Roar (1981 film)
Official re-release poster
|Directed by||Noel Marshall|
|Written by||Noel Marshall|
Terrence P. Minogue|
|Cinematography||Jan de Bont|
|Box office||$2 million|
Roar is a 1981 American adventure exploitation film written and directed by Noel Marshall, produced by and starring Marshall and his then wife Tippi Hedren, and co-starring Hedren's real-life daughter Melanie Griffith and Marshall's real-life sons John and Jerry. The film follows a family who are attacked by a range of ravening jungle animals at the secluded home of their keeper.
Roar became notorious for its troubled 11-year production, which resulted in 70 members of its cast and crew being injured by the many predatory animals used in the film, including its main stars sustaining life-threatening injuries ranging from bone fractures to scalpings and gangrene. Much of the footage capturing the injuries was included in the final cut of the film, resulting in real blood on screen. It has been considered the most dangerous film shoot in history.
The film was released theatrically in Europe in 1981, but was a financial failure. It was released theatrically in the United States for the first time on April 17, 2015. Hedren co-wrote the 1985 book Cats of Shambala about her experience of filming Roar.
Hank (Noel Marshall) is an American man that lives with multiple lions, tigers, cougars, jaguars, and other wild animals in Africa due to being a caretaker to the tribes of Tanzania. His wife Madeleine, (Tippi Hedren) her two sons, (John and Jerry Marshall) and her daughter Melanie (Melanie Griffith) have come from Chicago to the airport with notion that he will meet them and bring them back to his ranch. He ends up being late, however his friend Mativo [Kyalo Mativo (a native to Africa)] offers to take him by boat to pick them up, but warns him that a committee opposed to his care of wildlife is arriving to review his grant. While they wait for the members before leaving, the pair discuss the packs of lions that inhabit the surrounding areas, with Hank explaining the nature of the cats and briefly mentioning his anxiety with a rogue named Togar around Robbie a pack leader.
The committee arrives and immediately shows disapproval, with a man named Prentiss (Steve Miller) threatening to shoot the animals. A fight between Robbie and Togar distracts Hank, as tigers sink boats of the committee members and attack them in the water. They flee in panic. Hank and Mativo then leave to reach the airport, but also end up abandoning ship from a tiger that had shifted its weight on the boat. Leaving Hank to take a bike from the villagers and Mativo to distract the tigers as he goes to the airport.
Meanwhile, Madeleine and the three board a bus reaching the house. They step off only to see that the house is left unattended, and when Madeleine and Jerry open a window they see the lions eating a zebra carcass, frightening the family. They then try to pursue hiding places from them, and out of the many ways of escaping and or hiding in the house, one feat is showcased as John decides he will try to drive the motorcycle out to get help, instead accidentally steering it upstairs and ultimately into the lake. The members of the committee (Prentiss and another man) argue about the residence of the animals. Frank, (Frank Tom) set out to poach the big cats that wander off his property. Killing one lion named Tommy around a terrain area.
The next day Hank is told his family has already taken the bus, he receives a car and drives back to get Mativo, but the car tire runs over a rock and deflates. Thus they are forced to walk the way back, but stop when he finds Tommy the lion's body and mourns. The family, in a final effort to escape the lions, hide out in a smaller building, but are surrounded by the pack when they awaken. They conclude that since they were not attacked in their sleep the animals are not as vicious as they imagined, and decide to play with them around the ranch.
As Prentiss and Frank shoot more lions that they see on hills, Togar springs on them, mauling both to death. Hank sees this and rebukes them before trying to lead Togar in the right direction home. Togar returns to the house to fight Robbie, along with Hank tracking him who finds his family waiting, specifically Madeleine who reacts to his absence by playfully pushing him into a river. Mativo soon reaches the land, but is asked by Hank not to mention Prentiss' activities as to not spoil their moment. Mativo, regardless, is introduced to his family and they are reunited as a result. Hank's family agree to visiting with him and his animals, and the film ends with a montage of the group bonding with the big cats over the ensuing week.
- Tippi Hedren as Madeleine
- Noel Marshall as Hank
- Melanie Griffith as Melanie
- Jerry Marshall as Jerry
- John Marshall as John
- Kyalo Mativo as Mativo
- Rick Glassey as Rick
- Steve Miller as Prentiss
- Frank Tom as Frank
The film was conceived by Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren after the two had completed a film together in Africa in 1969. The two came across an abandoned plantation house that had been overrun by a pride of lions, and were inspired by the discovery. Hedren, an animal rights activist, had envisioned making the film as a response to the dwindling population of endangered cats on the African continent.
Roar was shot on location at Noel Marshall's private ranch in Acton, California, with its production spanning a total of 11 years. A flood at the ranch three years into the shooting process caused over $3 million in damages, creating further setbacks to the production.
Cast and crew injuries
Over 70 of the cast and crew were injured during the production of this film. Cinematographer Jan de Bont had his scalp lifted by a lion, resulting in 220 stitches. Tippi Hedren received a fractured leg and also had scalp wounds. This occurred after an elephant bucked her off its back while she was riding it. She was also bitten in the neck by a lion and required 38 stitches. This incident can also be seen in the film.
Melanie Griffith was also mauled during the production, receiving 50 stitches to her face; it was feared she would lose an eye, but she recovered and was not disfigured. Noel Marshall was attacked so many times that he eventually was diagnosed with gangrene. In one of those incidents, he was clawed by a cheetah when protecting the animals during a bushfire that occurred in 1979. All animals were evacuated though it took several years for him to recover from his injuries. Due to the injuries, turnover was high as many did not want to return to the set. Some of the lions also suffered from illnesses that reduced their population.
John Marshall was bitten by one of the lions and required 56 stitches. In a 2015 interview, he commented on the film's notorious tagline that 70 people were injured during the making of the film, saying:
Tippi [Hedren] disputes the number. I believe that number is inaccurate – I believe it’s over 100. It’s somewhere between 70 and 100. It is the most dangerous film ever made in history. Nowadays, there’s so much regulation, if you’re working on a film and two people get injured, they come in and they shut you down. They have safety meetings and they say, ‘What are we gonna do to change this situation?’ If they did that to us after two bites, we would have said, ‘I don’t know what else we can do differently. Should we do it with dogs? I don’t know!’ If we wanna make a movie with lions, people are gonna get bitten. We just hope that nobody dies and we’ll do everything we can to makes sure that doesn’t happen.
Marshall's brother Jerry was bitten in the foot while wearing tennis shoes on set. He later jokingly said the lion had a "tennis shoe fetish." Assistant Director Doron Kauper had his throat bitten open, his jaw was bitten, and one of the lions attempted to rip an ear off. He was also injured in the head, chest, and thigh. Although it has been reported that the attack nearly proved fatal, a July 9, 1978 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel printed a quote from a nurse describing his injuries as acute, meaning simply that they were sudden and traumatic. He was also reported as being conscious and in a fair condition.
Though released in 1981 and 1982 in Australia and European countries, Roar was not released theatrically in the United States. In 2015, 34 years after its production, the film was picked up for distribution by Drafthouse Films, which screened it across the United States at various independent cinemas.
Upon its initial release, Variety said of the film: "Here is a passionate plea for the preservation of African wildlife meshed with an adventure-horror tale which aims to be a kind of Jaws of the jungle. If it seems at times more like Born Free gone berserk, such are the risks of planting the cast in the bush (actually the Marshalls’ ranch in Soledad Canyon in California), surrounded by 150 untrained lions, leopards, tigers, cheetahs and other big cats, not to mention several large and ill-tempered elephants." During the film's 2015 release, Amy Nicholson of L.A. Weekly called the film a "thrilling bore, an inanity with actual peril in every scene. The story is simply "Big cats destroy a house," since that could be guaranteed."
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