Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you.
Congratulations to Leonardo DiCaprio! He won an Oscar for being mauled and very nearly loved-up by a bear in The Revenant (2015). Forget what the detractors say, it was a good performance in a good film. Of course, it wasn’t the FIRST time an actor has been mauled and very nearly loved-up by a bear. If seeing DiCaprio attacked by a grizzly has whetted your appetite for seeing more actors fall prey to our Ursine overlords, allow us to recommend the following:
Man in the Wilderness (1971)
Grizzly Falls (1999)
Hugh Glass is the protagonist of The Revenant, in Man in the Wilderness the character is called Zachary Bass. Otherwise, it’s basically the same movie: dude is mauled by a bear, left for dead by his feckless frontier friends, and must find his way back. Fortunately MITW stars the legendary Richard Harris – actor, drunkard, Dumbledore, and the guy who first made MacArthur Park a hit song. Despite being white, Harris received no Oscar for his turn getting mauled by a bear. Obviously disappointed, he made another bear movie 28 years later. It’s a bit of kiddie wilderness hokum called Grizzly Falls. This time around Harris is a grizzled bear whisperer, due to (flashback) getting kidnapped (but not mauled) by a bear as a young man. No really, that’s the plot. The little kid in the movie is insufferable, but Ali Oop, as the bear, is all charm.
The Edge (1997)
This atrocious bear attack movie was probably the biggest waste of talent of the last few decades. The Edge was directed by Lee Tamahori, who made the brilliant Once Were Warriors (1994), and written by David Mamet, who was a certifiable genius before he became just plain certifiable. The film stars Alec Baldwin and SIR Anthony Hopkins as two dudes who hate each other. They are lost in Alaska with a random black guy played by Harold Perrineau (guess who dies first). Fortunately they are pursued by a Kodiak bear played by Bart the Bear, who steals every scene he’s in.
Into the Grizzly Maze (2015)
This recent abomination stars two bland interchangeable guys as brothers who hate each other for some backstory reason, and a bunch of talented character actors – Scott Glenn, Piper Perabo, Billy Bob Thornton, and Adam Beach. Reversing the trajectory of The Edge, this time all the big name actors get mauled and the no-name journeyman actors mostly survive. And yes, that’s a lot of eatage – this is not the best bear attack movie, but it’s the most bear attack movie. The women in the movie all have fancy jobs like wilderness photographer and wildlife expert, but they seem to exist for the sole purpose of stepping into their own bear traps, falling down during chase scenes, and otherwise injuring their legs so the manly men must carry them away from the marauding bear. Mostly a wretched movie, but features a great performance from Bart the Bear 2 aka “Little Bart.”
Grizzly Man (2005)
I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder. – Werner Herzog
Grizzly Man is the best bear attack movie ever made. Because it’s real. The story is about a flake from Long Island named Timothy Treadwell who decided he had to document the life of bears in Alaska, and save them from (non-existent) poachers. Every summer he went to Alaska to live among the bears, and videotape their doings. Eventually the inevitable occurred, and one of the mauled him and his girlfriend. Fortunately Werner Herzog got hold of the videotapes, and made Grizzly Man about the whole sad affair. It’s one of Herzog’s best works, and needs to go on your Netflix queue or your Hula hoop or whatever it is, right now.
And that just about covers bear attack movies. I skipped Backcountry (2014) which features a bear attack, because that movie just plain sucks. But I’ll be back next time to cover Ferret Attack movies, Marsupial Attack movies, and anything involving Judy Greer, who I love but hasn’t done any bear attack movies. Yet.