Friday, April 29
One of the things I always look forward to seeing on the TCMFF schedule every year is what the midnight movies will be. I don’t always stay awake for the whole movie, but it’s always fun to go to them anyway. In the past, they’ve shown classic midnight movie staples like Eraserhead and Freaks and last year, we got to see the spectacularly odd and terrible Boom! This year’s midnight movie selections did not disappoint. Although Gog was fun (more on that tomorrow), it was awfully hard to top Friday night’s screening of Roar.
Roar is a movie I’d heard a bit about, but never actually seen, so I was intrigued when I saw it made this year’s TCMFF schedule. It’s a movie that has a level of infamy for being a movie that was plagued with production problems (it spent 11 years in production) and for using live, untrained animals, some of which actually lived with stars Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, Noel Marshall, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall. Many of the cast and crew were injured by the animals over of the course of production. For everything I’d heard about it before, nothing could have truly prepared me for the sheer insanity of what the movie is actually like.
Roar is pretty thin on plot. Noel Marshall stars as a man who has decided to go off to Africa so he can study lions, tigers, leopards, and other big cats by living with them in this big house out in the middle of the wilderness. Tippi Hedren plays his estranged wife who brings their kids (Melanie Griffith, John Marshall, and Jerry Marshall) out to see him. But is he home when they arrive? Nope! So the wife and kids arrive to this house full of big, wild cats who begin terrorizing the family and they all have to avoid the cats by doing things like hiding in cabinets and iceboxes. This goes on for quite a while, then they all fall asleep and wake up with a whole new perspective on the situation. They figure that if the animals really wanted to kill them, they would’ve done it while they were sleeping and the movie ends with a big montage showing the entire family living in peace with the cats. I’m not kidding, the family just sort of gets over the whole being terrorized by wild animals thing and it suddenly ends in a happy montage.
In most cases, when you see dangerous stunts and acts of violence in films, it’s pretty easy to understand that it wasn’t real. Roar, on the other hand, perpetually lulls you into a false sense of security. When you see these people actually interacting with the animals (and occasionally being injured by them), you have that moment of thinking, “It’s just a movie.” But then you remember that these were not trained animals and that actor who is bandaging themself up on screen is bandaging themself up because they were actually injured by an animal and you’re simultaneously horrified and amazed that this movie even exists. It truly is like a completely deranged version of Swiss Family Robinson with a little bit of Grey Gardens thrown into the mix.
Not to mention that there are a lot of moments that are kind of hilarious, but you’re not entirely sure you should be laughing at this movie. While watching actors get attacked by wild animals in and of itself isn’t funny, the fact that this movie has a paper-thin plot, a ridiculous musical score, and terrible dialogue that’s made even funnier by Noel Marshall’s hilariously bad line delivery makes it comedy gold.
The whole thing is just so completely and totally off the rails and incomprehensible, it’s one of the most genuinely unforgettable movies you’ll ever see. Not to mention, it’s probably one of the most OSHA-unfriendly movies ever created. If it’s been a while since you last saw a movie, you might say, “Yeah, I think I might have seen that one once a while ago.” Roar is not one of those movies.
One of the first things I did when I got home after the festival was order a copy of Roar on blu-ray. Not only will I always remember the experience of watching this with my friends, but I now feel compelled to tell as many people as possible about this bit of cinematic insanity. When the blu-ray arrived, I noticed that one of the bonus features was a Q&A session with some of the cast and crew, which I figured would be a good thing since I had a whole lot of questions about that movie. The Q&A session didn’t answer any of my questions, but it actually made the whole thing seem even more insane than I already thought it was. A lot of the Q&A session covered what it was like living with/working with the animals and includes tales of things like Noel Marshall distracting the people from Animal Control when they showed up at their house while Tippi and Melanie were in the backyard shoving lions into neighboring yards.
If you ever have the chance to see Roar on the big screen, I totally recommend going. Or get the blu-ray and watch it with some of your friends. In any case, it’s got to be seen to be believed and it’s way better to watch it with other people.