Like Disney decided to make a snuff version of "Swiss Family Robinson."
March 6, 2015 12:53 PM   Subscribe

"Roar" is a 1981 film, nearing a theatrical re-release, that was written and directed by Noel Marshall and co-written and co-directed by a pride of lions. It is perhaps the most dangerous movie production ever.

The movie stars Marshall as "Hank," an animal-rights devotee who lives in the African wilds with 100+ lions, tigers and cheetahs. When his family (played by his real-life wife Tippi Hedren and their three real-life children) come for a visit, they end up alone in his house with the aforementioned carnivores and hilarious(?) havoc ensues. The movie was a labor of (more than slightly insane) love intended as a heartfelt plea for audiences to oppose poaching, habitat destruction and other threats to African wildlife. It ended up as a $17 million, 11-year vanity project that would see Marshall and his family adopt, raise, and nearly be killed by their apex predator co-stars.

Hank's animal companions were portrayed by actual, lions and tigers that the Marshall-Hedren family kept and trained in their own home, and (according to reviewer Drew McWeeny) their actions so shaped the filming of Roar that Marshall credited them as writers and directors. From conception to final cut the movie took more than 11 years to produce, in part because of frequent attacks by the big cats on stars, cast and crew -- Roar's IMDB trivia page is in large part a list of maulings. Marshall and Hedren kept the featured animals -- all 100-plus of them -- on their own property, and eventually had to move filming to a ranch 40 miles outside of Los Angeles when the pride grew too large. That ranch was itself disaster-prone, with fires and floods setting back production (occasionally by wiping out the set itself) more than once.

Perhaps needless to say, Roar saw only limited release and bombed at the box office, and was described in Variety as perhaps the most disaster-plagued film ever made. But it was recently picked up by Drafthouse Films, as an entry in the "Holy F***ing S*** shelf" of their collection.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish (49 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Disney loves lion films.
posted by Fizz at 1:03 PM on March 6, 2015

It's like Tippi Hedren wanted to live out the script to Birds.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:04 PM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

During the promotion of this picture, Tippi Hedren categorically stated that there would never be a 'Roar 2' sequel.

I'm glad somebody arrived at a sensible conclusion.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:04 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cinematographer Jan de Bont (Speed) required 200+ stitches on his head after a lion nearly scalped him.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:05 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The blocking and editing of this scene is insane and largely incomprehensible, but omigod, this is nightmare fuel.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:08 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Jesus. Those clips in the second link are insane.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:10 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lion opens car door.
posted by infini at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2015

This movie looks a lot more intense than my childhood favorite Born Free, which I must have watched 20 times growing up.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:17 PM on March 6, 2015

If you've ever wondered why Melanie Griffith seems a little odd, try living with a full-grown lion in your house (and bed) and see if that doesn't have an effect on you.
posted by tommasz at 1:18 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why would you try batting at the paws of a Tiger? Why would you ever agree to "act" in a movie with a ton of big cats?

I can't even imagine the amount of liquid or powder courage necessary to agree to go on that set on a daily basis.

And can you imagine how bad that house must've smelt with all those animals no doubt marking it all day every day.
posted by vuron at 1:19 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wow! This kind of little-known, way-off-the-beaten-path artifact is exactly what I read MetaFilter for. Thanks!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:20 PM on March 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

Actors have surprisingly strong unions, considering acting is a fairly desirable career in a highly-competitive industry.

This fact only makes sense in light of the completely batshit insane things that directors try to put their actors through. Nobody in their right mind should have signed up to work on this film, and it's incredible that nobody died.
posted by schmod at 1:21 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I thought there was some sort of actors union to prevent dangerous shit like this
posted by desjardins at 1:29 PM on March 6, 2015

oh, non-preview jinx
posted by desjardins at 1:29 PM on March 6, 2015

you're either completely gobsmacked

"Gobsmacked." Yes. Gobsmacked is the word to describe how I'm attempting to deal with how insanely stupid this whole thing was. How and why would anyone continue to work on this film after the first mauling? The second? How about the seventh (by my count on IMDB)?? How about after your wife and daughter get mauled?

How was it not apparent to the casual observer as it is in the footage of the film that no one has any fucking clue how to handle a big cat, let alone a hundred? In light of all that, there's no way these bumbling idiots were treating the animals humanely either.

Where was the law? Or, I don't even know, Parks and Wildlife? CPS, for fucks sake? There aren't that many people who have actually been so stupid that they actually become evil and most of them are in politics, but christ, what a dumb asshole.
posted by cmoj at 1:44 PM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

This was endlessly advertised in 2000 AD (remember, back when comics were for kids?) but no-one I knew ever saw it.
posted by scruss at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2015

The only thing that keeps my cat from eating my face off is the fact that I weigh twenty times more than she does. I can't imagine sleeping in a house with cats bigger than myself.
posted by octothorpe at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2015

I almost can't believe that this exists, here, in our universe.

I feel like cocaine had to have been involved on some level; nothing about this makes any sense unless you think of it as an idea that seemed reasonable after a three-day binge.
posted by aramaic at 1:51 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

The level of "Oh HELL no!" that happens in my brain after seeing even a few seconds of this footage makes me wonder how these people actually set foot into that house/compound in real life. It's like the real world embodiment of "What is this... I don't even..." by an order of magnitude.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:57 PM on March 6, 2015

I am very angry at Katy Perry for making it impossible to read the title of this movie without knowing I am now doomed for days of a certain earworm.

I still wouldn't wouldn't wish a role in this movie upon her.
posted by argonauta at 1:57 PM on March 6, 2015

argonauta: "I am very angry at Katy Perry for making it impossible to read the title of this movie without knowing I am now doomed for days of a certain earworm."

Try being Norwegian, reading comics and whatnot in English since you were quite young, and not figuring out why suddenly there are loud shouts of a fairly common, kind of goofy Norwegian given name.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:04 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

You can visit the site -- they have 30 or so animals currently. Was there a couple weeks ago. It's pretty amazing; if you really want to see them animals while active, though, the sunset tours would probably be better (they are pretty quiet in the afternoon).
posted by 99_ at 2:17 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Actors have surprisingly strong unions, considering acting is a fairly desirable career...

I might add that most actors, as a group, have strong work ethics and very high self esteem. Despite all the challenges and drawbacks of working on a film such as this, in the mane, they would be strongly committed and would act without paws to fillfill a contract. You might say they also have their pride.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:19 PM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Birds, Roar, Working Girl and 50 Shades of Grey would make for an interesting family film festival and women in Hollywood and I can't believe I'm not planning this already .
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:23 PM on March 6, 2015 [17 favorites]

Those clips really paint Noel in a "I wish to die by lion" light.
posted by cooker girl at 2:25 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Everything I've read and seen about this production makes me believe that all the actors (with possible exception of the kids, because they couldn't be expected to know what they were getting into) were doing this out of a very misdirected sense of ecological preservation. They thought they were doing something really extreme and "real," for the sake of telling an anti-poaching story. The fact that it frequently went horribly wrong seems to have not dissuaded them as quickly or as much as it would anybody who thinks about the situation rationally, but I can see getting swept up in the idea of it, much like that poor guy who was eaten in Grizzly Man.
posted by xingcat at 2:29 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I do understand the common sentiment of "omg these people were crazy" (much as I understand the attitude "hey, spiders are cool!" whilst being completely unable to deal with them myself due to massive phobia) but OMG this is pretty much my number one life fantasy and if I'd had a chance to be in this movie I would have leaped at it, maulings be damned. so I guess I am crazy...

BIG KITTIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by supermedusa at 2:31 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't remember where I first read about Roar but I do remember watching it for the first time and being absolutely flabbergasted at what I was seeing. I actually found it to be oddly campy and hilarious, in a nervous and terrifying sort of way that makes me feel a bit guilty given the number of injuries sustained during filming.
posted by mr. manager at 2:31 PM on March 6, 2015

That "Holy F***ing S*** shelf" of which they speak is in reference to Cinefile Video in West Los Angeles where, yes, they have such a shelf of DVD's and Blu-Rays that can only really be categorized with such an exclamation.
posted by Rashomon at 2:53 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, if I was an actor at the time it would have been tempting anyway, and I'm sure you tell yourself "Well I won't get mauled..."
posted by corb at 2:53 PM on March 6, 2015

What's interesting about this is that PETA would probably not approve of such a movie today. Yet as it says on this page:

No animals were hurt during the filming, but over 70 people were injured, including all cast members except [one].

So hurting non-human animals is enough to shut down the shoot but hurting human actors is okay? Is there a PETA for actors?
posted by Rashomon at 3:10 PM on March 6, 2015

Brings back memories of the dumbass in Harlem who kept a tiger and a gator in his apartment. To the point where he could no longer enter it and tiger urine ruined the apartment below his.

Officer Duffy, who was forced to rappel down the outside of the building and shoot the tiger with a tranq while it lunged at him out the window, really earned his salary that day.
posted by emjaybee at 3:10 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Holy crap for the last thirty years I've been convinced that I dreamt this movie.
posted by um at 3:20 PM on March 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Note that Hedren, while she still loves big cats and runs a sanctuary for them, says that she was was downright nuts to keep them around the house and her kids, and lobbies for laws banning keeping wild animals as pets.
posted by tavella at 3:27 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I do not say this lightly. But holy shit at those video clips. Methinks Drafthouse Films has a keeper.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 3:37 PM on March 6, 2015

This is the Hollywood millionaire version of crazy cat lady.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 3:52 PM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

OMG - this is one of those films I've always wanted to see that I could never find. Thanks for posting about the release!
posted by EinAtlanta at 3:52 PM on March 6, 2015

100 cats was it?
posted by books for weapons at 4:09 PM on March 6, 2015

Of all the posts I've read on metafilter, this one has been the most perplexing.

Those videos. Everything about this. What the hell.
posted by Alex404 at 4:14 PM on March 6, 2015

I know, alex404. It just doesn't scan.
posted by merelyglib at 5:58 PM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Good Lord. Can I...can I ride that roller coaster in the other FPP now, instead?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:49 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I saw this at the movies!
posted by h00py at 10:45 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gobsmacked is definitely the right word. Watching Marshall wade into a lion fight to break up the combatants is just... Insane. I couldn't stop watching, not because I wanted anything to happen to him, but because the whole situation was so surreal there's no proper way to react.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:53 PM on March 6, 2015

That "Holy F***ing S*** shelf" of which they speak is in reference to Cinefile Video in West Los Angeles where, yes, they have such a shelf of DVD's and Blu-Rays that can only really be categorized with such an exclamation.

This was a fascinating post for a lot of reasons. I ended up fixating on that tantalizing reference, and my searches are coming up with jack. Can someone please tell us what else is on this mystical shelf? Is it, like, Holy Mountain and Coffin Joe and The World's Greatest Sinner, or is it all more obscure titles?
posted by heatvision at 3:36 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

From the Wikipedia entry in the first link:
"The cast and crew endured countless injuries, with over 70 bloody attacks documented. While nobody was killed, there were several close calls, most notably de Bont being scalped by a lion resulting in 220 stitches on his head. Hedren endured a fractured leg and deep scalp wounds. Griffith was mauled by a lion, resulting over 100 stitches and reconstructive surgery. Noel was gored so many times that he was eventually hospitalized with gangrene."
Jesus Christ. I know it was the seventies, when Dustin Hoffman was undergoing dental surgery without anesthesia to prep for Marathon Man and Malcolm McDowell wound up with scratches on his corneas from the chair in A Clockwork Orange, but after the first five dozen wild animal attacks, I am surprised anyone was still ready to come to work.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:47 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another bizarre fact about Tippi Hedren is that she is responsible for the domination of the American nail salon industry by Vietnamese immigrants. She was doing some charity work with Vietnamese refugees in the mid-to-late-1970s when she decided to have her personal manicurist give all the Vietnamese women in an American refugee camp their own manicures. The women evidently loved the manicures so much that they all learned how to do manicures themselves from Tippi Hedren's personal manicurist! Eventually, the women in that refugee camp started teaching other Vietnamese refugee women how to do manicures, and the rest is history!
posted by jonp72 at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

Though the fact everyone survived indicates that despite it all, the lions *did* think of them as pride members. Because any one of those lions could have killed them in an instant. In a way, the film is a the triumph of lions being gentle. It's just that in life among animals weighing hundred of pounds with huge claws, even minor spats or rough play can lead to serious injuries.
posted by tavella at 12:08 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Roar is completely amazing, and barely even a movie. It's mostly just documentation of the cast trying not to be eaten by the hundred plus completely untrained big cats running around. Marshall running around trying desperately to impose a narrative on the cats fighting each other is amazing.

Everybody needs to see this, and I am eagerly awaiting the theatrical re-premiere. So much of that movie must have been ad-libbed. The best thing is listening to every line from Mativo , and understanding that these lines make a lot more sense if they are directed at Noah Marshall the actor/director, not Hank the character. And how many scenes just completely dissolve because the cats are attacking people.

"That's why you have to help me!"
"I have to what? Why?"

Or with the two tigers in the truck.
"Come on, get in."
"You are crazy! With them in the back? They will bite my head off!"
"Either get in or walk, because I'm going."
"Make them walk! Hank, this is madness."

"These are your friends here. And do you know what your friends are probably doing to your family right now? They are making dinner of them! They are eating them!"
"Tivo, shut up."
"They are sitting around, eating them, cracking their bones!"
"Shut up!"
"They are licking their bones clean!"
"Shut up!"

This can't have been scripted.
posted by kafziel at 1:56 PM on March 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Holy fuck, I'm not entirely certain how films are made, but I'm pretty sure what happened here is Steve Irwin and Timothy Treadwell made sweet love and 9 months later this movie squeezed out of the vagina of the snarling behemoth that devoured them.

Movie theaters. April 17th. There.
posted by dgaicun at 9:50 AM on March 10, 2015

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