Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#2,410. Roar (1981)

Directed By: Noel Marshall

Starring: Tippi Hedren, Noel Marshall, Melanie Griffith

Tag line: "The most dangerous movie ever made"

Trivia:  Cinematographer Jan de Bont was mauled and scalped by a lion on the set

Every now and then I come across a movie unlike any I’ve seen before, a motion picture so insane that I just sit there, staring in disbelief at the screen, trying to make sense of it all.

The 1981 action / thriller Roar is one such film.

Written and directed by Noel Marshall and starring Marshall’s then-wife Tippi Hedren, Roar tells the story of a man named Hank (played by Marshall himself) who has devoted his life to studying and protecting lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, cheetahs and jaguars. 

He is so dedicated to preserving these ferocious, majestic beasts that he’s left his family behind (in Chicago) and moved to Africa, where he shares a house with over 100 large cats (oh, and there are a couple of elephants hanging around as well).

With the help of his friend Mativo (Kyalo Mativo), Hank spends the day getting the place ready for his family’s upcoming visit; wife Madeleine (Hedren), sons Jerry and John (played by Marshall’s real-life sons), and daughter Melanie (Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith, who was a teenager when this film was made) are flying in from the U.S. to spend a few weeks in Africa. 

Once all the preparations have been made, Hank hops into Mativo’s boat and the two set sail for the airport. What Hank doesn’t know, however, is that his family’s plane arrived earlier that day, and they are already on a bus headed to his abode!

What happens when four unsuspecting people find themselves trapped in a house with 100 savage cats? Let’s just say I saw it, and I still don’t believe it!

Ten years in the making, Roar is as crazy a movie as I’ve ever experienced. Shot at their estate in California (which doubled for Africa), Marshall and Hedren collected 35 large cats - most of which were untrained - for the making of this film. Which means its stars, not to mention the entire behind-the-scenes crew, were taking a great risk making this movie, and, not surprisingly, a good number were injured during its production (by some tallies, as many as 70). All of the actors (Marshall, Hedren, and kids) were wounded, a few severely (Melanie Griffith was bitten on the face, an attack that required 50 stitches, extensive plastic surgery, and almost cost her an eye), and director of photography Jan de Bont had his scalp ripped off by a lion (it took 200+ stitches to reattach it).

Most of these attacks didn’t make it into the film. But some did, including star/director Noel Marshall’s hand injury (he was hurt trying to break up a fight between several lions). Another close call occurs during the scene in which a delegation arrives (in motorboats) to discuss with Hank the dangers his “friends” pose to the area. Quite unexpectedly, a tiger jumps into the water, climbs into one of the delegation’s boats, and sinks it, causing its panic-stricken inhabitants to swim for land (where they’re met, and mauled, by several lions and tigers).

Despite the obvious peril, there were moments in Roar that made me laugh, most involving Kyalo Mativo, who clearly was not comfortable acting alongside such dangerous co-stars (some of his reactions were obviously scripted, but he also broke character a few times because he was truly afraid). 

Also funny are the scenes where Hedren and her brood are trying to get away from the humongous cats swarming around them (all three kids are trapped at one point when the cabinets or refrigerators they were hiding in got knocked over by the lions).

If all of this sounds too incredible to be true, I should warn you that the above only scratches the surface; there’s a lot more lunacy packed into this movie’s 100 minutes than I could possibly list here. So if you enjoy far-out films that are unique in every way, Roar should be the very next one you watch.

1 comment:

Andrew Sydlik said...

Wow - hard to believe a movie like this even exists. What were they thinking? Did they not realize the lions and tigers weren't going to play nice? I'll have to track this one down.