Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Night of the Grizzly (1966) - An Olive Signature Blu-ray Review

THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY (1966), a Western starring Clint Walker, has been released by 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.

12 Comments:

Blogger Jerry E said...

I have just watched this film for the first time in many years too! The extras on offer here are excellent and hearing Toby's Southern tones is like coming home for me!

Joseph Pevney, from 1960 on, was almost exclusively working in television and your comment about the zoom shot introducing the family is spot-on. I had exactly the same thought when I watched it.

That said, I enjoyed the film quite a lot. Have liked Clint Walker since first seeing "CHEYENNE" 57 years ago (!!) and he was very good in this. I would also like to give special mention to Don Haggerty as Sam, an actor who I consider under-rated, and who gave an extra something here. I know John K. is another fan.

Good review, Laura.

11:45 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Weak Tea" is a pretty accurate description of this film and it falls far behind
the Gordon Douglas Trilogy especially FORT DOBBS and YELLOWSTONE KELLY.
I only got the film to hear Toby's commentary which is excellent and I hope
that our friend gets other voice over gigs.As mentioned over at FWOTF even the
most die hard movie buff will find lots of info they never knew before.
What really turned me off the film was the introduction of barbaric steel traps,
and although we don't see an animal caught in these obscene things,they don't
belong in what is basically a family movie.
The film takes a different turn when Leo Gordon enters the film but it's too late
to save the project.
The lovely scenery is the best part of the film-it's a keeper but only because of
Toby.
Another similar themed film is THE WILD AND THE INNOCENT-it starts of folksy/
cutesy but then turns a lot darker-it's a far superior film.
Sadly the print released by Universal in France is 4x3 pan & scan which has led us
to believe it's another of the Universal CinemaScope films lost in the fire.
That's a great shame as it's one of Audie Murphy's most underrated movies.
I do like Big Clint a lot but I feel "beefcake" stars like him,Rod Taylor
and Stuart Whitman suffered from the public's taste for meaner,leaner stars like
McQueen,Eastwood and Coburn.
Overall the film is way below many of Pevney's Universal movies and also the
Western/JD mash up movie THE PLUNDERERS with Jeff Chandler.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry and John! Thanks so much for your comments. Great to hear that you have also recently watched the movie and could add your takes.

Jerry, I was most interested to hear that the photography of that early scene also jumped out at you. It just didn't look right, and jarring cinematography is not something I would typically notice in a movie. I agree with you as far as liking Clint -- I've watched some CHEYENNE but not a great deal, and it's a series I plan to catch more of at some point.

John, I agree, from what I heard so far Toby's commentary is excellent, no surprise given his expertise! A lot of fun to hear him on this.

I'm thankful they didn't show anything caught in the traps! The animal brutality in general was a tougher aspect of the film but fortunately they were circumspect in what they showed (or didn't).

I have a copy of THE WILD AND THE INNOCENT but that's one I haven't caught up with yet. I have a nice stash of Murphy's later films thanks to a good friend of this blog and need to sit down and marathon them at some point to catch up!

I've liked a number of Pevney's films and also respect Warren Douglas, as he wrote so many films I like. It seems to me as though the basic outline of the GRIZZLY story was strong, with much potential, but the script needed to drop the juvenile aspects and dig deeper into the lead characters.

Best wishes,
Laura

8:32 AM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

I can’t recall when I’ve had a stronger disagreement with one of your reviews ;-) This is my favorite Clint Walker movie, Fort Dobbs included. As Leo Gordon observed, it has a “quality” to it. He also thought it was something Disney might have made (hmm… maybe a gritty Disney!), but he said it as a compliment (I think he meant that Disney was practically the only studio making clean family films at the time. Walker himself supposedly jumped at the chance to do a film this decent as well.)

I’m prone to steer away from certain so-called “family” films, as being too antiseptic and boring to capture my interest or imagination. But this movie has it all… strong values, hair-raising action, and comedy. The simple story is very compelling, and even inspiring: a good, strong man only wants his own bit of land, where he can build a home and raise his family. But it turns out that he’ll have to fight for it. A true man, even if he’s a gentle giant like Jim Cole, will always fight for the people and places he loves.

I thought the little girl was adorable, loved the skunk scene and its aftermath. Seemed very much a slice of rural life. Faulting the screenplay for taking the time to establish the family, their new home, and potential troubles, seems akin to criticizing THE UNINVITED or THE THING for giving their threats too leisurely a buildup by establishing characters the viewer cares about amid a believable setting.

Didn’t really focus on the hair, now that you mention it, I have to say that the piled up hair looks more old-fashioned to me than a lot of the 1950’s hairstyles in classic westerns… but that doesn’t diminish those westerns. Modern period movies can get all the visual details “right”, but they still can’t convince me because they get everything else wrong.

My opinions might be suspect, as I did see the film several time while growing up. I was fascinated by the rancher vs. bear angle, which reminded me of the tales about the famous stock killers old Mose and old Ephraim (I think it’s likely Warren Douglas intentionally wove in elements of their stories to the screenplay.)

Well, that’s all for now. No hard feelings (just don’t say the follow-up line! lol)

10:04 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Truly, it is a film that still carries my youthful attachment. These days I notice the flaws in the storytelling, but at the same time I appreciate the work and commitment that went into creating this old favourite that will always have a spot in my heart.

Adore the off-kilter and sincere relationship between Hank and Gypsy.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Maricatrin!

As our tastes are so often very closely aligned, I was especially interested in your very positive take on GRIZZLY. Always good to get an alternate view of a movie. Toby's a fan so I'll also be interested in anything he has to say from a critical perspective as I continue with the commentary later today.

It's interesting, I did want a more detailed look at the family and especially the lead characters...I often do like movies which just let the characters "be." I just didn't care for how the film approached it. Wasn't into the skunk business (or, frankly, the personality of the little girl), Nancy Kulp, etc. Would have liked more on the family relationships, the challenges of uprooting a family and then building a home in a ramshackle shack (very SNOWBALL EXPRESS!), the husband-wife relationship, etc.

I did like what you describe about Clint Walker and his character...I like Clint, period. :)

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your liking for the film!

Best wishes,
Laura

10:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Caftan Woman,

Another fan! And how interesting that you also "met" this film in childhood. (Where was I? I have no memory of this showing on TV when I was growing up but perhaps I just didn't notice?)

Although I wasn't taken with Gypsy for the most part, I did like the last shot where Hank is sort of invited into the family circle, making up for Sam's absence.

One of the interesting things about this movie that while I wanted to like it more, I appreciate it's given all of us quite a bit to discuss! Fun to compare notes. Thank you!

Best wishes,
Laura

10:30 AM  
OpenID fiftieswesterns said...

Thanks for the kind comments on my commentary. I'm blushing as I type this.

This movie is like a lot of films I fell for as a kid. Seeing them as an adult reveals both their flaws and the strength of our childhood attachments. I just had a similar experience with King Kong Escapes, a picture that makes The Night Of The Grizzly look like Citizen Kane.

Aside from that nostalgic thing, there's something very friendly about The Night Of The Grizzly. It's impossible to dislike Clint Walker or Jack Elam — and this is a movie that just goes down easy.

I'm so glad y'all enjoyed (or are in the process of enjoying) the commentary.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Toby,

Thanks so much for dropping in! Still enjoying the commentary and hoping there are more ahead for you!! (BTW, just saw good words on your ONE-EYED JACKS extra from Glenn Erickson if you haven't read that yet!)

I like that about the film being "very friendly." I think that's a lot of what I was picking up on as far as just liking Walker being on screen, or appreciating the last shot of Elam with the family.

Great thoughts too on going back to childhood favorites! LOL re KING KONG ESCAPES.

Thanks so much for your work on this disc and for taking time to leave a note. Congrats on your work here!

Best wishes,
Laura

2:33 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Toby,
Loved your comparison LOL!!!!!!
Actually THE MIGHTY GORGA makes KING KONG ESCAPES look like CITIZEN KANE.
I'm gonna double post this over at the H8
Laura,
Certainly lotsa love for NOTG but not from me.
Would have liked more harder edged bad guys than Wynn and his moronic crew.
Leo aces as always but comes into the thing too late.
BTW another,albeit unsettling, Warren Douglas project STRANGE INTRUDER has
just appeared over at Brian's as one of my "Underrated '56" choices.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

"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)." Funny, so true.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

John, I'll be catching up on Underrated '56 posts soon! Have tried to hold off until I write my own, hopefully this week.

Thanks, Jacqueline!! (It occurs to me that Linda Evans' hair on THE BIG VALLEY might be considered part of that trend...)

Best wishes,
Laura

9:07 PM  

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