Back in 1977, if you had asked “what is the highest-grossing independent film of all time?”, the answer would likely have been a shock: Grizzly. The film, released in 1976, held that title until it was taken by John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978, but etched its place in the history books in the process. An unabashed Jaws rip-off that sought to simply transplant the same sort of film to dry land, Grizzly boasted that it featured “18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating” bear action, and became an unexpected hit in the summer of 1976 as a result, emboldening producer Edward L. Montoro of the Georgia-based Film Ventures International, which distributed the film. By the mid-1980s, Montoro would disappear with more than $1 million in company money, never to be seen again—a story we recounted in full in this feature on the death of Film Ventures International.
What of Grizzly, though? The history surrounding the film is messy. The film’s creative team had to sue Sheldon for their cut, after Montoro insisted that his most successful film ever somehow hadn’t turned a profit. And director William Girdler was killed only two years later in a fatal helicopter crash. If you didn’t know better, you might think that Grizzly had a bit of a curse.
Turns out that it was Grizzly II that was cursed, however. The oft-delayed sequel to the surprise success of Grizzly is one of Hollywood’s more famous uncompleted films, beginning its production in 1983 and shooting almost all of its scenes before falling apart before the finish line. It’s remembered today largely for some of the unlikely names making up its cast: George Clooney, Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen and John Rhys-Davies.
Now, after almost 40 years, Grizzly II—now bearing the rather simple title of Grizzly II: Revenge—will receive its first ever wide streaming and limited theatrical release at some point this fall. The entire, convoluted story of the film’s troubled production can be found in a new piece at The Ringer, detailing the string of unfortunate setbacks and shady characters who kept the dream that was Grizzly II from being realized for so long. Go check it out, and keep an eye out for Grizzly II: Revenge in some kind of limited streaming capacity this fall—you’re not going to want to miss the mulleted visage of George Clooney being devoured by a mechanical bear.