Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Olive Films & Drafthouse Films - ROAR on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Olive Films & Drafthouse Films - ROAR on Blu-ray

ROAR (1981; Noel Marshall)
Some movies really do no great service to themselves by being impossible to quantify in words. I mean, I could try to explain ROAR to you, but I was incredibly surprised by what it feels like to actually  watch it versus what I had pictured in my head beforehand. I think it is one of those truly unique cinematic experiences that comes along not so often even for the hardcore film fan. I could tell you that ROAR is about a guy raising lions and other big cats in Africa. When his family comes to visit his compound, he is away and they are besieged by the huge kitties. Prior to that, there are several extended scenes of the guy interacting with his lions and trying to keep them from hurting each other and people visiting his place.
There are no other movies like ROAR for a reason. I can't believe any actors would  ever let themselves be surrounded by untrained lions and try to do a scene, let alone make a movie. Granted, these were animals that the cast were familiar with, and many of whom they had raised themselves, but still, lions are gonna do what lions are gonna do and there ain't no stopping them. All of the cast sustained pretty significant injuries during the long production of this movie. The legal nightmare that this kind of thing would present today absolutely boggles the mind. There's a little note the Blu-ray box about how no animals were harmed, but 70 cast and crew members were injured during the production. There's a special credit at the beginning of the movie that basically gives partial writing credit to the animals in the film as they kinda did what they wanted and the actors just worked around them and let them guide what was happening in every scene. There is something uncanny and intensely compelling about watching actors interacting with real live giant cats throughout the movie. You can tell the dialogue is loose and that the actors are doing their best to get out the small bits of exposition needed for this simple story, whilst keeping one eye on the cats to make sure they aren't injured by them. The result is truly captivating. It should be noted that the great cinematographer Jan de Bont shot this movie and he himself was one of the most grueling injuries in making it. Despite injuries, he stuck with movie throughout its long and troubled production. He is obviously a big part of the reason the movie looks as good as it does.
It's one thing to see non-actors interact with the lions and such, but it's something else to see Tippi Hedren and her daughter Melanie Griffith seemingly running for their lives to keep clear of the animals. No CG to be found here. You can constantly clearly see the actors in frame with (and often wrestling with) the lions and it causes a very palpable sense of tension as you can feel that they are genuinely nervous and sometimes frightened by the way the animals are behaving. But to see Hedren and Griffith, two actresses that have been in many bigger films, throwing themselves into a mix like this is beyond genuinely admirable. It's downright fearless. Thera just this part of your brain that won't believe what it's seeing. As the actors get knocked down, scratched, chewed on and stepped on, it's hard not to be absolutely mesmerized with the inherent tension of it all. I love animals attack movies and you occasionally see actors interacting with real animals in those. It's always in short shots though and you can usually tell when an actor is being covered by a stunt double. With ROAR you are looking at the real deal. Hats off to this whole cast for being the bravest humans I've seen captured on film. This movie kind of blew my mind and I have to recommend you see it for yourselves soon as possible. It's kinda as if Cassavetes & Hitchcock got together to direct a JACKASS movie (but better than that probably sounds). Of the many movies I've watched for the first time this year, this is one of the ones that I just can't stop talking about. Once you see it, you'll want to show it to everyone you know.
To give some context, read Tim League's (Founder of The Alamo Drafthouse) remarkable essay on the film and how it came to be:

Special Features:

This Disc was a co-release between Drafthouse and Olive films and it has a nice amount of supplements including:
-A commentary track with John Marshall (Noel Marshall's oldest son) and Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League.
-The Making of ROAR.
-Q&A with Cast and Crew at The Cinefmaily, Los Angeles, CA (4/17/2015).
ROAR can be purchased on Blu-ray here:


KC said...

The intensity of the trailer for this alone was almost too much for me to bear, but I can't resist a truly remarkable cinematic experience. I'm just going to have to grab a stiff drink and give Roar a try! Thanks for the great overview.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Hopefully it doesn't scar you KC! :)