Produced and directed by Norman Jewison
Starring James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn, Sir Ralph Richardson
I love Rollerball (1975). It’s one of my favorite science fiction films of the 70s, coming from the glorious period when James Cann was knocking one movie out of the park after another. (That’s just my opinion, mind you.)
It’s one of those pessimistic future things where the world is run by corporations and people’s pent-up anger is channelled into the sport rollerball, a deadly combination of hockey, football, motocross and roller derby. When Houston’s Jonathan E (James Caan) becomes a superstar with more power than the corporations are comfortable with, they try all sorts of tricks to encourage him to retire — including rule changes to make rollerball more dangerous than ever. But that makes people love Jonathan even more. (The world being lorded over by giant corporations used to be science fiction, but it’s getting less science fiction-y by the day.)
It’s also one of those have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too movies that pushed its anti-violence message by being really, really violent. Here, it kinda works. And man, it sure is rough along the way.
Caan is terrific, John Houseman is really creepy, Sir Ralph Richardson has a short, very weird scene, but the great Moses Gunn almost steals the movie as Caan’s trainer and friend. They say the actors and stunt men had a good time shooting the rollerball scenes and actually continued playing between takes!
Rollerball is coming to Blu-Ray from Scorpion Releasing later this month, and I’m really excited about it. It’ll have a killer lineup of interviews, commentaries, trailers, etc. But the star player will be a new 4K restoration, something I think the film richly deserves. (My old DVD was terrible.) Highly, highly recommended. Jonathan! Jonathan! Jonathan!