A trip back to the Summer of 1976 at the movies...

Reggie W

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In 1976 I don't think the business really was looking at the summer movie season the same way they do now. Jaws might have triggered the idea of the "summer blockbuster" in 1975 but they were not programming sequels, animation, and big effects movies at this point. Films also played for a longer period of time in theaters in 1976 so April releases like All the Presidents Men, The Bad News Bears, and Hitchcock's final picture, Family Plot, all were summer fare as well. I remember seeing The Bad News Bears and Family Plot at a drive-in theater on a summer night. The list below was hastily assembled and I don't think includes everything released, so please feel free to add titles I missed.


May

No Way Back (May 1)
Revenge of the Cheerleaders (May 1)
Baby Blue Marine (May 5)
Montana Trap (May 5)
Challenge of the Masters (May 7)
Mr. Klein (May 8)
Underground (May 9)
Death Rite (May 12)
Dixie Dynamite (May 13)
The Quest (May 13)
That's Entertainment Part II (May 17)
The Missouri Breaks (May 19)
Aces High (May 19)
The Premonition (May 19)
The Marquise of O (May 19)
Hawmps (May 20)
Embryo (May 21)
Grizzly (May 21)
The Tenant (May 26)
Drive-In (May 26)
Leadbelly (May 28)

June

In Search of Big Foot (June 1)
Breaking Point (June 2)
Ode to Billy Joe (June 4)
The Omen (June 6)
Silent Movie (June 17)
Harry and Walter Go to New York (June 17)
Midway (June 18)
The Food of the Gods (June 18)
The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday (June 23)
Logan's Run (June 23)
Murder by Death (June 23)
The Big Bus (June 23)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians (June 24)
Bugsy Malone (June 26)
The Return of a Man Called Horse (June 28)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (June 30)

July

At the Earth's Core (July 1)
Death Riders (July 1)
In the Dust of the Stars (July 1)
The Great Texas Dynamite Chase (July 1)
To Fly! (July 1)
Cannonball (July 6)
Gus (July 7)
New Fist of Fury (July 8)
A Small Texas Town (July 9)
Mad Dog Morgan (July 9)
Shadow of the Hawk (July 14)
The Hand of Death (July 15)
Special Delivery (July 16)
Moving Violation (July 16)
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (July 16)
Ape (July 23)
Lifeguard (July 23)
Won Ton Ton, The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (July 26)
The Gumball Rally (July 28)
Squirm (July 30)

August

Obsession (August 1)
Satan's Slave (Evil Heritage) (August 1)
Black Cobra Woman (August 4)
The Shootist (August 11)
The Ritz (August 12)
The Devil's Playground (August 12)
The Big Racket (August 12)
A Whisper in the Dark (August 12)
From Noon Till Three (August 13)
Futureworld (August 13)
The House with the Laughing Windows (August 16)
Gator (August 25)
J.D.'s Revenge (August 25)
Slumber Party '57 (August 31)
 
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Bob_S.

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Majority of those films I've never heard of. I remember my mom taking us to drive-ins to see both Bad News Bears and Buffalo Bill. My mom thought BNB would be a nice kids movie about baseball since my brother and I played t-ball at the time. She was horrified by the profanity and I don't think we saw the whole movie. Buffalo Bill was a snooze fest. I remember very little from it.
 
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Filmgazer

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Thanks for the blast from the past! In the summer of 1976, I definitely remember seeing That's Entertainment Part 2 , Lifeguard, Family Plot, Obsession, Ash Wednesday, Islands in the Stream, and The Last Tycoon. What a summer! Now it seems like all we get are Marvel comic adventure movies and Disney live-action remakes of animation classics.
 

Reggie W

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Now it seems like all we get are Marvel comic adventure movies and Disney live-action remakes of animation classics.
Well, obviously now summer is programmed with all of the sequels, family films, and big effects films because that's when they want to release them. It was in the 1980s where it became very apparent to the people that back motion pictures that the less originality the better and while this goes on year round, the summer is the ultimate time for unoriginal. So, remakes, sequels, and basically just serving up stuff that they think worked before.

In 1976 they were not looking to just deliver the same movie you saw the summer before. The one film on the list that nods to Jaws is Grizzly which appears to be a "Let's do a Jaws on land picture!" and my guess would be they looked to get that shot and released in time to get it out by the summer of 1976.

Grizzly.jpg


The big sequel on the list is the Burt Reynold's film Gator. Note that they do not call it White Lightning 2, because in those days the studios did not like using the old title with 2 after it. In fact Francis Coppola was harassed by Paramount for wanting to call his sequel for The Godfather, The Godfather II...by the time they got to Godfather III, Coppola did not want to call that Godfather III, he had a totally different title in mind, but by that point the studios were sequel crazy and only wanted to call it Godfather 3. Things change...

Gator.jpg
 
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Reggie W

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A note on Grizzly, apparently it was a smash hit and the highest grossing "independent" picture of 1976. Check the trailer below, it looks like they just took the Jaws script and moved it to the forest...

 

Lord Dalek

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This is an interesting snapshot of what the penultimate summer before George Lucas was like.

It sucked.
 
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Reggie W

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This is an interesting snapshot of what the penultimate summer before George Lucas was like.

It sucked.
Honestly, I think a bunch of people in the business felt that people were out doing other things in the summer, they should be, and that it was a difficult time for movies. Now things are different, people expect some sort of release that caters to them in the summer and they want to go see a movie in the summer. So, they are used to it. I looked at 1976 specifically because it was the summer after Jaws, the supposed mother of the summer blockbuster, but in 1976 they were not really treating it as such.

Secondly, I would say I would take the titles from 1976 over titles of summers from much of the past 35 years simply because they weren't trying to pump out copies of other films all summer long.
 
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Swashbuckler came out that summer. I remember seeing it the same week I saw Gator. These were the first two non-Disney movies I saw in the theater.
 
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TravisR

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In 1976 they were not looking to just deliver the same movie you saw the summer before. The one film on the list that nods to Jaws is Grizzly which appears to be a "Let's do a Jaws on land picture!"...
Jaws With Claws.



That poster makes Tatum O'Neal look like she's 50 years old!
Art courtesy of the late, great Jack Davis.
 
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Reggie W

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Watched the Scorpion blu-ray release of Grizzly and I have to say, though they obviously studied Jaws and recreated it in the woods, this picture is actually better and more entertaining than any of the Jaws sequels. This amps up the horror and blood, but it is a fun "when nature attacks" picture that as I understand it, Quentin Tarantino is a fan of.
 

TravisR

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Watched the Scorpion blu-ray release of Grizzly and I have to say, though they obviously studied Jaws and recreated it in the woods, this picture is actually better and more entertaining than any of the Jaws sequels.
I have to defend Jaws 2 here. I'm not saying it's a great movie but it's better than Grizzly (which I'm also a pretty big fan of). That being said, Grizzly is about a million times better than the third or fourth Jaws movies though.
 

steve jaros

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I remember seeing the advertisements for "Logan's Run" and "The Omen" a lot on TV that summer, but my mom thought I was too young to see either, I was 12, LOL.

So the only one I got to see was "Bad News Bears", which to my fun surprise was raunchier than we had been led to believe, LOL.

Great memories!
 
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Reggie W

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I have to defend Jaws 2 here. I'm not saying it's a great movie but it's better than Grizzly (which I'm also a pretty big fan of). That being said, Grizzly is about a million times better than the third or fourth Jaws movies though.
I think the reason I enjoyed Grizzly more than the Jaws sequels is that, while all the movies are trying to be Jaws, Grizzly just sort of comes across as "this is what it is" and that's a B monster movie that seems to enjoy being a Jaws in the woods thing. I mean they know they are ripping off Jaws but they seem to just want to have fun doing exactly that. The Jaws sequels I think have a much bigger struggle because they are looking for ways to be sort of bigger than Jaws...a picture none of these films can compare to including Grizzly...but Grizzly seems to revel in the idea that it is nowhere near as good as Jaws.

It just seemed more fun to me whereas Jaws 2, which is the only sequel worth mentioning, seemed sort of flat and listless.

It's, of course, a subjective thing and also for me anyway with Jaws 2, I had more expectation about what that movie would be because it was a "sequel" to a film I loved and brought back some of the cast. Jaws to me was a movie that did not need a sequel because they kill the shark and the idea that another shark appears seeking revenge was...well...sort of way too ridiculous. Whereas a ripoff film where a bear tears people apart in the woods, that was more fun...for me.
 

TravisR

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I think the reason I enjoyed Grizzly more than the Jaws sequels is that, while all the movies are trying to be Jaws, Grizzly just sort of comes across as "this is what it is" and that's a B monster movie that seems to enjoy being a Jaws in the woods thing. I mean they know they are ripping off Jaws but they seem to just want to have fun doing exactly that. The Jaws sequels I think have a much bigger struggle because they are looking for ways to be sort of bigger than Jaws...a picture none of these films can compare to including Grizzly...but Grizzly seems to revel in the idea that it is nowhere near as good as Jaws.

It just seemed more fun to me whereas Jaws 2, which is the only sequel worth mentioning, seemed sort of flat and listless.

It's, of course, a subjective thing and also for me anyway with Jaws 2, I had more expectation about what that movie would be because it was a "sequel" to a film I loved and brought back some of the cast. Jaws to me was a movie that did not need a sequel because they kill the shark and the idea that another shark appears seeking revenge was...well...sort of way too ridiculous. Whereas a ripoff film where a bear tears people apart in the woods, that was more fun...for me.
I doubt I've seen it before or since but I love the Georgia woods that they shot Grizzly in. And absolutely, they're having fun in Grizzly. The T&A, the fairly graphic killings and the insane but awesome climax make it the drive-in or exploitation version of Jaws.

One great thing about Jaws 2 is the score by John Williams. Trying to 'sequelize' the original's score must have been a daunting task for Williams but he was on a tear at that time and he did helluva job. That score kind of gets lost in the shuffle of his indisputable classic scores of that era (Jaws, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T.). but it's still excellent.
 
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steve jaros

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I think the reason I enjoyed Grizzly more than the Jaws sequels is that, while all the movies are trying to be Jaws, Grizzly just sort of comes across as "this is what it is" and that's a B monster movie that seems to enjoy being a Jaws in the woods thing. I mean they know they are ripping off Jaws but they seem to just want to have fun doing exactly that.
I like "Grizzly" more than the Jaws sequels as well, and I think you hit the nail on the head - the Jaws sequels, especially Jaws 2, had the overwhelming burden of expectations on them and without Spielberg involved, the replacements brought in weren't nearly up to the task. "jaws 2" is far from an awful sequel, it actually still stands up pretty well, but it can never escape the shadow of Jaws, which dwarfs it commercially and artistically.

In contrast, as you note, "Grizzly" had no expectations and pretensions to live up to, and as a result the makers were free to craft a guilty pleasure of a movie that manages to scare you anyway. I also include 1978's "The Pack" in this category as well. That film scared the bejebus out of my 13 year old self.

In contrast, "Orca" and "The Deep", being bigger-budget studio productions and hence carriers of big expectations, sunk under their own weight similar to Jaws 2.
 
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