Friday, March 31, 2017

Claws (1977)

Less than a year after the release of Jaws (1975), William Girdler’s wonderfully silly Grizzly (1976) imposed the killer-shark formula onto the story of a killer bear—though another movie released the following year snagged the low-hanging fruit of the obvious ripoff title Claws. Produced on a sketchy budget and weighed down by a clumsy structure involving repetitive flashbacks, Claws should be pure cheesetastic fun, but it lacks the gonzo energy that makes Grizzly so enjoyable. So even though Claws hits many of the cartoonish notes one might expect, such as an attack on a campsite and a wizened Native American character, the picture is schlocky and sluggish. After a violent prologue during which a bear is wounded by lawbreaking hunters in the Alaskan wilderness, the picture cuts ahead five years, when new attacks suggest the infamous “Satan Bear” has returned. This pointless time jump fragments the storyline and forces the filmmakers to employ flashbacks as a means of delivering backstories for various one-dimensional human characters. All of this narrative housekeeping dulls the impact of the bear-attack scenes. Eventually, the story focuses on frontiersman Jason Monroe (Jason Evers), who was mauled by the “Satan Bear” in the past and now wants revenge. This prompts melodrama involving his wife and child, who resent the way Jason devotes all his energy to his obsession. The picture also has the requisite college kids conducting a research survey, pitting those who want to capture the killer grizzly against those who want the animal destroyed. Things pick up toward the end, but it’s a case of too little, too late. Furthermore, the distracting shoddiness of the filmmaking is epitomized by this head-scratcher of a dialogue exchange. Park commissioner to hippie: “Are you sure it was a bear?” Hippie: “Hey, man, I’m a rock singer, not Walt Disney.” Huh? Claws is hardly the worst low-budget creature feature ever made, but Grizzly scratches the exact same itch in a much more satisfying way.

Claws: LAME

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