“I don’t want a cloud of fear on this concert. Now you get that grizzly and get it now!” – Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher as a greedy and stupid town official in “Grizzly II: Revenge.”
The problem with “Grizzly II: Revenge” is it’s nowhere near the neighborhood of being a good movie, but it’s not fantastically terrible enough to be a great bad movie. It’s just an awful and ridiculous and clumsily edited B-movie mostly of interest because of the name cast, an insanely horrible concert within the film — and the incredible back story about the making of “Grizzly II,” which could be great material for a fictional adaptation a la “Argo” or “The Big Short” or “American Hustle.”
Quick background: In 1983, cast and crew assembled in the fields of Budapest, Hungary, to make a sequel to the surprise horror hit “Grizzly.” The concept was to have a crazed “devil bear’ going on a rampage during a Woodstock-like rock concert. The cast included Louise Fletcher (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), John Rhys-Davies (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Deborah Foreman (who two years later would star in “Valley Girl”), and a trio of little-known actors hired because they had familiar show business last names: George Clooney, Laura Dern and 18-year-old Charlie Sheen. The film ran into all kinds of problems, including malfunctioning mechanical bears and a producer who flew the coop mid-production, leaving no money behind. It lingered in Movie Limbo for some 37 years and is just now getting a drive-in theatrical and streaming release.
The opening credits list Clooney, Dern and Sheen first, but spoiler alert! They’re in the movie for all of about six minutes. Clooney’s Ron, Dern’s Tina and Sheen’s Lance, three dimwit stoner teens, are hiking through the hills of Northern California on their way to an outdoor concert. They set up camp for the night, get wasted — and then get mauled to death by an enormous grizzly bear who is on a mad rampage after her cub was shot and she was wounded by poachers.
From that point forward, “Grizzly 2” is essentially a terribly shot, badly dubbed, weirdly framed, disjointed ripoff of “Jaws” — set against the backdrop of an actual concert attended by tens of thousands and featuring a roster of execrable 1980s Europop acts with names such as England, The Predator, Toto Coelo, Newcleus and Set the Tone. I’m telling you, sitting through a marathon concert by these bands might just be a fate worse than Death by Grizzly.
Steve Inwood, fresh off a role in another terrible sequel, “Staying Alive,” plays Nick Hollister, a park ranger who has to deal not only with a marauding bear, but with rogue poachers and with the massive crowds streaming into the concert taking place within gobbling range of the giant grizzly. Deborah Raffin’s Samantha, an expert in bears, respects their awesome strength and warns everyone this beast will kill again. Louise Fletcher is the superintendent of the district, and a la Mayor Larry Vaughn in “Jaws,” she doesn’t want anything to get in the way of the lucrative concert and won’t even consider shutting it down. And we have John Rhys-Davies in the Quint role; he plays the wily, slightly crazy, legendary bear hunter Bouchard, who just might be the only human alive capable of taking down the grizzly. “Leave this devil bear to Bouchard!” he growls.
We see the victims from the bear’s point of view and the attacks take place mostly offscreen or in the shadows, mainly because they didn’t have a working mechanical bear. Once in a while there’s a cut to a real bear who was clearly nowhere near the actual set of the movie — and late in the movie, we get a couple of brief glimpses of a phony bear who’s about as realistic as an animatronic creation at Chuck E. Cheese. At one point, Bouchard actually climbs the bear — I told you it was a big bear — but it just looks like he’s scaling an oversized furry mannequin.
Congratulations to Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen and George Clooney for surviving this movie and going on to stellar careers.