Here is a plastic Wonder Woman figurine that was a mail-in premium offer from Kraft in 1998. If I remember correctly, I collected and mailed-in mac ‘n cheese box tops (though the offer may have been available using any Kraft products). I believe Batman and Superman were also available as part of this promotion.
“This is the largest post-season crowd we’ve ever had,” Ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George) informs his staff in the opening moments of Grizzly (1976).
What it’s all about: As they head out on patrol, one of them comments that, “There’s no way we can keep an eye on all of those backpackers.” In other words, it’s going to be a smorgasbord of campers for some lucky killer bear. It’s not long before spooky point-of-view camera angels menace two lovely ladies. While packing up camp, the first girl is surprise attacked by a giant furry paw. Her arm is ripped off and she’s vigorously tossed back and forth. It’s not too surprising that this first bear attack is similar to the first shark attack in Jaws (1975), the movie that served as “inspiration” for Grizzly.
The second girl makes a mad dash through the woods and finds shelter in an old shack. Her salvation is short lived. The bear (once again, only it’s paw is visible) smashes through the walls as if they were cardboard and quickly dispatches his victim.
Ranger Kelly and perky wildlife photographer Allison Corwin (Joan McCall) find the first body at the shack. They continue the search for her friend even after night falls. While acting as an impromptu crime scene photographer, Allison literally stumbles across the second body. According to the DVD commentary track, a portion of this scene was re-shot inside a roller rink. Even with the clarity of DVD, the scene is often so dark that it’s impossible to tell if they’re in a faux forest/roller rink or on the moon.
After the remains have been examined, Kelly theorizes that a protective mother bear might have attacked the girls. He quickly discounts his own theory, “Bears don’t eat people.”
The examiner offers a less than helpful assessment. “This one did.”
Next, a pretty young park ranger is stalked by the bear-cam as she strips down for a refreshing swim. Duh-dum Duh-dum. With a blatant rip-off of the John Williams score playing on the soundtrack, she is attacked underneath a waterfall.
Over drinks at the lodge, Allison lends a sympathetic ear to Ranger Kelly’s troubles. He has the feeling that there is, “Something I’m not doing.”
“Sure, you’re not killing the bear.” Okay. Maybe she’s not so sympathetic, though it doesn’t really matter. Despite the fact that Allison has clearly been set up as Kelly’s love interest, she disappears from the film after another brief scene.
Under pressure from the National Park Supervisor to do something about the deaths, Kelly enlists the help of local chopper pilot Dan Stober (Andrew Prine). While searching for the killer grizzly from the air, they spot a bear, but it’s only environmentalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) communing with nature. “We got a Grizzly,” he tells them, “and then some.” According to the evidence he’s found, the bear is over 15 feet tall and an ancestor of “the mightiest carnivores in the prehistoric era.”
Later that night, a camper excuses herself from the campfire to slip into something more comfortable. While preparing for bed, the Grizzly strikes, attacking the woman in her tent. She’s swung violently around, an odd effect that’s achieved by flipping the film upside down. The moment is strangely surreal. While in her final death throes, her hair defies gravity and falls up.
Hunters scour the forest looking for the killer bear. One hunter narrowly escapes becoming the bear’s next victim by falling in the water and being swept down river. Kelly and the Park Supervisor continue to clash over the handling of the situation. “Kelly, you’re a maverick. We don’t have room for mavericks.”
That night, the bear sneaks up on a group of hunters. Anyone who’s dumb enough to stay out past nightfall and sleep out in the open while a killer Grizzly is on the loose, gets what they deserve. Luckily, it’s only a cub that stumbles into their camp. They get the bright idea to use the baby bear as bait. “Old mom will come by… Pow.” The Grizzly comes by and eats the little bear. Ranger Kelly, Stober, Scott and the three hunters set up strategic posts in hopes of catching the bloodthirsty beast.
While they lay in wait, Stober entertains them with a story about a pack of grizzlies that once ate an entire Indian tribe. In the DVD making-of documentary, Andrew Prine fondly recalls working on the film with director William Girdler. It was while shooting this scene that Prine improvised the Indian tale, a story lifted directly from the classic Robert Shaw speech in Jaws. Despite Stober’s storytelling skills, Scott would rather capture than kill the beast, “I can look like him, I can smell like him, now gimme a chance!”
Come daybreak, young Ranger Tom (Tom Arcuragi) stands high atop a remote watchtower. You would think that a 15-foot Grizzly would be kind of hard to miss, but the devious critter sneaks up on him and tries to shake Tom loose. The watchtower eventually folds like a house of cards and poor Tom is killed in the fall.
The park supervisor reacts predictably and fulfills the requirements of his stock character, “There’s no need to close the park!” It also seems that he believes in the old adage: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. When he invites the press to cover the ongoing story, Kelly has an amusingly righteous exchange with a reporter, “You and your cameras make it so exciting, so attractive.”
A mother and her young child become the next victims of a bear attack. While playing in the yard with his pet rabbit, the little boy is suddenly (and graphically) torn to shreds by the grizzly. Mom attempts to fend off the beast, but she also becomes bear chow.
Kelly and Stober load up their helicopter and fly out over the forest. They land and manage to lure the bear close, but their trap fails and the bear runs off. For some reason, after chasing him across the rugged terrain on foot, Kelly seems genuinely surprised that they weren’t able to catch up with him.
Night comes and goes. Scott, who’s been riding a pony through the woods, is attacked while tracking the beast. The Grizzly takes a swipe at the horse (decapitating it) and claws at Scott. The bear partially buries him, saving him for a snack later on. When Scott awakens in a shallow grave, he finds that the Grizzly wants his dinner sooner rather than later. Kelly and Stober eventually find what is left of their friend.
Continuing their search from the air, they spot the Grizzly and chase it. Our heroes eventually land in an open field where the stage is set for the final confrontation. Jaws set the gold standard for the ubiquitous man vs. beast finale and Grizzly doesn’t veer far from the successful formula. The Grizzly immediately attacks the chopper and the men fend it off with riffles. They each manage to get several good shots into the growling monster, but Stober succumbs to a great big bear hug. Up until this point, the bears and the human actors have never appeared together in the same frame. Prine is briefly shown next to one of the trained animals, but it is a stunt man in a bear costume that gives him the squeeze of death.
Kelly pulls out a rocket launcher…yes, a rocket launcher. If they had a rocket launcher lying around, why didn’t they just use it on the bear in the first place? At any rate, Kelly fires and the Grizzly explodes in a massive fireball.
A lone harmonica plays a melancholy tune on the soundtrack as Ranger Kelly kneels over the body of his fallen friend. If Stober were still alive, he’d undoubtedly wish that Kelly had thought of that rocket launcher just a little sooner.
In conclusion: Auteur William Girdler cranked out several low-budget gems in the seventies. Some of his most memorable titles include Abby (1974), Day of the Animals (1977) and The Manitou (1978). Though Grizzly was by far his most successful film, Girdler never saw a dime thanks to a legal dispute that arose after the film was released.
A novelization of Grizzly was published to coincide with the film’s release. According to the folks at www.williamgirdler.com, the book not only features first-person accounts from the bear’s perspective (he’s just misunderstood) but it also offers up the points-of-view of Scott’s horse and the pet bunny rabbit! The book also presents a slightly different ending than the one that appears in the film. Ranger Kelly uses a flamethrower (which makes about as much sense as a rocket launcher) to destroy the grizzly. Also in the novel, Stober survives his bear attack. It’s possible that this ending may have once been part of the final film. As the credits begin to roll, Kelly kneels by his fallen friend whom we assume is dead. If you look closely, Andrew Prine’s fluttering eyelids don’t exactly give the impression that Stober is truly down for the count.
An often talked about, but seldom seen sequel, Grizzly II: The Predator, was shot sometime in the early eighties. With a script by the man who penned the original, the movie was apparently shelved when problems with the special FX bear arose while filming in Hungary. It is said to feature Charlie Sheen and George Clooney in their earliest film roles.
The 30th anniversary double-disc special edition DVD of Grizzly presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and features a commentary by actress Joan McCall and producer David Sheldon. A short vintage promo titled Movie Making in the Wilderness contains interview footage with the director as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the difficulties of shooting while on location in Georgia. Jaws With Claws includes interviews with producers Sheldon and Harvey Flaxman and stars Andrew Prine and Joan McCall. Sheldon relates how, early in the production, the mechanical bear (constructed by an L.A. taxidermist) was accidentally left out in the rain. It became impossible to match the look of the matted animal fur to the shots of the live bear. Consequently, the mechanical grizzly is only seen fleetingly in the final film. The disc also includes a short fanboy segment, Reflections of Grizzly, a small poster/photo gallery and two radio spots.
Call them punks… call them animals… but you better get out of their way! They’re souped-up for thrills and there’s no limit to what they’ll do!
What it’s all about: Hot Rods to Hell (1967) begins with a perfect Christmas Eve for a perfect suburban family, until traveling salesman and stalwart father Tom Phillips (Dana Andrews) is injured in an auto accident. After an extensive recovery period, Peg Phillips (Jeanne Crain) worries about her husband’s mental condition. “The accident did something to him Bill,” she explains to her brother-in-law, “It’s his attitude about things. I’m afraid he’s become a… a very frightened man.”
Once Tom is comfortably ensconced at home with his wife and two children, teenage Tina (Laurie Mock) and young Jamie (Tim Stafford), he must consider his family’s future. With his bad back, Tom can no longer cover the territory his old job required. Bill proposes a new business opportunity, owning and operating a desert motel.
The heavily made-up Andrews (who wears nearly as much make-up as co-star Crain) is terrorized by recurring nightmares of his accident. He decides that a fresh start is in order. “As soon as I’m able, we’ll make the trip. Just the four of us. Everything is going to be brand new.”
As the Phillips family makes their way through the California desert in their station wagon, they encounter a group of hot roding teens. Their bad driving understandably upsets papa Phillips but Tina has a different perspective, “All the kids drag, Dad.”
“What kind of animal are those?”
They’re the kind of animals that wear button down shirts and freshly-pressed slacks. Only in 1967 could these kids, who dress like young Republicans, be considered outside the norm. Duke (Paul Bertoya) the de facto leader of this wild bunch, can’t keep his hands off freaky chick Gloria (Mimsy Farmer). She asks the eternal question, “What’s left for kicks?” After some swell hot roding antics (close-ups are achieved using old-school rear projection techniques) Duke and Gloria engage in some heavy social recreation.
When the family car has a blowout, everyone is a bit rattled. “Let’s not go being too dramatic,” Mother quips, despite the fact that it’s all they’ll be doing for the rest of the movie.
At a nearby service station, Tom gets to talking with the station attendant about the motel and his plans for the future. Ernie (Gene Kirkwood as another well-dressed “hoodlum”) overhears their conversation and fills Duke in on the situation. It seems that the motel and its adjoining roadhouse, The Arena, are the only places for disenfranchised local teens to hang out. There’s no telling what a square like Tom Phillips will do to their favorite juke joint.
Tom, who’s chosen this particular moment to try and overcome his fears, takes the wheel of the family car only to be terrorized by Duke and his pals. The kids taunt and tease the Phillips family with their vehicular antics along vast stretches of uninhabited desert highway. What makes the scene so enjoyable isn’t the impressive stunt driving, but the reactions from Hollywood veterans Andrews and Crain. While his family is being menaced, Andrews is stony-faced but sweaty while Crain shrieks, gasps and overacts wildly. Accompanied by frenzied go-go music, the teens literally drive circles around old man Tom.
“Tom, we’ve got to get away from them,” Peg pleads, overstating the obvious.
They find refuge at a particularly verdant picnic area that has trees, grass and even a lake! Just the kind of place you’d expect to find in the middle of the desert. The family is able to eat their lunch in peace while dad rests his back.
Duke takes in an interest in Tina who is relaxing by the lake. She is repelled, yet intrigued by his freewheeling ways. “You almost killed us… for kicks.”
“Do you think I’d wanna hurt anybody who looks like you?” After giving her a kiss, Duke lays down the law, “Now tell your father that he’d better not try to change things because if he does… nobody around here… is going to have any fun. Not even you.”
A lunkheaded local (whose on screen wife is played by Hortense Petra, the wife of producer Sam Katzman) engages in some dangerous driving around the lake, which catches the attention of a highway patrolman. Tom and Peg report the earlier hot rod incident, “They have to be stopped officer, they’re going to kill somebody.”
With a stoicness that rivals Joe Friday, the patrolman gives them a mini sermon on modern troubled youth. “These kids have nowhere to go but they want to get there at a hundred and fifty miles an hour. Giving them cars like that is like putting guns in their hands.”
With Duke and his gang long gone, the Phillips family continues their trip. They arrive at the motel to find the adjoining “coffee shop” really jumping. They quickly get settled in for the night but Tina sneaks out her bedroom window. It seems she can’t resist the siren song of Mickey Rooney Jr. and his combo. She finds Ernie and Gloria, who Duke refers to as “stale bread”, getting groovy on the crowded dance floor. Gloria makes a scene when she sees that Duke is interested in Tina, a girl who is apparently bakery fresh.
Though The Arena obviously sells alcohol, Duke and his underage pals seem to make due with soda pop. In a brief scene where Duke sits at a table, an awkward black bar obscures the brand name on the bottle he’s drinking from. It seems that a certain national bottling company didn’t care to be associated with the immoral hooligans of Hot Rods to Hell.
On the dance floor, Duke and Tina shake and shimmy and stare at each other longingly. In the parking lot, she insists that she’s “not like Gloria”. But Duke doesn’t take no for an answer, “It’s what’s happening around here.”
Tom defends his daughter’s virtue and chokes Duke, but a back spasm prevents him from finishing the job. “Any girl would want Duke!” Tina confesses, “You think I’ve never kissed a boy before?”
With talk like that it’s definitely time for a mother/daughter heart to heart. But their little talk turns into a hysterical screaming match when Peg questions Tina about her youthful yearnings, “Is that what you want? To wind up in a motel room with any man?”
“All you think about is me getting married! What if something happens to the man I marry? What if he gets to be like dad?!”
This hits a little too close to home for Peg. She gives her daughter a well-deserved slap before dispensing some motherly advice, “Tina, there isn’t a woman alive who doesn’t want a man, but you’re young enough and desirable enough to demand that a man love you if he wants you.” In other words, get a ring before you give up the goods.
For Tom Phillips the motel deal is definitely off. He packs up his family and is back on the road in no time. On their way out of town they encounter a traffic accident. It seems the yokel from the picnic spot has met with a bad end. With all the subtlety of a “Blood on the Pavement” driver’s ed. film, the stoic policeman sermonizes, “The law doesn’t just belong to the cops, it belongs to them too.”
It isn’t long before Duke and Ernie catch up to them on a lonely stretch of highway. The boys continue to terrorize the Phillips family, each of whom indulge in their own unique style of histrionic overacting. A deserted roadside diner offers them a respite from the games of chicken. After a brief confrontation with the hooligans, Tom realizes that if he’s going to fight back, it has to be on their terms. Tom parks the car on a narrow bridge and, under the cover of night, hides his family in the desert away from any danger.
Duke and Ernie speed toward the family car for one final game of chicken. They realize too late that the car isn’t moving and swerve to avoid a collision. They roll their rod off the road and into a ditch.
Tom waves a tire iron like a crazy man, but soon has a dramatic epiphany. He realizes that he had the fortitude to stand up to these punks all along. In a speech reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara’s vow to rebuild her ancestral home, Tom tells the boys, “I’m not going to run anymore. I’m going back to my motel and I’m gonna clean up all the slop and garbage and the smell and it’s gonna be like it should be. And I won’t even need the police.” The police show up anyway and take Duke and Ernie away.
It may have been a deeply traumatizing experience for them all, but the Phillips family is closer and more wholesome than ever. “Peg,” a newly liberated Tom tells his wife, “I wouldn’t even mind if you drove now.” Everyone piles into the station wagon for the drive back to their own little piece of the American dream, a roadside motel in Mayville, USA.
In conclusion: Hot Rods to Hell was originally made for television in 1966. It was shot quickly (about two weeks) on the MGM backlot and in the areas surrounding Palmdale, CA. The producers were so pleased with the end result that they changed the title (it was originally called 52 Miles to Terror) and released the film theatrically.
The same year that Hot Rods to Hell was released, Gene Kirkwood, Laurie Mock and Mimsy Farmer appeared in another teen flick, Riot on Sunset Strip (1967). In that film the girls got to switch roles. Mock played a groovy beatnik chick while Farmer played a naive daddy’s girl who goes on an outrageously entertaining acid trip.