There's nothing more laughable than seeing how filmmakers perceived the future back in 1975. ROLLERBALL is a clever concept, rendered humorous by the last 44 years.
The planet is ruled by corporations. Wars no longer plague the Earth and the masses seem to vent their angst through the bloodsport of Rollerball.
The Michael Jordan of the game is Jonathan E. played with coma like reserve by James Caan. A soft talking Brian Piccolo with anger management issues, Jonathan E. has risen to the top of the game.
An uber violent mashup of Roller Derby, motorcycle racing and hockey with the metal ball from Phantasm, audiences cheer, players die and testosterone levels reach an all time high.
John Houseman is Mr. Bartholemew, the lead corporate officer who announces to Jonathan that it's time for him to retire. He never gives a reason, but its clear that Jonathan's popularity is threatening to exceed the corporations, who are so vain that the national anthem is now a song of praise to their power.
He refuses to quit, the rules of the game are removed and a battle of wills rises.
John Beck (The Other Side of Midnight) is 70's macho player Moonpie, Maud Adams (Octopussy) is Jonathan's true love whose been handed off to a company man and Moses Gunn (Shaft, Ragtime) shines as a friend of our star player.
Director Norman Jewison was coming off two big screen musicals in a row, "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" and leaps into the sci-fi drama with vigor, but time hasn't been kind to this vision of tomorrow.
Home TVs are basically rear screen projection monitors, every computer is a bulky box with basic green text and the costumes look like Carol Burnett's sketch team had their closets raided.
A promising start breaks down into some silly sequences, including a long corporate party sequence that feels more like Director John Boorman (Zardoz) popped by with acid and took over filming for a day.
The movie only really sings during the violent game sequences, including an exciting finale that's a televised fight to the last man standing.
It played better back in the 70's, but now it just comes off as pretentious and a bit silly.
When asked what "Rollerball" was about, James Caan said "about 90 minutes".
It's actually 125 minutes long, and I slogged through all of them to give ROLLERBALL a C.
Great poster artwork by the legendary Bob Peak, though!
A 2002 remake was apparently even worse and bombed in theatres. I'll never see it.....