Movie review: Big cat cult film "Roar" delivers WTF to the big screen

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As an aficionado of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, I’ve been looking forward to the theatrical release of “Roar” for a while now. I expected it to be pretty “WTF.” It didn’t disappoint.

“Roar” was released in 1981 and was a failure at the box office, but its cult status comes from the bizarre real life story of its filming. A labor of love by actress Tippi Hedren (of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”) and her husband Noel Marshall, it involved the couple and their family living and shooting among more than 100 lions, tigers and other big cats.

The movie opens with the American Humane Association’s seal of approval that no animals were harmed in the filming. The people on the other hand?

Over 70 cast and crew members were injured on the set — including every cast member but one. And watching the film, it’s easy to see why.

The plot involves Hank (Marshall), a man who lives among the animals in a large home in Africa. His family (including Hedren’s real-life daughter, Melanie Griffith, and Marshall’s sons, Jerry and John) arrives for a visit.

They seem a bit surprised to find a freakin’ house full of lions, which seems like it would be something Hank mentioned beforehand. There are also evil hunter types, a message about wildlife conservation and an unintentional message about why you don’t film a movie with wild animals.

As cast and crew had bones broken, scalps lifted and throats ripped by the wild beasts — through no fault of the animals, mind you — production of the film dragged on. And like “Miami Connection” before it, “Roar” gets a rerelease from Drafthouse Pictures for its WTF-ness.

And there’s plenty of it, as you watch people get trampled and wrestle with the massive cats. The real gore outweighed what you see on screen, but still, literally, WTF?

(Bonus fact: The film was shot by a young Jan de Bont, who went on to direct my favorite good-bad Hollywood movie, “Twister.” De Bont got 220 stitches to reattach his scalp for his efforts.)

“Roar” is also nearly completely incoherent as a narrative, which is both funny and sad given the toll on the cast. It also featured a bizarrely cheery score that almost never matches the action onscreen and some pretty awful acting.

The unintentional entertainment levels aren’t as high as my favorites like “The Room” and “Birdemic,” but it’s hard to pass up the chance to see this with an audience. Because WTF?

Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films


Opens Friday at the Gateway

1 star out of 4

4 WTFs out of 4