A normal movie ends with the American Humane Association's assurance that "No animals were harmed." But Tippi Hedren's doomed 1981 obsession Roar isn't normal. The AHA's seal is the first thing on screen -- yet, if the authorities had a safety code for humans, Roar would fail. This odd, slight, and near-deadly tribute to nature wound up as a mad masterpiece of mankind's folly. And this re-release feels kind of like stumbling across the giant heads of Easter Island. You're fascinated more by the how, what, and why than the actual artistic result. So much sweat and pain, for this?
In 1971, Hedren and producer husband Noel Marshall adopted a lion. Ten years later, they had seventy-one -- plus twenty-six tigers, ten cougars, nine black panthers, and more. Hedren and Marshall wanted to make a movie about big cats, with this stipulation: None of the animals would be trained. They felt a cat should be a cat. During Roar, she was bitten, scratched, scalped, and even had her fibula fractured by an elephant. Marshall was punctured so often he gave the hospital advice on preventing gangrene. Hedren's daughter Melanie Griffith had to get facial reconstructive surgery after a lion crept up behind her and tried to play peekaboo (a shot that's in the film).
The story is simply "Big cats destroy a house," since that could be guaranteed. The opening credits make the cats share the blame, sighing, "Since the choice was made to use untrained animals and since for the most part they chose to do as they wished, it's only fair they share the writing and directing credits." Roar is a thrilling bore, an inanity with actual peril in every scene.