Night of the Grizzly, The (Blu-ray Review)2 Jul, 2012 By: Mike Clark
$24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray
Stars Clint Walker, Martha Hyer, Jack Elam, Leo Gordon.
There’s something about beefy stalwart Clint Walker that suggests Jon Hamm on steroids to me — this as he’s mixing it up with a you-know-what in the Paramount Pictures’ drive-in fare that the studio unleashed just before the nominally more ambitious Nevada Smith. The four-legged marauder in question makes an occasional daytime cameo or two here to ensure that the title doesn’t totally give everything away, but you get the idea.
A visually vibrant view and more fun than expected (which by all but the most relaxed standards isn’t necessarily synonymous with “good”), the 1966 Techniscope outdoor drama that Walker calls the favorite picture of his career is less a Western than, well, a “grizzly.” Though this said, it does have horses, rural general stores and hooched-up young hotheads doing their best to disrupt the local dance, which the grizzly, at least, has the upbringing not to interrupt. The creature does, however, start clawing up horses and other livestock after former lawman Clint and his clan (including the Mrs., played by Martha Hyer) inherit and move onto Wyoming property coveted by the town’s vindictive powerbroker (Keenan Wynn). Six-foot-six Walker and Wynn; now there’s a fair physical fight.
Also on the scene as the inevitable final fracas approaches are “The Beverly Hillbillies’” inimitable Nancy Kulp as a man-hungry store owner; perennial movie villain Leo Gordon keeping that casting streak alive; and, as Walker’s niece, a blonde tanned-and-teen starlet (Candy Moore) who’s supposed to be rustic but looks as if she’s been recruited from the nearest volleyball beach. This also has to be the only movie in history where Jack Elam (a rather charming performance as the town loafer turned family friend) ends up as part of a final family clinch where everyone is filling the frame with smiley faces and whatever the 19th-century equivalent was of “xoxoxoxoxoxoxo’s.” The filmmaker entrusted to all this was Joseph Pevney, who at this point, in consecutive career years, had to direct Martin & Lewis in the second most contentious shoot of their screen history (3 Ring Circus) and then Joan Crawford in Female on the Beach. So cut him a break, even though Grizzly is a movie less directed than patched.
On the other hand, it’s easy enough to take — which is even more true of the nearly half-hour interview of Walker (who recently turned 85) that’s part of this release. A former lawman (in Las Vegas, no less), he still exudes an “I-don’t-know-how-the-hell-I-got-into-this-business-but-am-glad-I-did” manner that is most appealing — and certainly the way he did (a great anecdote) is much more compelling than the fabled story of Lana Turner getting discovered in Schwab’s Pharmacy (actually, it was a rival drugstore). People like to say that “no good deed goes unpunished” — but Walker’s story proves that this is only true most of the time, not all of it.