Decades before Joe Exotic amassed his frightening collection of big cats as seen in Netflix’s Tiger King, there was an even wilder personal zoo located in California—and owned by people you might already know.
Following a trip to a game preserve in Mozambique, Tippi Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and her filmmaker husband, Noel Marshall, decided to produce a movie about a scientist and his family coexisting with big cats. The cast would include the couple, Marshall’s sons John and Jerry, and Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith (who’d later become a film star herself and the mother of another one: Fifty Shades of Grey’s Dakota Johnson). They started raising lion cubs at their Sherman Oaks house in 1971, and soon moved to a larger property in Santa Clarita. By the time they began shooting in 1976, they had 132 lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, and jaguars. And one 5-ton bull elephant named Timbo.
The film, titled Roar, was finished in 1981, but it never got a wide release in the United States. Next week, it’s getting the VOD treatment.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Alamo Drafthouse is releasing the film—along with a video Q&A with John Marshall—on Vimeo starting Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. EST. For $10, you’ll be able to stream it for one week on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and/or Chromecast. Ten percent of the profits will benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation’s Pioneers Assistance Fund, which will use the money to support theater workers unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.
If you’re hoping Roar will live up to the jaw-dropping nature of Tiger King and similar programs, you won’t be disappointed. The narrative might be fictional, but the risky encounters with the various beasts are very real.
“I am amazed no one died,” John Marshall told Entertainment Weekly. A staggering 70 members of the cast and crew sustained serious injuries on set, including Hedren, who contracted gangrene after her leg was crushed by Timbo; Griffith, who required plastic surgery after a cat clawed her face; and John Marshall, whose head was gnawed on by a lion.
[h/t Entertainment Weekly]