Lost movies are a fascinating rabbit hole of film obsession down which to fall. Unfinished films are perhaps even more so. Any number of factors can scupper a production, and many such productions simply disappear without a trace. However, some eventually get picked up again and finished in some form: the Richard Donner cut of Superman II, for example; Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind; Andrzej Żuławski's On The Silver Globe; John S. Rad's Dangerous Men; Andrew Getty's The Evil Within. Some of those films were released after their creators' deaths.
This year we can add another film to that list, and it's one deep genre fans have been craving for literally decades. Grizzly II: Revenge premiered this week in Los Angeles, after starting production in 1982 as a sequel to the 1976 Jaws imitator Grizzly. Ho-o-oly shit.
Shot in Hungary (standing in for Yellowstone National Park), Grizzly II featured appearances by a cast that would read as all-star today: George Clooney, Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen, Louise Fletcher, and John Rhys-Davies, among a cluster of genre stalwarts of the era. The actors finished their principal scenes, including a Woodstock-style rock concert attended by 40,000 extras, but the money ran out - along with the film's executive producer - just before special effects photography of the 17-foot animatronic bear could begin. Poof - there went the movie.
Until now, only a shoddy-quality workprint of the film existed in public, along with a couple fan attempts to fix it up. But over the last year or so, the original footage has been rescanned, and new footage has been shot - under original producer Suzanne Csikos-Nagy - to make up about 25% of the now-finished film. Says Csikos-Nagy on the film's website:
We didn’t want to make a 21st century movie when we looked at the footages. We wanted to keep it as original as possible to have an authentic American movie quality from the 80’s. Something that was missed or lost and found later on to attract enthusiastic cult lovers. With the casting power and the existing entertainment value with a big bear, we believe the movie will resonate with today’s audience. Animal movies are rare and very difficult to do right. There has been no bear action movie since 1976 since the first Grizzly movie. It was a great financial and entertainment success. I consider this “second chance” for the sequel a real victory for the movie and for me as a person who stuck to my dream regardless of all the horrifying circumstances.
She's saying all the right things, at least. We are beyond thrilled to see what Grizzly II ends up looking like; movies like this are rare treasures. There's no mainstream release scheduled as of yet, as the film is still doing markets, but we'd be shocked if genre festivals didn't immediately reach out to book this thing. Stay tuned.