This proved to be a movie going experience unlike any other I can recall.
The reason is very simple. I’m infatuated with big animals.
I had heard of this film years ago and when it turned up at the local Apollo Cinema in my home town that caters to fans like me I didn’t hesitate to shell out my hard earned cash to see actors interacting with big cats. I had no idea just how many lions and tigers were going to be on screen with our cast of actors including Tippi Hedren and her husband Noel Marshall who served as the films director as well. Joining in on the “fun” is Tippi’s real life daughter Melanie Griffith.
The first twenty minutes of the film introduces us to Marshall and his large houseboat overrun with lions and tigers and a few other species of maneaters. It caught me by surprise to see this real life madman running around trying to calm fighting lions down. No whip and chair. He got right in the action! Then he opens the door to his houseboat and has about 20 lions rummaging through whatever they can get a hold of. Including him. Really an exhilarating experience to see this.
Flimsy plot that their is involves Marshall’s family who are joining him at his Kenyan retreat after a three year separation. He embarks on the river with two beautiful tigers to meet them at the airstrip they are to arrive at. When the boat suffers damage and sinks he is delayed and must travel by foot with the Tigers in tow. He misses the family and they take a bus arriving back at the house ahead of him. Safe to say they are not quite prepared for what awaits them.
While the first part of the film was jaw dropping for it’s bravery the next portion has a well edited bit of Tippi and family trying to evade the lions in the large house. At first it’s somewhat tame but takes a ferocious turn when a large male Lion goes hunting Marhsall’s loved ones. It reminded of Jack Nicholson’s insane attack on the door between himself and Shelley Duvall. This attack is all the more terrifying based on the scenes being edited effectively while the actors at this point are not in harms way as much as they are at other points in the film.
The bulk of the film involves how Hedren, Griffith and company are going to stay alive long enough to either have Marshall make it back and show them the lions can be dealt with or has he perhaps already been mauled and eaten. For an added bit of drama a subplot with poachers meaning to rid the area of the big cats that Marshall has welcomed into the territory has been injected into the script.
I couldn’t help but think of the expression “cat and mouse” while watching this. It’s just an extreme example with Melanie Griffith as the mouse.
The camera work adds to the fun as it’s always on the move telling me the camera men were in harms way just as much as the actors. It’s not a stationary shot leading me to believe the camera men are in some shark tank type of creation. I’d also love to see some outtakes and what wound up not making the final cut.
While the huge felines are beautiful and at times quite aggressive in their bid for dominance it’s actually a mean spirited elephant that comes across as the scariest. Apparently Tippi suffered a fractured leg while tangling with this tusked monster. Tippi’s injury is just one of many that apparently occurred during the making of this unique film.
I have included the link to the trivia section for this film from imdb as there are just so many interesting facts and injuries to list out here. One name I did spot in the credit sequence was Jan De Bont serving as director of photography. He did not leave the set unscathed. Supposedly he suffered a tear to the scalp requiring 120 stitches after a lion’s bite.
It’s hard not to watch this and for one fleeting second wish I had the opportunity to hug one of these gorgeous cats but then I had the same feeling when watching Herzog’s Grizzly Man. We know that didn’t work out to well for Timothy Treadwell.
So I guess I’ll just be happy hugging my own favorite of man’s best friends. Come here Samson and give Dad a 200 pound hug.
As I mentioned previously, I love BIG animals.