El Gran Rugido - Roar - In Grande Ruggito - 1981 - Poster - Cartel001

Review: ROAR (1981)

by Meredith Grau
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Best Bad Quote:
[Noel Marshall saying ANYTHING]
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I first heard about the movie Roar while watching Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures in my Nintendo years. In one of the episodes, the the masterful Hanna made a pilgrimage to the the cat-tastic desert oasis of Shambala, a haven for rescued wildcats run by none other than Tippi Hedren. Fast forward 20-years, and I’m volunteering at the place. As it turns out, the road that led the infamous Hitchcockian actress to the world of feline preservation began in Africa and ended in Acton, CA, where she produced and starred in this film as a way to champion these proud beasts. Everyone told her and her husband of the time, Noel Marshall, that they were crazy. That instinctual dictates would make filming a movie with multiple wildcats impossible. That they were risking their lives. That wrangling such a ramshackle mammalian cast could only end in chaos. They weren’t wrong…
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On the one hand, this movie is friggin’ amazing! It is so obviously and absurdly dangerous that even watching it today, in a land of CGI, I was cringing. “Holy sh*t! What are you people thinking!?” Mostly, the animals, and there are many of them, are absolutely stunning, and that’s usually enough for me. The film focuses the majority of its attention on the lions, with a clever (?) territorial parallel being drawn the human battle of animal enthusiast and preservationist Hank (Marshall) vs. the villain with a shotgun and the cat battle of the “good” lion Robbie vs. the “bad” lion Togar. It is basically a preview for the Simba vs. Scar rivalry. (Disney has yet to admit to its plagiarism).
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Hank lives with a bunch of lions like its cool. He is essentially the cat version of Grizzly Man. (Meow Man)? Well, we all know what happened to that guy… Anywho, he makes a lot of speeches (A LOT) about how we have to learn to co-exist in peace and honor with these great cats. His character doesn’t have many levels… He seems high. Probably was. And I think there may have been some cross-breeding going on, if you catch my drift. His sidekick/comic relief is a smart version of Stepin Fetchit named Mativo (Kyalo Mativo) who, in token black character fashion, keeps wondering why the white people are so crazy– i.e. interacting with wildcats that will eat them like its normal the same way they investigate suspicious noises in horror films instead of running like the dickens. #WhiteSupremacy4Evs
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Things escalate quickly. Rick (Rick Glassey) hates tigers, mostly because one curious, water loving cat has the nerve to get on his boat and sink it. “Aw Hell, what’s this floating thing? Mind if I step inside, brothers?” Well, Rick did mind, and his boat sinks. Then, when he gets pissy, he gets clawed on his face. In bitch fashion, he swears revenge, and he is coming back with ammo!
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While Noel deals with this nimrod and walks around in his underwear, getting jumped on every 5 seconds by a slew of lions (no joke), his family– literally his family, because no one else would act in the project– makes their way to Africa to be with him: wife Madelaine (Hedren), daughter Melanie (Griffith) and sons Jerry and John (Marshall). They are a bit surprised to find their father’s home filled with lions, and are instantly terrified that they will be attacked and eaten alive. A reasonable assumption… While they play hide and seek in terror with the good lions that they think are bad, the real bad lion Togar stalks them from the outside. Good thing Robbie is around! Then… Something happens. I’m really not sure what. But, suddenly everyone is like, “Hey, these cats are actually just like us, but furrier! Let’s play!” The End.
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Don’t worry. You didn’t miss anything. [Whisper]: There was nothing there.
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Nay, there’s not much of a plot, but you kind of forgive writers Marshall (and Ted Cassidy) for that, as walking let alone talking while you are being climbed all over by cheetahs and cougars is no easy feat. Inevitably, the cats are running the show, so in the end nothing makes sense and the humans are just second fiddle and annoying. You kind of wish the camera would stick to the animals. The good news is, the entire team seemed to accept the obvious fumble that they had made and just run with it. Thus, a film that set out to be a groundbreaking piece with a message instead becomes a default comedy with pretty, pretty creatures going cray in the hizzay. It actually is quite funny. I just sat there going, “What the f*ck? Hahaha,” for an hour and 40 minutes. It’s fascinating to watch the best of intentions swiftly go down the nonsense drain with pleasure.
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Note: any blood or violence you see in the film is generally real. Everyone was injured. Tippi was bitten on the back of the head, a camera dude was scalped, Marshall’s hand was punctured by a fang… The moral of the story is, humans are dumb. Cats rule, and we drool.
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Rating:
4 out of 5 Macho Mufasas 
lion-roar lion-roar lion-roar lion-roar
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