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Rollerball: Encore Edition (1975) - Blu-ray Review

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Rollerball (1975) - Blu-ray Review

5 beers"I love this game, Moonpie.  I love it."

A dark arena fills the picture.  Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor fills our ears as two teams enter the rink.  The teams are Houston and Madrid and the game they are about to play is called Rollerball, a violent sport centered on a global corporate state in which different cities are ran by different corporations and settle their differences (interpret as gain more power) through the sport of human slaughter.  The film swears upon its “in the not too distant future” tagline, but – ironically enough – the film suggests 2018 to be the beginning of the corporate war.

Gulp.

Directed by Norman Jewison (Fiddler on the Roof, Moonstruck), the opening 15 minutes of Rollberall might just be the most prophetic opening in modern cinematic history.   In it we see just how much control corporations have over the common man as the fans stay standing as the corporate national anthem is played.  And it all feels too terribly real as the men on the two teams duke it out for the rabid entertainment of the poor.

In this future, books have been banned, transcribed, and summarized for “convenience” as Corporate Society takes care of everyone and everything.  Why would anyone need to read?  Just don’t challenge their decisions, including their vote on books.  Sadly, this is a world in which we spin closer to every single day that passes, especially here in America. 

Starring James Caan (The Godfather) as Johnathan E., the most popular player in the game, Rollerball earns its wings as a genre flick through its aggressive use of violence and the suffocating grip of corporations and their executive decisions.  This is a stylish film with something to say.  It is a brutal sports film in which the rules change routinely to keep fans watching (distracted) while the corporations who sponsor them tighten their chokehold upon the society.  And now the big boss men are gunning for the instant replay; sex and senseless violence.

They want Johnathan E. to retire and, sense he refuses, will try any means necessary to squeeze him from the roster.  A very handsome retirement package is offered to him, but – in spire of its babe quota and a wealth beyond imagination, Johnathan E. wants to still fight.  And so the rules of the game are changed once again.  Brutality wins out.

Co-starring Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn, Ralph Richardson, and Pamela Hensley, Rollerball descends into madness as the corporations admit their fear of one player’s popularity over their own.  Anything can happen and it often does.  It is a film where the replay rules.  Thanks to a commanding script by author William Harrison and above average camerawork by Douglas Slowcombe, the film remains an engaging slice of futureshock.

As Rollerball was the first major film to credit its stunt performers by name, it could be argued that an appreciation for stunt work in Hollywood starts with the on-screen carnage featured here in this wild production of spills, thrills, and kills.  The action in the rink is bloody and raw and, as it happens quite quickly going round and round in the rink, truly something unique to witness on the screen.

Rollerball, in which the sport of Roller Derby goes full contact and batshit crazy, makes its way onto blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time.  Their release is limited to 3000 units, so grab yours from the rink’s floor quickly...before the guy behind you flips you out of the rink.

Rollerball (1975) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
125 mins
Director
: Norman Jewison
Writer:
William Harrison
Cast:
James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams
Genre
: Action
Tagline:
The next World War will not be fought. It will be PLAYED.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Ladies and gentlemen, will you stand please for the playing of our Corporate Hymn."
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 25, 1975
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 14, 2016
Synopsis: Rollerball (1975) posits a dystopian future (2018!) in which war has been replaced by the titular game, a gladiatorial spectacle of violence that helps keep the global populace entertained and anesthetized. Director Norman Jewison and writer William Harrison further give us an athletic champion, Jonathan E (the great James Caan), whose individual expertise defeats the worldwide corporate leadership’s design: to emphasize the futility of individual effort. Corporate bigwigs (icily incarnated by John Houseman) need Jonathan to retire, but Jonathan begins to have his own dangerous ideas.

Rollerball (1975) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Twilight Time
Available on Blu-ray
- June 14, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: Region A

Twilight Time presents Rollerball on blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition transfer, with an aspect ration of 1.85:1, that is expressive, detailed, and saturated precisely.  Fine details are strong throughout.  Black levels are even and layered, with strong lines and a variety of shades that seem unending.  The textures in the uniforms and leather pants are bold.  Colors – with team jerseys ranging from orange to green to yellow – never pop, but they are solid.  The sound is presented in a English 5.1 DTS-HD MA that is center-heavy but has nice left and right effects throughout for a total immersive experience.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are two commentaries.  The first one is with director Norman Jewison and the second one is with writer William Harrison.  Both are good listens.

Special Features:

The release is limited to 3000 copies and features a good assortment of archival supplemental items about the making of the movie.  It comes highly recommended.

  • From Rome to Rollerball: The Full Circle
  • Return to the Arena: The Making of Rollerball
  • Isolated Score Track
  • TV Spots
  • Original Theatrical Trailers

Rollerball (1975) - Blu-ray Review

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