I sat down the other day with my friends to watch this comedy I had heard about. I knew that it was a crazy project that took 11 years to film and that they had over 150 big cats on the set of the film, but besides that I had little clue what I was getting into.
The film in question is 1981’s “Roar” by Noel Marshall, who not only directed the film, but played the lead role while his family took up the other main roles. The funding for this movie actually came from Marshall’s previous job, where he worked as a Hollywood agent. His big payday was when his client’s book, “The Exorcist,” was adapted into a film with Marshall as executive producer.
The idea for the film came to him while he was visiting his wife on the set of her film “Satan’s Harvest” and the two of them came across an abandoned plantation house in Mozambique which had been taken over by a pride of lions. After seeing them act just like large cats, and hearing that they were endangered because of poaching, they decided to make a film to bring attention to the majestic creatures.
Instead of bringing attention to the endangered nature of the lions, the movie only brought to attention the danger that the crew and stars of the film had been in for the past 11 years.
What started as two lions and an elephant slowly grew into a collection of 71 lions, 26 tigers, a tigon (male tiger, female lion), nine panthers, 10 cougars, two jaguars, four leopards, two elephants, six black swans, four Canadian geese, four cranes, two peacocks, seven flamingos and a stork. At least they had the slightest shred of sanity to turn down the offer of a hippo, one of the most dangerous animals in the animal kingdom responsible for almost 3,000 deaths every year.
How could this many deadly animals in one place possibly be dangerous?
This movie deserves the award for most injuries per minute of film, because the list of on-set injuries is terrifyingly large. I only looked into the injuries after seeing Marshall get his hand scratched into a bloody pulp only minutes into the film, and some of the injuries that took place make me question how no one died while filming the movie.
The worst injury that stood out to me was how one of the cinematographers got scalped by one of the lions, needing 220 stitches to have the top of his head re-attached.
And then he went back to work.
Excuse me, what? You get the entire top of your head torn off by a giant cat, and you decide that instead of running away from the set as fast as you can, you go right back and continue working? Talk about a dedicated employee.
In a crew of 140 people, it is believed that over 100 of them received some sort of injury throughout the filming process. If you laid out all the stitches that were required to put this crew back together over and over again, I’m sure you’d have more than a mile of thread.
It took Marshall several years after filming concluded to completely recover from his injuries, and no wonder. Not only was he constantly getting injured by the beasts, but these injuries led to further problems, including both gangrene and blood poisoning.
But the lions weren’t the only terror on set. One of the elephants, Timbo, broke Tippi Hedren’s leg and caused her to get black gangrene, which was only healed after receiving a skin graft to replace the dead tissue.
Not only were the animals out to get the crew, but apparently mother nature herself was too. During filming, the entire set was destroyed by a 10-foot flood that stranded four members of the sound crew who needed to be rescued and ended up costing around $3 million to repair, including the purchase of over 700 trees.
After production finally resumed after a year of repairs and time to let the wildlife grow back, the set was then ravaged by 12 separate wildfires, though miraculously all of the animals escaped the blaze unharmed.
Speaking of animals being harmed, this movie begins with a card from the American Humane Association stating that none of the animals were harmed during the filming of the movie, but that is sort of a lie. See, 14 of the lions and tigers died of an airborne illness during the course of filming, though they did their best to treat them before they passed.
When it comes to the actual content of the movie, it is incredibly mediocre. Between shots of actors running for their life and attempting to fend off the big cats, you have an incredibly boring story that follows a crazy family attempting to keep the lions in an area near people while the rational human beings of the local government attempt to convince them to get rid of them or have them put down, with the climax being several of the cats are killed and the “evil” lion (you can tell because he is always covered in fresh blood) ends up killing two of the men, only to then lose in a fight to the main lion.
And then the main character tries to hide the fact that these two guys got slaughtered and just has his family over for a nice week of vacation.
Wasn’t this guy the hero? How is he just okay with the death of these two men, even if they were shooting at the lions? Their families are going to wonder where they went, and you’re just going to keep the death of these two men as your little secret?
I rate movies from 10 to -10, with negative being so bad its good. This movie gets a -7, because it’s like watching a train wreck. Despite the movie itself being bad, the sheer situation and the context behind everything kept me on the edge of my seat, knowing that these guys were just chilling around wild animals.
This week I want to shout out ADR, or Automated Dialogue Replacement. This is when actors re-record their lines after the movie is done filming in a studio, and then the new audio is used instead of the one from on set. This can be used in many situations, such as bad audio conditions because of wind, mistakes in lines that were caught too late or even when your cast was too busy screaming in pain and running for their lives from wild lions to remember to say their lines correctly.
This article was originally written for The University of Tennessee’s Daily Beacon’s Bad Movie Showcase.
Editing done by Evan Newell