STARRING: James Caan, John Houseman, Maud
Adams, Moses Gunn, Pamela Hensley, Barbara Trentham, Ralph
1975, 124 Minutes, Directed by: Norman Jewison
In the year 2018, violence and crime have been totally eliminated from
society and given outlet in the brutal blood sport of rollerball, a
high-velocity blend of football, hockey, and motor-cross racing sponsored by the
multinational corporations that now control the world following the collapse of
traditional politics. James Caan plays Jonathan E., the reigning superstar of
rollerball, whose corporate controllers fear that Jonathan's popularity has
endowed him with too much power. They begin to pressure him according to their
own ruthless set of rules, but Jonathan has rules of his own--the rules of a man
determined to retain his soul in a world gone mad.
vision of the future as one in which violent sports are presented for the
gratification of the masses, nation states have been replaced by huge
corporations and people have exchanged freedom
Mmmh, scary. What once served as dire prophecy looks
like a documentary today. Scarier thought: that we might be
living in a Seventies nightmare version of dystopia. The
sport in question is called rollerball and is a mixture between
American football, ice hockey and Battle of the Gladiators.
If this sounds vaguely familiar to you, the 1980s Schwarzenegger
a similar theme and obviously, ahem, "borrowed" a lot
from this movie.
what served as an inane action movie in the 1980s was presented
as a more thoughtful drama a decade before. The plot centers on a
ball player (played by James Caan) who has become too popular for
the tastes of the Executives who pull the strings behind the
In this brave new world, based more on the identity-less
Japanese version of corporate existence than its American
counterpart, individualism is frowned upon. It is, after all,
teamwork which does the trick they argue. Naturally James Caan
refuses to retire when requested to do so (there wouldnt
too much of a plot if he gave in, wouldnt there?).
Thus, the stakes are upped: the game progressively becomes more
violent, partially to keep spectators attention but mostly
to get rid of the Caan character.
Rollerball may not
appease modern audiences weaned on such fast-paced action epics (they may also
cringe at the thought of their parents dressing like Tom Jones back then), but
it does feature some rollerball sequences which are (I am ashamed to admit)
exciting to watch. I would have hated being a stuntman on this
Also, for classical music fans theres the added
bonus of music by Bach, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Albinoni
chosen by well-known conductor Andre Previn. Previn also composed
some of the corporate anthems featured in the movie.
Remade in 2002, also as
Rollerball by director John McTiernan (of Die Hard and
Predator fame) with a cast of largely unknowns. By
all accounts an incoherent mess, but one I'll probably end up seeing it to review
it for this site. Sigh . . .
Movie Page Pick: Is it just me - or is there anyone else out there who believes that the 'Seventies were
actually more of a Golden Age for celluloid science fiction than the much over-rated
1950s? Or maybe it's just because the early to mid-1970s pre-blockbuster movies now seem a
whole more interesting, experimental and off-key than most the dreck served up by
Hollywood today? Anyway, watch this 1975 movie to see where Stephen King, er, Richard Bachman got most
of his ideas for The Running Man, later made into a movie
starring Arnie . . .