Friday, August 21, 2015

Start with Ray Milland, End with George Clooney

Sylvia Syms defending Ray Milland.
Hostile Witness (1968). A London barrister (Ray Milland) suffers a nervous breakdown when his adult daughter is killed in a hit-and-run accident. When he recovers, he's framed for the murder of a colleague who may have driven the car. For half its running time, this now-forgotten film sets up an intriguing courtroom drama. Unfortunately, the rest of Hostile Witness goes flat--with no one to blame but Ray Milland.

As director (it was his fifth outing in that capacity), Milland doesn't know how to tighten up the rambling drama. As the film's star, he overacts, especially his pivotal trial scenes. I was also bothered by the introduction of a character from the barrister's past late in the plot. It just didn't seem fair to inject a new suspect at that point.

The film's highlight is Sylvia Syms as another attorney (a far brighter one) in Milland's firm. Of course, she earlier starred in a much better movie about a barrister--one being blackmailed in the then-controversial Victim (1961).

(For a more in-depth review of Hostile Witness, check out the write-up at Lindsay's Movie Musings.)

18 feet? No, he's not! He's
estimated at 15 feet tall in the film.
Grizzly (1976). There were several "animal attack" movies in the wake of Jaws and this one was probably the best and certainly the most successful at the boxoffice. That still doesn't mean it gets a ringing endorsement. But let's be honest, if you're watching a movie called Grizzly, then your expectations are probably not very high.

The always likable Christopher George stars as Kelly, a park ranger who has to battle the title bear and a supervisor afraid of losing business even while guests are being eaten (yes, that subplot was ripped off from Jaws). Kelly also has to struggle with some laughably bad dialogue, such as this exchange with his supervisor:

Kelly:  It's not a bear! It's a grizzly! There is a difference.

Supervisor: A bear is a bear.

Kelly: A bear is not a bear, believe it or not.

That's not even the most memorable line in Grizzly. That would go to Andrew Prine who berates Richard Jaeckel's character by telling Kelly: "You got a dime? I wanna call your mama. I mean, does she know that you're running around in the woods, tryin' to act like a smell like scratching around on the ground like one? I mean, does she know you're making a damn fool of yourself?"

A young Clooney--without
grizzly bear.
All three actors fare better than Joan McCall, the film's female lead who inexplicably disappears midway through the plot. Interestingly, she and her husband co-wrote a belated 1987 sequel to Grizzly that was called Predator: The Concert. As you may have guessed, it was about a grizzly attacking folks at an outdoor concert. The musical performances were shot in Budapest before production difficulties shut down the filming. You can view some of the footage on YouTube--although there's no grizzly in it. However, the cast does include Deborah Raffin, Louise Fletcher, Laura Dern...and a young George Clooney.


  1. Actually, I have some memory of Grizzly -- what depth, what character study! What a crock! It was fun though, as the best bad movies are. I haven't seen the Milland movie, but oddly enough just the other night I saw the Victim was on HuluPlus and I watched it again. Dirk Bogarde was so good, and Sylvia Syms' acting made what could have been a rather throw-away part into one of the importance it should have. Nice post, Rick!

  2. You've sold me on "The Grizzly". It sounds really bad, which is why I want to see it – I'm serious! Thanks!

  3. The sequel to Grizzly is now finished and available on home video at last; it's titled Grizzly 2: Revenge.