Sunday 22 June 2008

Roller Boogie (1979)

'Introducing Jim Bray' say the credits, but he went on to precisely nothing else. This is his one and only credit, but he was well and truly qualified for it, being a real life roller skating champion who had won hundreds of awards by the time he made this movie, though they didn't go beyond the national level. He was really only the lead because they couldn't find one so promoted him from stunt double. The rest of the credits unfold to a Cher soundtrack and feature lots of young men and women (read: boys and girls) dancing around on roller skates while trying to keep their very short and very tight shorts or swimsuits intact. This is not particularly distant from soft porn and I felt almost guilty watching it. There must have been more wardrobe malfunctions during the shooting of this film than can be comfortably imagined.

The star is not Jim Bray, it's Linda Blair, who was riding low after 1977's Exorcist II: The Heretic, though hadn't quite descended into the exploitational depths she would find in the the eighties. She plays Teresa Barkley, better known as Terry, and she's the centre of two classic stories. There's the rebellious rich girl story, given that there his and hers matching Rolls Royces in the garage, Terry rides a very expensive car (apparently an Excalibur Phaeton) and she's apparently on her way to Juilliard because it's convenient for her parents who can just hop over to the Hamptons to visit, yet all she wants to do is skate down at the local roller rink. The other is the rich girl, poor boy romance, given that Bray plays Bobby James, the best skater on the boardwalk but hardly in her class, gien that he works on a local boardwalk store.

The most believable part of the story is the fact that Terry can skate but not that well and so wants Bobby to teach her, while he just wants to get into her pants. As she tells her mother, she doesn't want to play music, she doesn't want to go to Juilliard and she doesn't want to have anything to do with Franklin Potter, the lecherous boy her parents have set her up with. She just wants to win the local roller boogie contest down on the beach. The rest of the story is stunningly convenient lunacy that doesn't even pretend to make logical sense. In fact this has to be the most blatant display convenience in the history of cinema.

Apparently the skimpy costumes and demonstrations of flash moves on the beach or the rink floor weren't enough, so that writers Irwin Yablans and Barry Schneider had to bring in Mark Goddard, better known as Maj Don West in the original Lost in Space, to be some bad guy tycoon who wants to knock down Jammer's Roller Rink to build a shopping mall. This plot isn't just half baked, they never even started cooking. It's painful and it's embarrassing to watch such blatant nonsense. The worst thing is that it isn't ineptitude, it's literally not caring that it's complete idiocy and doing it anyway. I need to see Gleaming the Cube again. It isn't impossible to make a gimmick movie that doesn't have something to say too.

For my part, this film has no value at all in anything except the awesome dated tech. Everyone uses pay phones, unless you're rich enough to have a phone in your car. Stoney Jackson is a young black guy called Phones who carries a huge cassette deck (read: cassette deck not ghetto blaster) everywhere with massive headphones. Walkie talkies are nearly as big. All this dated tech is great fun for me but it's hardly enough to get most people to watch a movie.

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