At long last, 1983's Grizzly II, a movie about an oversized killer bear that terrorizes a young George Clooney, Laura Dern, and Charlie Sheen as they try to enjoy a music festival, is going to be released after sitting unfinished for decades. To commemorate its long, bizarre road to completion, The Ringer has put out an article recounting how the movie went from a presumably surefire hit sequel to a production so troubled it’s taken more than 30 years to conclude.
Grizzly II is the sequel to 1976's Grizzly, a box office hit made to cash in on Jaws’ recent success by trading out shark-induced carnage for an 18-foot tall bloodthirsty bear. Its sequel follows an equally pissed-off bear who eats a whole lot of people in the area surrounding a huge outdoor concert after her cubs’ deaths at the hands of evil poachers. It was produced in partnership with Suzanne Nagy, who worked to “[represent] the Hungarian film industry” in America and ended up shooting on “a vast Soviet military base” outside of Budapest watched over by tanks and secret police.
The movie’s cast, which needed to play campers, rock stars, bear hunters, and more, ended up including “brooding new-wavers, raging classic-rockers ... Jazzercising dancers” and actors ranging from the young Sheen, Dern, and Clooney to Louise Fletcher and John Rhys-Davies as “a French Canadian grizzly hunter” named Bouchard whose wife and daughters had been killed by an evil grizzly in the past.
After switching directors, making huge bear puppets, and drawing a crowd of “between 40,000 and 50,000" extras eager to watch bands play during the concert scenes, Grizzly II’s producer said the money had run out—and then got on a plane leaving Hungary half an hour later. Even a secretive last minute investor couldn’t see the movie to the finish line. Accidents on set and financial difficulties left the film without enough bear attack scenes to work and, after leaving the country, the Hungarian government took possession of the mechanical bears needed to finish up what was missing. Grizzly II was left abandoned.
Decades later, though, Nagy returned to the movie, cutting it together with stock videos and giving it a new subtitle. Grizzly II: The Revenge has been screening at festivals and is now set for wide release this fall, after nearly 40 years spent in hibernation.
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