RollerBall (1975)


A poignant dystopian science fiction drama based around a vicious game called Rollerball (if you didn’t guess already). The danger isn’t reserved for the killer game, the world is an oppressed, cold and calculated place controlled by giant corporations in this mindless future.

Jonathan E (James Caan) is the premier Rollerball superstar who has outgrown his usefulness, the corporation that pretty much owns him, and the one who runs this game have plans and their star boy is too rebellious to play along. These big brother networks  control the smallest things and even go as far as summaring books and controlling all knowledge, history and trade women around as
furniture as the chicks were getting passed around in  
Soylent Green (1973) or Logan’s Run (1976) and  Nineteen Eighty Four (1984). The more they want him out of the game the harder he fights to stay in it.

It seems the more pressure put on him by the soft smooth talking Bartholomew (John Houseman) who played a similar role in The Fly (1986) , the more that Jonathan E (Caan) realising that he’s a mere pawn and does his best to rebel every rule. The shocking violence of the game is second nature in this harsh future, and Caan is charismatic as the lead, followed by the hot headed best buddy Moonpie (John Beck) the ultimate back up guy. Caan is haunted by a previous relationship that was scheduled to another rich hot shot and Caan is bitter and tortures all of his other assigned girls.

Fueled by paranoia and national pride (in this case USA vs Japan, yeah they are still sore about this, and notice how the japanese are in yellow.. omg!). the narrative is clear, we are all under control by “the corporation” i.e the government and there is no escape. Caan does his best to teach the game to the newbies and to educate himself while feeling distanced from the apathetic masses.

At times the film can be quite brutal (for the 70’s) the game is vicious, with a lot of bloody attacks, flames and tight action scenes. Caan is comfortable in this role and is supported well by Moses Gunn and John Beck, he’s a very admirable anti hero, who speaks to the spark in every man that he’s got to do what he’s got to do. He’s totally blank to all of the finery that’s laid out for him, he’s after something solid and real, a woman he actually loves and doing his very best on the tracks no matter who tries to cripple him.  It’s one of the films where black people get to survive into the future (there are none in Logans Run… check it… ) and deals with some tough realisations of a possible dank future with a re written past that George Orwell warned us about. Caan reminds us that we have to be true to ourselves and not to be blinded by the tinsel and glitter that is sold to control us.

The film is beautiful in it’s bleakness, cataloging a possibly future where the population is numb and unthinking and happy about it.

Rating 8/10

R – Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), Logan’s Run (1976), Soylent Green (1973), Salute the Jugger (1989)
L – Selected 1970’s Sci Fi Films, Dystopian Flicks , Sci FI Sports,
A – How accurate are 70’s Sci Fi concepts
5B – James Caan
Vs – Rollerball Vs Salute the Jugger

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