This movie was conceived over a decade before it was made when Tippi Hedren worked in Africa on films during the 1960s / 1970s such as Satan's Harvest (1970). She once said of its conception in Africa: "Exploring a game reserve, we came across a pride of lions that was living in an abandoned game warden's house. We thought it was wonderful, and my husband [Noel Marshall] wrote a script around the idea." The ROAR official site states that the idea for this movie "grew from a father and mother's passion for cats." See more »
You know what? Sometimes words really aren't enough to do justice to something.
Roar has to be without a doubt the most insanely unsafe cinematic undertaking I have ever had the pleasure of watching. The unbelievably high level of danger is quite frankly there for everyone to see up on the screen as we watch a group of actors interact with over one hundred big cats with no protection whatsoever! It was inspired by the success of the lion drama Born Free (1966). And you might make the observation that there is fifteen years between these two movies and think this strange, well that's because this flick took eleven years from start to finish! Its production met with all manner of set-backs such as fire, flood and disease; each of which put the film's schedule back. But more to the point, it was as dangerous to work on as it looks on screen. The opening credits state that no animals were hurt in the making of the film, what they could not say with as much confidence was that there were no humans hurt! As it was, seventy cast and crew were injured, including cinematographer Jan de Bont who was partially scalped, Tippi Hedren had her neck bitten, Melanie Griffiths almost lost an eye, Jerry and John Marshall both required extensive stitches, while Noel Marshall was attacked so often it took years for him to recover from his injuries. When you watch Noel in action in this film it is not exactly hard to see why! In fact some of the injuries can be seen happening on screen. It is madness, pure and utter madness.
But because of this, it makes for highly entertaining and bizarre viewing. Unfortunately, the public back in 1981 didn't seem to agree and Roar was a box office disaster. To be honest, this is not entirely surprising as this feels far more like a cult movie than blockbuster material, given its utter strangeness. For a start it doesn't really have a plot and it boils down to a few events that bring our human cast into contact with the big cats. The story barely makes sense if you think about it very long. But who needs a story when you've got this insanity on screen? The madness and health and safety black hole that the events on screen represent mean that a story needs be no more than an afterthought. For what it's worth, Noel Marshall - wrote, starred, directed and financed it and his wife Tippi Hedren, who was a wildlife activist who campaigned for the protection of big cats, was the big name draw. Hedren, of course, was previously most well-known for her starring role in The Birds (1963) where she was famously mauled and scratched by an assortment of flying fiends. Well, all I can say is that what she experiences on Roar makes the actions of the birds in Alfred Hitchcock's classic seem positively reticent by comparison.
The actors are all splendidly game and deserve huge amounts of credit for their nerve but the real stars of Roar are the big cats and rampaging elephants. This is the ultimate wet dream for any lover of the big cats in particular and we have the very strange scenario of seeing lions, cheetahs, panthers, leopards and tigers interacting with each other. Watching them violently wrestle is a pretty nerve shredding thing, except if you are Noel Marshall that is, he usually runs in to join them! But on the whole, while there are a few continuity errors and the editing is full-on and sporadic, this is exciting stuff that could never in a million years be described as boring. It truly defines the term 'one of a kind'. With health and safety legislation what it is now, there is no way in hell there will ever be another film like Roar. It's truly unique and I sure lapped it up.
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