director: Noel Marshall
opens January 29th
Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank street
Remember the early days of colour tv, when Sunday afternoons were filled with cheapo Disney vignettes starring rascally vermin getting into all kinds of home alone mischief? Pesky raccoons in the kitchen? Sly foxes in the den? Silly monkeys in the dining area? How about man-eating lions in the family room?
What the hell was Noel Marshall thinking way back in 1981? Not only did he invite lions into his home, but tigers, cheetahs, and cougars as well, and then his whole family, just to see what would happen. You can’t make this stuff up. Marshall, a Hollywood producer (“The Exorcist”!), his animal rights advocate wife/actress Tippy Hedron, and their chirpy kids, actually lived with several big cats (mainly zoo castoffs) in their California digs, before they decided to take it to the next level.
The ensuing movie features about 150 carnivorous felines chasing the family in very close quarters, in what amounts to a bizarre comedy snuff film. Hilarity vies with sheer terror for screen time as the cats turn from chummy snuggling to full on attack mode.
“No animals were harmed in the making of this film, but 70 people were”!
That includes a cameraman who was scalped, and daughter (future starlet) Melanie Griffith who required facial reconstructive surgery. That’s the back story, the front story is almost as crazy. Since the unpredictable cats dictated onscreen action, coherent shooting was next to impossible . There must have been a plot, but as years passed (17 in fact), budgets ballooned, and workers fled for their lives, what was left was a mishmash of chase scenes. But what chase scenes. Up close and very personal, “Roar” is an unsettling series of vignettes in glorious technocolour, that is always on the precipice of real life tragedy. Like “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”, if Marlin Perkins got mauled in the bush. There is absolutely no way to keep your eyes off the screen. Is the public ready for this three decades on?
We may never be ready.
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