The history behind the production of Grizzly II: Revenge is far greater than anything in the movie which stars three Oscar Winners and several other big name actors. Originally considered a sequel to Grizzly, one of the many man vs. nature thrillers that came out after the success of Jaws, the movie began production under the title The Predator.
The production began in Hungary for budget concerns as it was supposed to double for Yellowstone National Park as three young campers, Ron (George Clooney), his girlfriend, Tina (Laura Dern) and their friend, Lance (Charlie Sheen) are all mauled to death by a huge mother grizzly bear seeking revenger over the death of her cub by poachers.
Clooney, Dern and Sheen were all young when the movie began production in 1983. Reportedly, their scenes were the first shot and then a producer, Joseph Ford Proctor, left and there was no more money available. Rather than shut down production, another producer Suzanne Csikos Nagy frantically found some Japanese investors and the production resume concluding after 45 days.
Along with the before they were big stars, Oscar winner Louise Fletcher, is Eileene Draygon, a superintendent of the summitt, who is planning a huge concert event that will attract thousands. She sees this has her ticket back to the D.C. area. And nothing, not a blood thirsty grizzly nor dead teens, is going to stop her. Steve Inwood plays Chief Ranger Nick Hollister who teams with Samantha Owens (Deborah Raffin) director of bear management, to seek out a hunter, Brouchard (John Rhys-Davies) a French-Indigenous hunter whose wife and child were killed by a grizzly.
If you can see the similarities with Jaws, they’re pretty evident. I’ll mention something else about Jaws later. Deborah Foreman of Valley Girl fame plays Nick’s daughter, Chrissy, who gets a job as a gofer on the concert after being spotted by concert organizer, Charlie Hill (Dick Anthony Williams). If you’re thinking this is somehow going to come together in the climax, well, it doesn’t. Charlie is the sole black person in the movie which means he’s probably going to be a bear appetizer, but no, he actually survives and helps Nick and Samantha during a climatic scene. As for Chrissy, there’s nothing really much.
I’m thinking a lot of scenes weren’t able to be processed in post-production. The runtime is short at only 74 minutes, which means there’s 15-20 minutes of footage that was supposed to enhance these two characters, but if you take them out, it wouldn’t make a difference. English actors Ian McNiece and Timothy Spall have blink and you’ll miss it small roles. Charles Cyphers and Jack Starrett (the sadistic deputy in First Blood) have scenes as your typical redneck poachers who end up on the wrong end of the grizzly’s teeth and claws.
As for the titular character herself, very little of her is seen and when it does pop up, you can tell it obviously was added in post-production. Reports indicate the mechanical bear they created wouldn’t work for the scenes, another (unintended) reference to Jaws. All you see is actors reacting to a bear off camera that isn’t there. I saw a bootleg copy of this on YouTube about 10 years ago. Every time the bear was supposed to appear, there screen went black. My imagination of what the bear could look like was better than what we see here. Worse they throw in scenes of real bears, probably stock footage or something they could film cheap. It is a mess. Think about how Ed Wood would use real footage with apparent fake props and that’s what you have.
The climatic scene doesn’t make sense as Nick somewhere convinces the bear to approach him where there are high voltage wires back stage. Then, we get a brief few seconds of the extreme close up scene in Jaws 2 where the shark bites on the electrical wife and gets fried. This makes the Jaws sequels mainly the third and fourth one look like they’re on par with the Mission: Impossible sequels.
About the only thing fascinating was how they fooled a bunch of Hungarians into believing there was a huge concert. Nazareth opened the concert but they had fake bands perform after their set as the crowd went nuts. The fake bands don’t have much of memorable tunes, but it was reportedly the largest gathering of Hungarians in one spot since the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
In the end, the Hungarian government seized most of the production equipment for non-payment of bills and Nagy spent the next 37 years trying to negotiate payments and completion. It was reported the Cannon Group had sough to complete post-production in 1988 but that company went into bankruptcy and later dissolved. Grizzly II was mostly just an urban legend mentioned by people who couldn’t confirm nor deny it exists. Many of the actors didn’t talk about it and could you blame them?
The movie has gotten bad reviews since it’s release and they are all well-deserved. I have a feeling Nagy is trying to make this a cult classic among fans, hoping for DVD sales or this to show at midnight movie houses. I wouldn’t even doubt if there is a documentary in the works on this movie, the same way documentaries have been made on the production of Troll 2 and the failed production of Superman Lives. To that I say each its own, but this is a really awful movie. Maybe if seen with others as camp, it can be enjoyed, but it just seems like the film cans should have stayed undeveloped.