FILM by Shane “The Mane” Hnetka
As the holiday shopping season revs up, the studios are flooding the home video market with this summer’s big hits. But Santa’s got more on his list than Ant-Man and Jurassic World — he’s got his all-seeing eyes on some of the strangest movies ever made. This Hnetflix is about one of them.
Last month, Olive Films released the 1981 independent adventure film Roar on Blu-ray. What the heck is Roar, you might ask? Well, it’s a weird story.
Once upon a time, actress Tippi Hedren and her then- husband, producer Noel Marshall, made a self-financed movie using lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars and jaguars gathered from rescue shelters, zoos, circuses and other sources. They ended up with about 150 big cats.
Roar is the simple story of a man (Marshall) who lives on a ranch that has hundreds of big cats and a couple of elephants. Marshall’s family (played by Marshall’s sons John and Jerry, and Hedren and Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith) comes to visit but Marshall is out — and there’s lots and lots of big cats everywhere. This is not a good thing.
The movie is supposed to be something along the lines of Born Free but as a straight film, Roar isn’t so good. As an unintentional horror-comedy however? It’s not so bad.
It’s Just A Scratch
A lot of people were harmed during the making of this film. By the time shooting ended, 70 cast members and crew had been hurt.
Noel Marshall — who wrote, produced, acted in and directed Roar — was bitten and scratched so much that he got gangrene. Hedren broke her leg falling off an elephant and had her head chomped by a lion (you can see it happen in the movie; she needed 38 stitches). Griffith had her face attacked and almost lost an eye; she needed plastic surgery and 50 stitches. Cinematographer Jan de Bont (future director of Speed) had his scalped ripped off. Two hundred and twenty stitches.
There was a whole lot of stitching on the set of Roar.
Unfortunately the hard work didn’t pay off and the movie bombed when it was released in Australia, 34 years ago, on Nov. 12 — coincidentally the same date this paper was published. Marshall and Hedren’s marriage might have been the final casualty; they divorced in 1982.
Still, Roar is interesting to watch if for no other reason than to see Hollywood nitwits constantly roughed up by untrained lions and tigers. You can’t help but think “what were they thinking?” while watching Roar. It may be one of the most dangerous movies ever made.
Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd. You can read his weekly “Sunday Matinee” column at prairiedogmag.com.