Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Night of the Grizzly (1966) - Review - 02-06-11

The Night of the Grizzly (1966). Starring Clint Walker, Jack Elam and Nancy Kulp.

Three stars.


This is really a killer animal flick disguised as a western. Clint Walker, famous for the 1950s series Cheyenne, shines in this film he made in the latter years of his career. Here, Walker shines as former marshal turned rancher Jim Cole. Cole quits the lawman business in order to move his family to Wyoming and go into cattle ranching. Along the way, they make friends with an ornery tramp Hank (Jack Elam) and feisty old maid shop keeper Willhemeina (The Beverly Hillbillies' Nancy Kulp). Unfortunately, Cole ends up with his enemies as well, being evil banker Jed Curry (Keenan Wynn) and ex-friend/bounty hunter Cass Dowdy (played by long-time western badguy Leo Gordon).

However, the main villain of the piece is not a person, but an animal. In particular, the animal mentioned in the title - a grizzly. Aptly named Satan, the bear tear-asses around the local range, killing humans and cattle alike. The situation comes to a head when Satan kills all of Big Jim's beef. When Jim is forced to borrow money from Curry to buy more cattle, he is forced into a desperate situation where he must produce money or lose his ranch. His only choice is to kill Satan for the posted bounty. This pits him against Dowdy, who is plotting Cole's demise among with Curry. The film climaxes, when Cole is up against Dowdy and the bear simultaneously.

This film was a staple of Ted Turner programming in the late 80s/early 90s on TBS and TNT. Unfortunately, the film has faded into obscurity over the last fifteen years. The obvious influence this film had on killer animal films (such as William Girdler's Grizzly) makes this film a must for diehard horror fans that appreciate the roots of 1970s horror. The sad part is that, as of 2011, this film has yet to see a DVD release. Regardless, seeking out a VHS or bootleg DVD-R copy of this film is well worth the money, as Night of the Grizzly also serves as decent entertainment for family movie night. That is, despite the random violence that permeates this G-rated film.

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