Film Review: Grizzly (1976)

Also known as: Claws, Killer Grizzly (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 12th, 1976 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: William Girdler
Written by: Harvey Flaxman, David Sheldon
Music by: Robert O. Ragland
Cast: Christopher George, Andrew Pine, Richard Jaeckel

Columbia Pictures, Film Ventures International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Kelly, you’re a maverick. We don’t have room for mavericks!” – Charley

I saw this when I was a kid. I didn’t think it was good back then. I always wanted to revisit it though because I like killer animal movies in general. So when I saw that a RiffTrax version of the film was streaming for free on Amazon Video (for Prime members), I fired it up. Well, at least my popcorn was good. And laughing along with Mike, Kevin and Bill is always fun.

After Jaws came out in 1975, there was a big wave of animal horror films that followed. Almost all of them were terrible low budget affairs that used the shtick but lacked the magic. This one stayed on land and gave us a giant killer grizzly bear, which was probably apparent by the film’s title and poster.

Most of the killer bear footage is comprised of two thing. The first, is shots of a normal sized bear growling while the camera work tries to used some force perspective tricks but fails. The second, is a dummy bear arm with claws that is used to crash through balsa wood cabins before clubbing people in the face to poorly imitate a bear attack. The effects are bad, the editing is worse and some of these kills are much more hilarious than terrifying.

This has Christopher George in it. He’s not a great actor or anything but he was in Enter the Ninja and Pieces, two films the great Joe Bob Briggs would consider “drive-in classics”. Other than George, there’s no one of note in this and the acting is below average.

In all honesty, this feels like a TV movie from the era albeit with a bit of blood thrown in. It’s just not terrifying and the bear just looks slightly annoyed and not like the ravenous killer beast he needs to be.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Day of the Animals, Prophecy and Alligator.

Film Review: Pieces (1982)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1982 (Spain)
Directed by: Juan Piquer Simon
Written by: Dick Randall, John W. Shadow
Music by: Librado Pastor
Cast: Christopher George, Paul Smith, Edmund Purdom, Linda Day

Artists Releasing Corporation, Film Ventures International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Yes! While we were out fumbling with that music, the lousy bastard was in there killing her! BASTARD! BAAAAASTAAARD! BASTAAARD!” – Mary Riggs

Pieces is a Spanish-Italian-Puerto Rican-American production that is actually quite good, even if it is essentially a rehash of several slasher and splatter film tropes.

The film takes place in Boston, where some exterior shots were filmed. The rest of the production was done in Spain, which is obvious by the architecture as well as the flora.

It is mostly a Spanish-Italian co-production and because of this, reflects the visual style of those regions. While it is a straight up slasher flick with a heavy emphasis on chainsaw dismemberment, it has a giallo styled visual flair. There are lots of dark shadows and high contrast with beautiful vibrant colors added in. While it isn’t as vibrant as some of the traditional giallo pictures, the influence of the style is quite prevalent.

The story isn’t anything to write home about but all you really need for a good gore-filled slasher is a setup. Any setup will do, really. As long as there is some sort of violent or twisted backstory about the killer. In this case, as a boy, our killer murders his mother after she freaks out about him playing with a nudie puzzle. Forty years later, the killer, whose identity is a mystery, murders young girls and takes specific body parts from them. While committing his violent acts, he puts pieces of the nudie puzzle back together: forming a full woman with each murder.

The real highlight of this film is the murders. They are all pretty graphic and for a foreign picture from 1982, I was really impressed with the special effects. Practical effects, even when resources are limited, always show the passion of those creating them. The effects and the gore were just really well handled and executed in Pieces. There is a fantastic scene where a knife goes through the back of a head and comes out the mouth. There is another scene where a girl is literally chainsawed in half and it was just a great sequence.

There is some random bizarreness in this movie. The biggest example is when a Bruce Lee lookalike jumps into a scene and kung fus the shit out of one of the ladies. She pulls a gun on him, he kicks it, knocks her down and then another actor runs up and apparently the guy was just messing around and then runs off.

Pieces is a pretty good slasher movie. While some people still remember it, it has since been mostly forgotten due to the high number of slasher picks from the era. It is nowhere near the best in the genre but it is better than average and a better movie than some of the more famous slasher films.

Film Review: Enter the Ninja (1981)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1981
Directed by: Menahem Golan
Written by: Dick Desmond, Mike Stone
Music by: W. Michael Lewis, Laurin Rinder
Cast: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George

Cannon Film Distributors, 101 Minutes

Review:

Enter the Ninja is the first film in Cannon Films’ Ninja Trilogy. While it is still a pretty entertaining motion picture, it isn’t anywhere near as amazing and bad ass as the studios second effort Revenge of the Ninja.

However, this thing stars Franco Nero, the original Django and one of my favorite actors of all-time. That being said, it is still kind of weird to see the heroic white ninja remove his mask only to reveal a mustachioed buff Italian with dreamy eyes. As much as I love Nero, he just felt weirdly out of place as a ninja. Realistically, that’s probably because I really only associate him as a gunslinging spaghetti western bad ass, as that is certainly what he is most famous for. I do still like Nero in this picture, though. I mean, he’s Franco friggin’ Nero!

The villainous black ninja is played by Sho Kosugi, who would go on to be the hero in Revenge of the Ninja, two years later. He has a lot less screen time in this movie and unfortunately, isn’t as exciting as he would be in Revenge.

The other villain, the evil corporatist crime boss of the Philippines is played by Christopher George, known mostly for westerns and b-movies.

Put out by Cannon Films, this is actually directed by one of the studio heads, Menahem Golan of the infamous Golan-Globus duo.

This film’s plot deals with Nero going to the Philippines after completing his ninja training. While there, he meets up with his old war buddy and his hot wife (Susan George) only to find out that they are being bullied into selling their land to the local evil corporatist. As the film rolls on, Nero disrupts the villains plans and protects his friends. The villain than calls on help from the black ninja, a rival from Nero’s ninja school that hates that a white man has learned the sacred art.

Unfortunately, other than the beginning and the end, there isn’t a lot of ninja action. Most of the time, Nero isn’t even in his costume. Plus, the beginning sequence isn’t a real fight, it is Nero’s final test at his ninja school.

The action is still pretty solid but the ninja action isn’t anywhere near the level of the much superior Revenge of the Ninja. Still, this is a bad ass and entertaining flick for people who are into these sort of pictures.

Enter the Ninja could have been a much better film but we got that with its loose sequel.