A TALENT GONE TOO SOON: THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GIRDLER!

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A TALENT GONE TOO SOON: THE FILMS

 OF WILLIAM GIRDLER!

WIlliam Girdler 1947 – 1978

photo: williamgirdler.com

William Girdler was a low budget filmmaker who made nine movies between 1972 and 1978. They were B-movies, rip-offs and exploitation flicks, but they were entertaining and displayed a man with a love for what he was doing. Name actors of the era, like Austin Stoker, Leslie Nielsen, Christopher George and Michael Ansara, worked with him on more than one film. A few of his titles are now considered cult classics. He not only directed, but wrote six of the films he made, produced two and wrote the score for three films, two of those, his own. His directing career started out with two low budget horrors, Asylum of Satan (1972) and 3 on a Meathook (1972), which were both filmed in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

What will this pretty girl (Sherry Steiner) find behind that door? 3 on a Meathook, perhaps?

His next three films were for prolific exploitation studio American International Pictures. They were Blaxploitation titles, The Zebra Killer (1974), the Exorcist rip-off Abby (1974), with William Marshall, and the Pam Grier detective flick Sheba, Baby (1975). Abby was on the way to big box office profits, on a mere $100,000 investment, when Warner Brothers sued to have it pulled from release, due to it’s similarities to William Friedkin’s classic. Girdler’s first five films were lensed in his native Kentucky.

The great William (Blacula) Marshall as Bishop Garnet Williams in Girdler’s Abby!

Girdler left Kentucky for the Philippines for his next film, the Leslie Nielsen action flick, Project Kill (1976). It’s the oft-told story of a lethally skilled soldier battling his protégée (Gary Lockwood). The film was an early Troma release. Girdler’s next two films were for Film Ventures International. They included the Jaws rip-off Grizzy (1976), his most financially successful picture, with a $39 million box office gross and the eco-horror Day of the Animals (1977).

The fifteen foot tall Grizzly from Girdler’s largest grossing film of the same name.

His final feature was for the legendary Avco Embassy Pictures and was The Manitou (1978) with Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Michael Ansara and Burgess Meredith. The Manitou was his most expensive film, budgeted at an estimated $3 million and was released a few months after his untimely death. It also was a box office success.

Michael Ansara and Tony Curtis set out to battle The Manitou!

Sadly, Girdler’s career was tragically cut short, when he was killed on January 21st, 1978 in a helicopter crash in the Philippines, while location scouting for his next project. His films were getting better from a production standpoint and even he once commented on his hands-on learning experiences making these movies…

“Other people learned how to make movies in film schools. I learned by doing it. Nobody saw Billy Friedkin’s or Steven Spielberg’s mistakes, but all my mistakes were right up there on the screen for everybody to see.” (Louisville Times, 1977)*

It’s a shame that an up and coming filmmaker like Girdler had his life and career cut short. Many highly regarded film talents, like James Cameron for one, got their start on movies like these. We may never know what he would have accomplished, if not for that tragic accident, but he has left behind a film legacy that B-movie fans will always cherish.

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THE FILMS OF WILLIAM GIRDLER

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-MonsterZero NJ

 

Sources: Wikipedia, IMDB and WIlliamgirdler.com

*quote from WIlliamgirdler.com

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 NATURE RUN AMOK FLICKS TO WATCH!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 NATURE RUN AMOK FLICKS TO WATCH!

Similar to Crawl, Burning Bright has a tiger, instead of gators, loose in a house during a hurricane!

Crawl has brought the nature run amok flick back into the limelight, so, while everyone is in the mood for critters and carnage, here are a dozen fun nature run amok flicks, old and new, to satisfy your creature cravings! You’re going to need a bigger couch!

Cutie Missy Peregrym has a problem with the local wildlife in Backcountry!

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(To get to the reviews of the titles listed that were covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GRIZZLY (1976)

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Grizzly

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GRIZZLY (1976)

Grizzly is a 1976 Jaws rip-off that tells the horrifying tale of a massive 15 foot (the ads for the film say 18, but in the movie it is said to be 15) grizzly bear, who has wandered hungrily into a state park and begins snacking down on the campers and rangers alike. Chief Ranger Mike Kelly (Christopher George) has his hands full as he, Naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) and war vet chopper pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) have to somehow stop the relentless carnivore.

Grizzly follows the template created by Spielberg’s thriller quite closely with our three leads being the Brody, Hooper and Quint characters who are hunting a vicious, yet seemingly very intelligent predator, while it racks up quite the body count of innocent victims. We get the greedy head of the park refusing to close the place down despite the deaths and bringing in a bunch of amateur yahoos to hunt the bear down. But despite the blatant similarities, Grizzly actually works on a B-movie level. As directed by William Girdler (Abby, The Manitou), Grizzly is actually an effective and surprisingly gory PG horror flick. While it never matches the tension of the movie it was clearly inspired by, it does entertain in more of a low budget slasher flick kind of way, with the rampaging bear filling in for Jason or Michael Myers. For a 2000 lb. animal, it sneaks up on people quite easily. There is never much attempt to explain why the animal is so big, or why it has come to this park to feed, except for a quick throw-away line suggesting it might be a throw-back to it’s prehistoric ancestors. But like with the shark in Jaws, the grizzly is effectively portrayed and it’s background is unimportant to the carnage it creates. A live bear was used in filming and the 11 foot “Teddy” is quite effective in the part along with a prop arm for up-close mauling. It is said that the crew coaxed the bear into it’s roaring stance by offering it marshmallows, adding the roar in post production. Works for me!

Sure there is some silly dialog and all the acting is not top notch, but the leads are veteran actors and give the material the respect it needs to work and their characters are all pretty likable. This, along with some effectively gory kills and a nice fast pace by director Girdler, turns this low budget rip-off into an entertaining B-movie that works well enough on it’s own. Made for a reported $750,000, Grizzly grossed almost $40 million. Not bad for a Jaws imitation that, when you add the 70s nostalgia factor, is actually a fun Saturday night B-movie horror thriller despite it’s rip-off roots.

3 rampaging grizzly bears

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Couldn’t find a good trailer but did find the opening attack scene… in fact, you can watch the whole movie on Youtube as it appears to be public domain now… WARNING: SCENE IS GRAPHIC!

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