.
We now have an opening, which the work print did not have, and it's....stock nature footage. Some shots of bears doing fun bear things, stealing picnic baskets and whatnot. In walks a faceless poacher on screen, traveling through the woods. Speaking of shots, our mystery hunter fires a CGI bullet, and we're talking SyFy network level effects here, directly into the younger cub. And for good measure another shot, the same footage, into another bear. Roll title card. So the mechanical bear we see, or not see, in Grizzly II is out for revenge? Hold on, that's the subtitle. It's Jaws 4 all over again! The prophecy is complete.
Hope you like National Geographic, cause that's what you're going to get. And that's the basic gist of all you're getting intertwined between the film footage. No more or less grizzly action than the work print. At least the actual film is cleaned up to the best ability, so I will give it that. Plus you really get to see the disinterest in Louise Fletcher's face.
What about the concert? The thing that centers around the entire plot, the thing that brought in 50,000 Hungarian extras (what?!?) to witness some live music, and bear carnage I guess. Well, some of the original footage is intact. Then you get the chef's kiss to the film, in which I couldn't help but let out audible laughs throughout. Footage of what I can describe a Coachella-like event is shown in between musical performances. The younger crowd covered in rainbow paint is a just a tad noticeable from the 80's denim look. New music/band footage was shot for this redub, from an American group that appears to be playing in someone's backyard. Did I mention this is supposed to be Hungarian festival in front of tens of thousands of concert goers, yeah I did. Zero effort is made regarding mixing the look of the newly digital footage within the original print. Hilarious.
Let's cut to the finale because up until this point not much has happened. The grizzly, or cameraman, reaches the concert grounds and is met by our main characters for the big showdown. Despite this being some of the more entertaining minutes of the film, it's underwhelming. Totally understandable seeing as how not having a full mechanical bear to work with will do that. What we do get are a few repeating seconds of our grizzly staring into the carnage around her, roaring like a shark in the middle of the Bahamas after Ellen Brody. (Another Jaws 4 reference, I'm very sorry). Gun shots are fired, explosions go off, John Rhys-Davies climbs what appears to be a fur covered telephone poll (the bear). The remaining footage is sliced up, again, we know why. Our grizzly ends up entangled within the stage, somehow. It's not clear what happens and no time for questions because that's literally it. The end.
Sometimes it's better to wonder what if, and you can throw this film into that category. This didn't need full scenes of animals frolicking in the wild to pad the timing. Let it be one of those forgotten pieces that only the more obscure horror or bad movie fans will seek out. Besides the story behind the scenes is much more entertaining.
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