It's been quite a movie season for bears. First the acclaimed Grizzly Man; then An Unfinished Life, in which Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman stare down an ursine adversary. Now this 1996 documentary about bear-crazed Troy Hurtubise has finally reached DVD (Oct. 11), presumably to cash in on the trend.
But where Werner Herzog's Grizzly subject, Timothy Treadwell, made the fatal mistake of getting too close to his fuzzy friends, Canadian inventor Hurtubise lacks neither sense nor courage. Not unlike Freeman's character in Life, Hurtubise survived a bear encounter, then became obsessed with his attacker. Like Treadwell, he wants to get close to bears. Really close.
When we meet him, Hurtubise is putting the finishing touches on the sixth edition of his baby: a 147-pound, seven-layer bear-resistant outfit that looks like a space suit secured with duct tape. Watching its inventor endure waves of merciless crash testing—he's shot at, set on fire, and hit square in the chest by a big, heavy log, all courtesy of his faithful pals—I couldn't help but wish he'd hooked poor Treadwell up with a spare copy of his impenetrable suit. Yet Hurtubise is merely an eccentric, not a holy fool like Treadwell.
Director Peter Lynch's commentary enhances the film considerably. He saw Hurtubise for what he was, but he also gained a measure of respect for him: "In order to survive life, you need a good story. Unwilling to lead a life of quiet desperation, this grizzly man ensures himself a place in Canadian folklore by repeatedly seeking a tussle with nature. Whether or not Hurtubise's quest achieves a "mythic dimension," as Lynch puts it, is up to the viewer to decide. What's less uncertain is that Project Grizzly works best as a companion piece to Herzog's film; if you wander into Hurtubise's woods without first visiting Treadwell's "grizzly maze," you may find yourself somewhat lost—and perhaps even frightened.
October also brings Orlando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven, the French horror flick High Tension, Will Ferrell in Kicking & Screaming, and the Robert De Niro travesty The Bridge of San Luis Rey (based on the Thornton Wilder novel). From TV, there's the second season of Arrested Development. A five-disc set includes all the Billy Jack movies ever made; Godard's Weekend and For Ever Mozart are new to DVD; and there's a Val Lewton collection of old noirs and fright flicks.