Night of the Grizzly – Repost Review

1349310744_1Night of the Grizzly (1966) – It’s fun for the whole family. No, really. Just as long as there’s a nice safe couch and/or bookcase for the littler ones to hide behind occasionally.

So this movie is about:
Ex-lawman Big Jim Cole (Clint Walker) is retired and moving to a new town to take up ranching with his family. Unfortunately, he picks the mountain that Old Satan, a giant and bullet-resistant grizzly bear, lives on; and, a further problem, that the rich banker guy in town wants to buy for his sons and is willing to be slightly unethical about getting. Old Satan promptly proceeds to eat Big Jim’s livestock. Big Jim is in trouble, because he’s put just about all his money into the farm and if he can’t come up with the cash to pay the banker guy (I forget just what the details are, but, y’know, not all that important), he’s Gonna Lose The Ranch and have to go back to lawmanning. Worse yet, a bounty hunter drifts into town and he has a grudge to settle with Big Jim Cole…

This is a really wholesome family movie. Honest. And I still had to watch this during the day. I have no idea why, but it was genuinely freaking me out. Possibly because there is so much left to the imagination–we see horribly wounded and dead animals…from a distance; we see canvas-covered shapes roll past on a flatbed wagon and know what happened to the hunting party–so much buildup of dread and angst is produced that even the fake bear is scary.

That, or I had a high fever at the time. I dunno.

Other than that, the movie has an extremely Disney-esque feel and look. The family is heartwarmingly sweet (they even sing songs in the wagon): Big Jim Cole (Clint Walker), Big Jim’s Wife (some lady with extremely 60s’ hair), Charlie (boy), Gypsy (a very cute little tot of a girl), and Blonde Cousin Girl (who also has 60s hair.) Blonde Cousin is soon making sheep’s eyes back at Younger Annoying Son of Antagonist, but that is a small plot thread that goes nowhere. Gypsy makes friends with Jack Elam’s character, in a relationship that can only be described as heartwarming. (The little girl is seriously adorable.) Young Charlie, however, is left with Leo Gordon’s Cass Dowdy, arriving in the last reel, to hero-worship. And Cass Dowdy, a hunter–for man or beast–happens to have a grudge to settle with Big Jim Cole. Also, there is a bear.

And oh my gosh if the bear has THAT MUCH of a grudge against you and you haven’t got any more collateral, and he keeps eating the hunters, selling out and moving, at least into town, makes a lot of sense. That, or making sure you are using the right caliber gun while hunting. A .44-40? Seriously? No wonder Old Satan just gets pissed off when people shoot him.

Highlights: Cass, very much at large from some other, non-Disney movie, strolling into

LGordon
Yeah, he gets his whiskey.

the general store (it’s a dry county and there’s no saloon), and his reaction on being offered a choice of Sarsaparilla, coffee, or lemonade. In fact, Leo Gordon’s seemingly firm conviction that he’s in a Mann or Ford-type western ends up stealing the show in just about every scene he’s in. (And his righteous anger at Big Jim for stealing his boots is a sight to behold.)

Irrelevant trivia! Ron Ely, who has a small part as “Elder Annoying Son of Family-Friendly Antagonist,” later played Tarzan in the 1967 TV adaptation. In fact, that might be him in the background of the above picture but I’m not sure.

Rated: four basset hounds out of five. A little more dirt and a little less Disney would have worked wonders.

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