ROAR (1981) is some crazy shit

Roar, released in 1981, is one of the most insane and bizarre films I have ever seen.  The story behind the making of the film is even more mind blowing.

The review by HitFix really captured the essence of the film better than anything I can come up with:

” ROAR feels like Walt Disney decided to make a snuff version of “Swiss Family Robinson.”

This is a completely accurate description.  One of the scenes in the film resulted in Melanie Griffith’s face being partially mauled off. She had to have facial reconstructive surgery because her batshit mom and stepdad decided to make this movie!

If you don’t know the backstory, Noel Marshall, the producer of the original The Exorcist, lost his mind over the devastation of wildlife in Africa, and together with his equally crazy wife Tippie Hedren, they came up with this idea for a movie that required a very large number of big cats. However, they did not want trained big cats, they wanted cats who would act ‘naturally’ around the cast.  Every trainer in the United States told them they were out of their damn minds, so Marshall and Hedren proceeded to start breeding their own cat population, ultimately spending everything they had on a ranch in California to keep the cats.  This resulted in a huge and wild big cat population, which during filming continuously caused harm to the rotating crew members.  But hey, at least they credited the animals for causing so many unexpected things in the film:

roar credit for animals

Ultimately, some 72 people were injured during the filming of this movie, which took almost a decade to complete.  It is referred to in film buff circles as the most dangerous movie ever made.  There are several scenes where Noel Marshall is really bleeding.

The movie itself is not good.  There are remnants of a previous plot that had zero follow through, and it ranges from long stretches of intense action horror (which are pretty good but terrifying when you know that NO ONE IS CONTROLLING THE LIONS) to clownish, family friendly humor and a happy ending with kittens and actual lion snuggles that makes no sense at all.

But there so many bits throughout the movie that are good that I absolutely must recommend it.  The chase scene through the house is mind blowing, because again, no one is controlling the lions.

There is an evil lion who looks like Scar from The Lion King. His name is Tovar and he has a theme song.  You can always tell its him because they kept smearing blood on him to identify him as the evil lion.  When you see this movie, you should root for Tovar.

Such a weird piece of cinema history.  It destroyed Noel Marshall’s career.  People have referred to the situation as the ‘Curse of the Exorcist,’ but I’m pretty sure he was just crazy.

Here’s the trailer from Drafthouse Films, who recently re-released Roar.