Saturday, May 19, 2012

ROLLERBALL -- “And may the odds be forever be in your favor” (1975)

Greg Goodsell here. Tonight we have a futuristic big-budget sci-fi quasi-thriller from director Norman Jewison called ROLLERBALL. I saw this when it was first released theatrically with my late father. He was a sports nut, and I liked sci-fi, so it was a good compromise. However, as we shall see, there's a reason why the low-budget cheap knock-off by Roger Corman, DEATH RACE 2000 (1975) rushed into theaters to beat ROLLERBALL's release, is celebrated and adored, while this film is largely forgotten!

Here is Seventies star JAMES CAAN as the king of the Rollerballers, Jonathan E! Jimmy is still very active today, and has been nominated for a highly coveted golden statuette more than just a few times!

Like many sci-fi films of this era, the future is embarrassingly analog and the art direction is now highly ironic! That number font belongs on a flier for a rave!

As in the currently hugely popular HUNGER GAMES, the world of the future is one of bread and circuses, and the main sport is this thing called Rollerball, which involves distaff elements of basketball, motocross, roller derby and a lot of athletes bashing the shit out of each other! SCORE!

Enjoy this action scene, because there's a definite paucity of action in this hyar movie. The Rollerball scenes take up less than 15 percent of the whole movie which is two hours plus long!

DING! Fire in the hole!

Here is JOHN BECK as Jonathan's best buddy, Moonpie! According to the IMDB, Beck was a one-time champion roller skater and performed many of his own stunts in this film. He was also a proficient boxer and won several amateur titles in his life, most notably the heavyweight 'Golden Gloves' of Chicago. His career stumbled a bit when he took the lead in the notorious stink bomb, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT in 1977, one of Andy Warhol's countless "favorite films."

Here comes the creepy JOHN HOUSEMAN as Bartholomew, one of the chief executives who keeps the blood-and-death sports rolling for a sensation starved populace! He exhorts the athletes that while they may dream to be rich and powerful, the rich and powerful dream to be Rollerballers!

Just to make sure that Jonathan knows his place in this dystopian society, Bartholomew invites Jonathan to his parlor, decorated with these hideous. razor sharp glass mobiles, and --

WHOOPS! As you can see, Bartholomew's interest in Jonathan is not strictly all business! Seriously, Bartholomew and Mr. Deltoid (Aubrey Morris) from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) should go shop for drapes together!

Now, the Rollerballers know their place in society, but they make sure to take full advantage of all the crumbs the evil corporations throw at them. Gotta love those rubdowns!

In the future, people will go to these swanky cocktail parties and shoot at trees and watch them blow up! I have no idea. To my eyes, this looks like the line to Studio 54 got SO LONG, the revelers had to wait in some foggy forest in upstate New York.

But there is a price to pay for all this extravagant hedonism, and these jocks-for-hire are going to have to put out sooner or later. Uh oh! Moonpie is going to hit the sky like a big pizza pie, and that WON'T be amore!

Moonpie is about to be sacrificed! AAAAAAHHHHHhhhh!

In the future, hospitals will go for the minimalist look.

Jonathan makes a heartfelt visit to the now comatose Moonpie and wonders what's it all about, Alfie!

Really, what's it all about, Alfie? The guys in the locker room seem to ask.

A few specially placed lights, a burbling aquarium and voila -- the future!

Here we go! In the only funny part in a film that takes itself WAAAAAAY too seriously, Sir John Gielgud presides over a gurgling computer that is the repository of the world's history, and the computer plays the “HAL” card!

When you come right down to it, ROLLERBALL is just another jock story about how you should stay true to your ideals, not throw the game in order to further your growth in the corporate ladder, yadda yadda yadda -- Jonathan stays true to his school, BUT –

ROLLERBALL is SO friggin' boring, SO serious about itself, it fails as entertainment. Eegah!!, the man behind these screencaps at one point just got up and walked away and filed his tax returns in lieu of watching this film, just turning his computer on at random. ROLLERBALL in the manner of FAHRENHEIT 451 creates a vision of the future that is even more boring than the present, and for all of its major talent and big budget, is scarcely remembered today!


Anonymous said...

i never thought this movie was boring...maybe with today's kiddie sensibilities and attention span it this movie!!!

David said...

Largely forgotten? WHAT?

AndyMinion said...

Love the blog, it's really very good indeed.


That's not Sir John Gielgud, it's Sir Ralph Richardson.

Sorry about that, Sir...

Ivan said...

Sirs, it seems something's wrong with the audio file--it won't play anymore!
Thanks for all your great work,

Ivan said...

Yipes! It works now--my bad!
You guys still rule!

Mini Choco-Pretzels said...

AndyMinion beat me to the punch about it being Sir Ralph. Haha, he was great in 'Tales From the Crypt' (movie): "And yoooooooooou?'

By the way, what, no love for 'Westworld'?

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