Holy shit! I had the pleasure of seeing a screening last night of one of the most insane flicks I’ve ever seen at the Hollywood Theater right here in good ol’ Portland, Oregon! Yep “Roar” from 1981 has been called the most dangerous film ever made. This is hardly an exaggeration- It took about five years to make. It’s story revolves around Tippi Hedren and Noel Marshall, (writer, director, actor in the film) along with Hedren’s real-life daughter Melanie Griffith and Marshall’s real-life sons John and Jerry.
Oh yeah and it also stars their real life adopted family of over 100 dangerous lions, tigers, panthers and cheetahs!! This movie is seriously insane, and had me cringing in fear around every corner as Noel Marshall is surrounded by these giant cats for nearly the entire movie. The plot is simple Marshall lives in Africa in a Swiss Family Robinson style house along with all of these man eating cats and a giant pissed off African elephant. The rest of his family (like in real life, Tippi in the movie, is his wife though they’re separated in the film) decide to drop by unexpectedly, only problem is dad isn’t there when they arrive….but the CATS are!
This movie is utter mayhem, filmed with just a loose plot, most all of the one million feet of footage shot depended on what the cats decided to do while shooting. These cats in the movie are considered Marshall’s harmless buddies, though he’s tackled, smothered and in the middle of raging giant cat fights pretty much nonstop throughout the film. To see these actors deliver their lines while in the midst of these beasts is quite a hilarious feat to say the least!
Now onto the other crazy fact of this film, no animals were harmed in the filming but over 70 cast and crew members were!! Much of the injury can be seen on film, though carefully edited. Here’s a list of exactly what when down via the Wiki page:
“Cinematographer Jan de Bont had his scalp lifted by a lion, resulting in 220 stitches. Tippi Hedren received a fractured leg and also had scalp wounds. This occurred after an elephant bucked her off its back while she was riding it. She was also bitten in the neck by a lion and required 38 stitches. This incident can also be seen in the film. Melanie Griffith(Hedren’s daughter) was also attacked, receiving 50 stitches to her face; it was feared she may lose an eye but in the end the wound was not disfiguring.
Jan de Bont after the lion attack!
Noel was attacked so many times that he eventually was diagnosed with gangrene. One of those incidents, he was clawed by a cheetah when protecting the animals during a bushfire that occurred in 1979. All animals were evacuated, though it took several years for him to recover from his injuries. Due to the injuries, turnover was high as many did not want to return to the set. Some of the lions also suffered from illnesses that reduced their population. John Marshall was bitten by one of the lions and required 56 stitches. His brother Jerry was bitten in the foot while wearing tennis shoes. He later jokingly said the lion had a “tennis shoe fetish.” Assistant Director Doron Kauper had his throat bitten open, his jaw was bitten, and one of the lions attempted to rip an ear off. He was also injured in the head, chest, and thigh. Although it has been reported that the attack nearly proved fatal, the Santa Cruz Sentinel on July 9, 1978 printed a quote from a nurse saying his injuries were acute. He was also reported as being conscious and in a fair condition.“
Sound pretty unbelievable huh? Well after watching this movie, which was never officially released in the US until now it’s pretty clear how the insane list of injuries is totally accurate with what you witness before you! There’s a ton of crazy stunts and an angry elephant scene that will scare the pants off of you! The cats were adopted by Hendren and Marshall from defunct circuses, zoos & irresponsible owners and given refuge at The Shambala Preserve just about 50 miles outside of Los Angeles which they started together. in fact you can still visit the preserve today. Before you do though make sure you do not miss this movie it’s a truly incredible piece of cinema and one experience you’re likely to never forget!