Roar (1987) dir. by Noel Marshall

70 Utterly Predictable Large Cat Attacks & Tippi


It should not be news to anyone reading this that the Alamo Drafthouse is doing God’s work. Their accomplishments for the world of cinema obsessives are legion, from their famously great theaters, to the independent new releases distributed through their Drafthouse Films imprint, to their tireless and noble crusade against texting in theaters. But for my money, their greatest work lies in the buried treasures they share with the world. In 2012, they unleashed the gloriously ludicrous 1987 masterpiece Miami Connection onto the world at large, followed a year later by the equally batshit 1979 Euro-scifi oddity The Visitor. These films had their fans prior to being distributed by Drafthouse, but they lacked the cults they so richly deserved. The Drafthouse, with shocking efficiency, changed that. Missionary work at its finest.

The story behind Roar, the latest rediscovery to receive the Drafthouse beatification, is so insane that it’s actually somewhat shocking that it has not already achieved notoriety. In a nutshell: Exorcist producer Noel Marshall and his wife, Birds star Tippi Hedren, became so entranced by an abandoned house filled with lions while on a film shoot in Africa that they decided to create a film to raise awareness for the big cats’ plight. In order to do this, they began adopting an enormous menagerie of lions, tigers, jaguars, and other gigantic predators, which they allowed to roam their Hollywood estate alongside their own children (including Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith). If you think this sounds like a terrible idea, you’re not alone: every zoologist and ecologist the couple consulted strongly warned against the project. Still, Marshall and Hedren continued with the film unabated. What’s the worst that could happen?


You’ve probably guessed the answer to that question. As it turns out, the worst did, in fact, happen. Repeatedly. Hedren got off easy: she walked away with just a fractured leg and some severe wounds to her scalp. Griffith required over a hundred stitches and massive reconstructive surgery after being mauled by a lion. Cinematographer Jan de Bont (who would go on to direct Speed) got straight up fucking scalped. All told, over seventy utterly predictable attacks were recorded over the course of the five-year shoot, several of which were captured on film and made it to the final cut. To call the production a train wreck isn’t quite accurate; train wrecks are far less terrifying.

To add insult to the dozens of literal injuries, the film was an unqualified flop when it limped into theaters in 1981. Fortunately, thanks to Drafthouse, a new generation will be able to reassess the film. Despite the half-baked idea at its core, Roar does send a powerful message about respecting wildlife – just perhaps not the one Marshall intended.

–Oscar Goff

dir. Noel Marshall
102 min.

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