Sunday, September 2, 2012

Roar (1981)

The Italian poster strangely avoids everything
that could sell the movie to a wider audience.

I love big budget oddities that's totally forgotten and Roar is one of the oddest movies around. Some call it the most expensive home video ever - with a budget of 17 million dollars. It didn't score especially much at the box office, probably because it's also the most expensive movie with the thinnest script ever written. According the official homepage "No animals were hurt during the filming, but over 70 people were injured", which is obvious when you watch the movie. The always reliable IMDB (that's irony!) reports this:

During production, director/star Noel Marshall was attacked and severely injured by one of the lions in the film. He was hospitalized and it took him several years to completely recover from his injuries. 
During filming in 1977, Melanie Griffith was mauled by a lion and required plastic surgery. Griffith reportedly received fifty stitches to her face. 
Tippi Hedren fractured a leg during production when an elephant bucked her off its back when she was riding on top. Moreover, also during production, Hedren was bitten on the back of her head by a lioness called Sheri. Hedren received thirty-eight stitches to the open wound.
Assistant Director Doron Kauper was attacked and mauled by a lion during production filming of this picture. Kauper's throat was bitten open from whereupon the lion proceeded to bite his jaw and attempted to rip an ear off. Reportedly, this attack on Kauper almost cost him his life. 
John Marshall was bitten by a lion during production filming of this picture and required fifty-six stitches. 
Jerry Marshall, whilst wearing tennis shoes, was bitten on the foot by a lion during production filming of this picture.

he whole movie was shot on the ranch owned by husband and wife Noel Marshall (who funded the movie from the money he made from producing The Exorcist) and Tippi Hedren and starring more or less the whole family, playing themselves, shot on location in California. 11 years before the movie was released Hedren and Marshall started to discuss making a movie with lions and someone told them to get their own lions - it all got out of hand and in the end they had 150 animals on their ranch! Crazy people.

Anyway, the story is this: the Hedren-Marshall family lives on their farm. One day all the lions takes over the place. And then all become friends. That's it. What makes it truly unique is the FANTASTIC animal scenes. I've never seen anything like it. This movie more or less only has scenes of big cats attacking (not in a violent way though) and running after humans, and it's stunning. Really. We're talking really spectacular shit here, especially inside and on top of the house with lions breaking through walls, stomping and gnawing on Melanie Griffith, chasing Tippi Hedren in the water outside the house. I'm deeply impressed to see Hedren doing her own stunts - like everyone in the family - and it looks both dangerous and impressive.

What's there to say about a movie like this? Well, it's made just to show wonderful animals doing what they like to do - they're not portrayed in any evil way and the end credits has a whole lotta message about how to protest against the killing of lions and other big cats and how to help and support the wildlife in Africa. It's both a deeply impressive production and a deeply flawed movie. Watch it for the lions. And for Tippi Hedren. And for that lion who tries to eat Melanie Griffith's head.

Jan de Bont shot the movie and one of the editors was a young Ted Nicolau (Subspecies 1 to 173). Just saying.


Anonymous said...

"The always reliable IMDB (that's irony!) reports this"

Yeah...some trivia on IMDB is filled with errors, lies and halftruths. I think IMDB should edit this section better.

I wonder if any of these claims are true?

"It's both a deeply impressive production and a deeply flawed movie."

Sounds like fun though, just like Prey (2007), another fun lion killer movie.

Thanks for the tip Ninja.


Ninja Dixon said...

Well, even the official homepage claims that 70 people got hurt during the shooting of the movie, and if you watch the film you'll see people bleeding and being bitten for real. It's a pretty interesting flick.

Anonymous said...

Ninja: Really?

I still smell publicty stunt....but who knows....

Yeah...I will see it someday.


Ninja Dixon said...

Watch the movie and see for yourself.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid I spent many days, and nights on the ranch this was filmed on. The movie is awesome, I still have a copy today. There was a flood that resulted in several cats escaping and being killed by the local sheriff. One was the star "Robbie".

The Marshall/Hedren clan was an amazing group. There were several accidents in addition to the ones listed. Tippi's knee was damaged by an elephant so badly they stopped filming for about a year. It was a great adventure. IF you pay close attention you will see that Melanie ages noticeably during the movie.

Ninja Dixon said...

Very interesting, thanks for the info! Next time I watch it I will look more carefully at Melanie. It must be a cool memory of the family members to have after all these years :) How come you spent so much time on the ranch?