Tag Archives: Tippi Hedren

Roar (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lions takeover a house.

Hank (Noel Marshall) is a naturalist residing in east Africa where he studies the behaviors of lions and keeps several of them in his home. His wife Madeline (Tippi Hedren), daughter Melanie (Melanie Griffith) and two sons (John Marshall, Jerry Marshall) travel from Chicago to visit him. However, when they arrive there’s a mix-up causing Hank to miss picking them up at the airport. The four then travel to the home without him. When they get to the place it becomes overrun with the lions and the family is unable to handle them causing much havoc and destruction as they try to keep from getting attacked and bitten.

The idea for the film was inspired by Marshall and Hedren, who were married at the time, as they traveled through Mozambique in 1969. While going on a nature tour their guide pointed to a abandoned home that had become inhabited by lions and they thought this would make for a funny movie. It took them over 7 years to find the funds to be able to actually film it and then another 3 years before filming was complete. Over 150 lions were used at a cost of $4,000 a week to feed forcing the couple to sell their 3 homes just to be able to have enough money to cover the food and other expenses. Initially it was never released in the US and only abroad until in 2015 it got reissued to Alamo Drafthouse theaters were it got dubbed as being ‘the most dangerous movie ever made’ due to the many injuries inflicted on the cast and crew by the animals during the production.

To some degree the loose story works. I liked the scene where local official come to Hank’s home in their boats and become inexplicable attacked by the lions without warning even seeing actor Marshall’s hand bitten by one of the beasts, which all comes off as quite realistic and unstaged, something you rarely see in most Hollywood films. Unfortunately having to spend 90-minutes watching the family trying to get away from the lions becomes quite redundant. There’s constantly something going on and there’s a lot of chaos and running around, so visually it’s never boring, but the story goes nowhere. Ultimately it’s like gazing at a hamster inside their cage running inside a spinning wheel, which might be fun for while, but eventually pointless.

Savage Harvest, which I reviewed earlier in the week and came out around the same time, had a much more consistent tone. At least we knew that was intended to be a suspenseful thriller and for the most part it delivered, but here it gets increasingly confusing. While this budget is better and I enjoyed the opening sequence showing the beautiful topography of Kenya I still came away liking the other movie a bit better. The lion attacks are more graphic and in-you-face here, but without any sufficient tension it’s not captivating to sit through. It’s supposed to be a comedy and was marketed as such, but it gets too intense for that. Had the cast been made up of evil poachers that get harassed by the animals the prolonged scenario might’ve worked, but watching a bland family as the intended ‘victims’ isn’t enough to hold sustained interest.

I admire Hedren’s willingness, and the whole cast, for putting themselves in harm’s way and there are a few cute moments like when a lion plays with a skateboard, but it relies too heavily on the action, and the animals who are given onscreen credit along with the rest of the cast, but an actual plot was needed. With that said it’s still a one-of-a-kind movie that needs to be seen to be believed. I’m not sure if this one is included in the book ‘1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die’, as I have not always in agreement with some of the other ones that got listed in it, but this one definitely should be.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 30, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Noel Marshall

Studio: American Filmworks

Available: DVD

The Harrad Experiment (1973)

the harrad experiment

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: College promotes sexual freedom.

Based on the novel by Robert H. Rimmer the story centers on a group of students who attend a socially progressive college where sex between multiple partners is expected and promoted. The school is run by Phillip and Margaret (James Whitmore, Tippi Hedren) who feel conventional marriage is an unrealistic ideal that creates the idea of ‘ownership’ over someone else, which in turn causes jealousy. They hope to end these problems and change the cultural norms by having the next generation accept more of a group marriage mentality.

The film nicely avoids the smarmy T&A factor by portraying nudity in a natural non exploitative way while also having characters that are believable and a good representation of the young generation from that era. The different ways that the students respond to the unique environment and the realization that they aren’t quite as sexually liberated as they thought remains the story’s focal point of interest.

The film also allows for a great chance to see young stars in the making. Laurie Walters, who later went on to star in the TV-show ‘Eight is Enough’, gives a sensitive portrayal of a young woman who’s still shy about her body and not quite ready to enjoy sex outside of the bounds of romance as she had initially thought. Bruno Kirby is good as well playing a student who’s so filled with insecurities that it prevents him from having any sex at all. Don Johnson though gives the best performance as a cocky student who uses the program simply as a way to ‘score’ with women only to later learn that even he needs some emotional bonding too.

The always reliable Whitmore is solid as the stoic instructor and Hedren gets one of her best roles outside of her most famous one in The Birds with her titillating moment coming near the end when she strips off her clothes and tries to entice Johnson to make love to her right out in the open and in front of everyone. Actor Ted Cassidy, who co-wrote the script, can also be seen briefly sitting at the counter of the local café.

Although the film does manage to bring out a few provocative elements I still felt even without having read the novel that is was only skimming the surface. Having the story focus on only a few of the couples isn’t as captivating as it could’ve been had it instead taken a broader look at all of the students. The low budget gives the production a cheap look and a few too many sappy love songs get thrown in an attempt to turn it into a ‘70s romance instead of keeping it more of a psychological drama that it should’ve been.

A sequel called Harrad Summer, which follows these same students who take what they’ve learned and try to implement it into their adult lives, was released one year later and that will be reviewed later on this week.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 11, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ted Post

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Available: VHS, DVD