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Microfilms presents
Project Grizzly (1996)

"I would like to be not a big Jacques Cousteau, just a little Jacques Cousteau. I would like to be able to go anywhere in the world I want, with my research team, my suit, and be able to do research wherever I want."
- Troy Hurtubise

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: September 09, 2004

Stars: Troy Hurtubise, Peter Gzowski, Blair Hurtubise
Director: Peter Lynch

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:12m:03s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+BB B+

DVD Review

Troy Hurtubise had a close encounter with a grizzly bear in the wilds of Canada, from which he escaped unhurt but decidedly affected. The event changed his life, and he decided to build a grizzly-proof suit to do "close-quarter" bear research. Filmmaker Peter Lynch paints an amusing and affectionate portrait of Troy and his semi-quixotic quest in Project Grizzly.

Troy (he's so engaging, you just have to call him by his first name) spent the next seven years and $150,000 building various versions of his suit, and they're all pretty funny. The latest version, Mark VI, looks like a cross between a Transformer and a direct-to-video knockoff of Robocop. Almost all the source materials are scavenged from Troy's day job working in scrap metal, but he's proud to point the more exotic materials and where they come from. Most of his effort goes into protecting the head and upper chest, ignoring the fact that one swipe from the grizzly's paw across an exposed area (his groin being one) would put him completely out of commission. In the funniest shots in the movie, we're treated to test footage of the suit, as Troy determines to prove "scientifically" that it's up to snuff. The film has barely started when we see a huge log, suspended by ropes, come crashing into the suit-clad Troy, knocking him to the ground like a bowling ball hitting a pin—but laughter quickly turns to concern as he lies on the ground, immobile.

Much of the film concentrates on Troy's "expedition" to the forests of Alberta, suit in tow (in a funny nod to La Dolce vita, we see the suit dangling from a helicopter as it's carried over the mountains). He and his cronies are determined to find a grizzly and repeat his encounter, but things go wrong fairly quickly. There's tension between the greenhorns and the real mountain men who are guiding them, and it's obvious that there will be trouble with the bulky, 150-pound suit, in which Troy is barely mobile. There's a report of a grizzly in the area, but to add to the expedition party's trouble, it's soon 40 below and snow starts to fall.

Beyond the "bare" facts of the suit's construction and the expedition, the film also delves into Troy's life, in an attempt to understand what propels him in his dangerous quest. He's a bit of a mama's boy, and his relationship with his father is strained, so armchair Freudians will have a field day when they learn that his nickname for grizzlies is "the old man." We also get a sense of how he's trying to escape his mundane day-to-day existence, and create a personal mythology, an image of someone who's larger than life. There's something of the theatrical in him, and we learn from the director's commentary that Troy bought a fringed buckskin jacket just for the film, so he'd be a more convincing "mountain man." We also see him shaving with a very sharp Bowie knife, instead of using his razor.

Project Grizzly is a great little documentary. Troy's incredibly charismatic and engaging, but he's also obviously got a screw loose, and it must have been tempting to take the easy route and portray him as nothing more than a figure of fun. Director Lynch wisely steers a different course, trying to understand Troy and his worldview, and this balanced approach means that the film's both entertaining and intriguing.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The widescreen anamorphic transfer looks pretty good, with accurate colors and reasonable black levels. There's some grain, especially in the early scenes, and some sequences are a bit soft. The source print contains occasional speckles, but they aren't especially distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is good, with a wide dynamic range, although there isn't much stereo separation except for the soundtrack music. The 5.1 mix is more spacious than the two-track mix, but the surrounds are used mostly for ambience rather than directionality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Horns and Halos, Family, The Cola Conquest, Stone Reader
6 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Director Peter Lynch, Richard Crouse and Geoff Pevere
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Four-page printed insert
Extras Review: In his continuous director's commentary, Lynch provides a lot of background information about the film and the difficulties encountered during the expedition. Although it was a short (15 day) shoot, he's obviously spent a lot of time with Troy and understands him well, as he gives us more information about Troy's personal mythmaking. It's a good commentary, full of interesting details and quite insightful.

The "critical appreciation commentary" is done by Toronto Star critic Geoff Pevere and his co-host of the Canadian television show Reel to Real Richard Crouse. Again, the commentary is continuous, and there's a lot of information, most of which doesn't overlap with Lynch's commentary. The pair analyze Troy as a reflection of Canadian culture and speculate on his family relationsips and motivations, wonder how Troy would react to their commentary, and even provide tips on fighting off bears. The one annoyance with the track is that Crouse seems to be in love with the sound of his own voice, to the point of wondering for several minutes how much money Troy has invested in his projects, after Crouse has just told him.

Six deleted scenes are included, running just over seven minutes, and there's an optional director's commentary for each. The most interesting scenes show Troy's bitterness over being turned down for funding for his "scientific" research, and quoting scenes from his favorite westerns. Lynch explains that they were mostly excised because they were too talking heads-like, and that he wanted to concentrate on the aspects of Troy's character that remain in the film. His commentary is cut off abruptly at the end of the last deleted scene.

Director Peter Lynch contributes two pages of notes, but there's nothing here that isn't already in his commentary. Four trailers for other Microvision films are also included. It's a bit annoying that they're presented in four different aspect ratios in both anamorphic and nonanamophic transfers.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Director Peter Lynch paints and engaging and amusing portrait of Troy Hurtubise and his quest to build a bear-proof suit in Project Grizzly. The film's filled with amusing moments, but Lynch foregoes the cheap laughs and gives us a balanced portrait of his slightly off-kilter subject.


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