Olive Films in their new Olive Signature line. It's available on both Blu-ray and DVD.
The Blu-ray I watched today is a beautiful print, and it comes with a nice collection of extras.
Walker plays Big Jim Cole, a former lawman who moves his family from Utah to Wyoming when he inherits land from an uncle. The Cole family consists of Jim's wife Angela (Martha Hyer), son Charlie (Kevin Brodie), daughter Gypsy (Victoria Paige Myerink), and niece Meg (Candy Moore), plus Jim's former deputy Sam (Don Haggerty).
Jim has an unpleasant surprise when the family arrives and learns from the kindly banker (Regis Toomey) that he has to pay off a loan on the property, which takes most of his money. Matters go from bad to worse when Jed Curry (Keenan Wynn) pressures Jim to sell out and then a nasty grizzly bear feasts on Jim's stock. To top it all off, a dangerous man (Leo Gordon) from Jim's past shows up in town...
THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY was a movie I really wanted to like thanks to Walker, Hyer, and the cast, but I found it pretty weak tea, a far cry from Walker's outstanding FORT DOBBS (1958). It reminded me of some of Disney's live action films of the late '60s and '70s, colorful but with a lightweight, often silly script; it's even got Disney stalwart Keenan Wynn!
Knowing the film is special to friends who grew up watching it, I suspect those who first met the movie as kids have a certain loyalty to it, just as I love Disney's SNOWBALL EXPRESS (1972).
The good cast includes Jack Elam, just a couple years before his great role in James Garner's SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969). Ron Ely, Med Flory, and Ellen Corby are also on hand.
The film also has fine locations, filmed by Loyal Griggs and Harold Lipstein in the Big Bear Lake area. The extensive outdoor shooting is attractive, but despite the widescreen Techniscope, at times the movie looks more like a TV episode than a film, particularly during an unattractive zoom shot introducing the family; for some reason I can't put my finger on, the photography there seemed wildly out of place.
The film also suffers from that weird malady of '60s films, when women had bouffant, bleached blonde hair rather than something a little more authentic. For some reason many '60s Westerns and WWII films have the "anachronistic hair" problem, including THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964) and especially BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969).
I was impatient with the film due to things such as a prolonged sequence in which a young child is doused by a skunk. At the same time, I didn't mind its company too much thanks to Clint Walker being onscreen a majority of the time. He even has the obligatory shirtless scene while working on his farm (grin). The man was pretty amazing to look at, which went a long way to offset my feelings on the film's deficiencies; he's also a pleasant actor -- and by all accounts he's a very nice man offscreen as well, always good to hear. There's a nice relationship between Jim and Angela (Hyer), which is the most appealing thing about the movie.
The Olive Signature extras include a commentary track by a good friend of this blog, Toby Roan of 50 Westerns From the 50s. I enjoyed the first 15 minutes or so of the track immediately after finishing this 102-minute movie, and I plan to listen to the rest on my lunch breaks this week. I have a feeling I will enjoy the film a little more the second time around, seen through Toby's appreciative eyes.
The track has already been quite informative, such as explaining how Clint Walker and actor-writer Warren Douglas put together the project. Douglas was the screenwriter behind a number of strong, relatively unsung noir and Western titles such as SIERRA PASSAGE (1951), LOOPHOLE (1954), and DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE (1957). Besides writing the GRIZZLY script, Douglas also plays the minister.
THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY was directed by Joseph Pevney (FLESH AND FURY).
Besides the commentary track, extras include archival interviews with Clint Walker, footage of the premiere, and a booklet with a nice essay by C. Courtney Joyner, who examines Walker's career in detail, with special attention to THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY.
Olive Films is to be commended for putting together such a nice package of extras along with a terrific print.
Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.