Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review - Rollerball (1975)

Rollerball is one of those iconic films from the seventies ... something that most people have heard of, even if they haven't seen. And now Arrow Video have a lovely new remastered DVD and Blu-Ray release to remind everyone of this minor classic.

The overall plot is pretty simple. It's the future (well a future as envisaged in the 1970s, so all chrome and 'futuristic' design), and the populace enjoy an entertainment called Rollerball - in which two teams compete to score points by getting the 'Rollerball' - a silver metal sphere - into a net. But both teams are on rollerblades and ride motorbikes and circle an arena. The Rollerball is shot around the arena at speed, making it le

thal if it hits you, and anything seems to go in the game. Players can barge and attack each other, knocking them over and into the path of the ball, and fatalities are expected. However there is a deeper theme at play, one of the futility of individual effort. The game is designed to keep the populace subdued by showing that you have to work as a team to win - the individual means nothing. However, in terms of the film,James Caan is playing an individual, Jonathan, who is determined to succeed, even when corporate 'powers' want him to fail, bribing him with the return of his wife. The film ends with Caan becoming a hero, the opposite of what the corporation wanted.

It's a very impressive film in many ways. Visually rich and splendid, the futuristic trappings are well done. It opens in a very documentary way, showing the game as though it were a sports reporting programme, with cinema veretie trappings and realism seeping from every pore. As we progress, the film starts to show its age with some incredibly slow sequences containing lots of talk. I guess these are adding the character into Caan and his struggle with the all powerful corporation, but with today's eyes, these drag the film down, and you can't wait to get back into the Rollerball ring for more action. Perhaps this was the point.

The transfer and presentation of the film is excellent, with the colours rich and sharp and the picture quality brilliantly presented. Caan is superb in the lead, and it was good to spot John Hausman with his very distinctive voice as the representative of the corporation.

As with all the Arrow releases. it comes with a great selection of extras:


  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the film from a digital transfer prepared by MGM Studios
  • Original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Isolated Music and Effects Soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio Commentary with director Norman Jewison
  • Audio Commentary with writer William Harrison
  • Blood Sports with James Caan – A brand-new interview with the Rollerball star
  • The Fourth City: Shooting Rollerball in Munich – Unit manager Dieter Meyer and others revisit the Audi Dome and other original locations
  • The Bike Work: Craig R. Baxley on the Motorcycle Stunts in Rollerball – Stunt artist Baxley on the challenges and dangers of being one of the Rollerball bikers
  • Return to the Arena: The Making of Rollerball
  • From Rome to Rollerball: The Full Circle – original EPK bringing together interviews and on-set footage
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Theatrical Teaser
  • TV Spots
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.
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