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Roller Boogie (Blu-ray Review)

Roller-BoogieRoller Boogie is the film that asks: can a classical flautist and a roller skating dude find true love and happiness in the California sun while boogying on skates to 70’s disco tunes? Roller Boogie stars Linda Blair (The Exorcist) as Terry Barkley, a genius flautist (and Juilliard hopeful) and Jim Bray (real life roller skating phenomenon) as Bobby James, a maniac on skates with all the right moves and his sights set on becoming an Olympic Roller Skater.  Roller Boogie, with its amazing choreography and on-the-skate-floor acrobatics, is directed by Mark L. Lester (Class of 1984), from a screenplay by Barry Schneider, features a soundtrack stuffed with disco tunes including Hell On Wheels performed by Cher, The Roller Boogie written by Mavis & Bob Esty, Boogie Wonderland written by Jon Lind and Allee Willis and the Bob Esty & Michael Brooks song Summer Love. 

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Film 

Starting with a traditional cinematic “meet cute” scene (Bobby saves Terry from a skating accident at the local roller rink), Roller Boogie is kicked into high gear when a ruthless mobster plans to buy Jammers, the local roller rink, for nefarious reasons. Will Terry give up on her dreams of playing classical flute at Juilliard to team up with Bobby and enter the Jammer’s roller disco contest? Will Bobby see his Olympic skating dreams come true? Will the mobster really buy Jammers? Where’s the parental supervision?  For the answers to these and other burning questions watch Roller Boogie.

I don’t care what you say, I LOVE Roller Boogie.  Maybe its part affection for 80s Linda Blair (One of the greatest B-Movie/Cult actress EVER), but mostly its because of how silly and whacky this little movie is.  It tries to add to the sort of Disco lore like a Saturday Night Fever, but is just too time capsuled and goofy to ever get that serious.  Plus, it never touches on dark subject matter or deep character flaws like that legendary iconic film did.  Nope, this is straight up roller dome/rink and disco music from the start to the grand finish.

Like bowling, I think the hey day for roller skating “cool” and as some for of athletic expression hit its peak in the 70s and then slowly descented into being forgotten through the 80s.  In my youth, though, we had a roller rink we’d always go to frequently, but I think it became more of a very young kids thing than it was back when it was super popular.  However much I dug skating, when I was a kid I was in it for the sweet arcade games my rink had back in the day.  Fun fact: I once beat the original Final Fight there on a Saturday morning with a cup full of quarters or tokens to continuously pluck in.

Roller Boogie features some great crummy disco tunes and wild, crazy ass costumes that’ll have your eyes and senses soaring.  Its unbelievably 70s disco and over the top in appearance.  Then you couple that with some wonderful choreographed group skate numbers and you have yourself an absolute blast.  The decor of the roller rink (“Jammers”) even comes with its share of hilarity too.  Outside of a stairwell there, you have all the obvious disco posters (Donna Summer, Bee Gees, etc), and there just randomly is a poster of John Travolta.  Not from any movies mind you (Thinking Saturday Night Fever or Grease), nope just a head shot of of that famous smile from good ‘ol Travolta.

And this movie can’t just be about a summer romance between two skaters, nope.  You have throw in some crazy stakes, like a mobster trying to shut down the roller rink.  We can’t just keep the skating to fun rink numbers and romantic free skates.  Nah, lets make an action/chase sequence out of them.  Yes, this movie decides to go to crazy town and I’ll tell you that its better for doing such a thing.  Making weird choices, in “bad” movies is always a plus and Roller Boogie makes all the “right” ones.

I know I’ve mentioned Linda Blair, but this cast is all full of colorful and wild people as well.  One of my favorite all-time Friday the 13th final girls is Kimberly Beck from The Final Chapter and here she is in Roller Boogie, with her boobs about to fall out of anything she wears.  This is pre-Friday the 13th mind you.  It was a treat because I had a BIG crush on her as a kid, but I had never seen her in anything but that movie.  Also, Beverly Garland is RIDICULOUS in this movie and has some fantastically crazy lines and line reads.  Then, you have one of the characters that is ALWAYS, ALWAYS NO MATTER WHAT wearing his canned headphones and big ass cassette player.

One last bit of awesome for this movie.  It was shot by none other than Dean Cundey.  Yes, that legendary cinematographer.  The John Carpenter collaborator.  The man who shot Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing, Back To The Future, Jurassic Park and Apollo 13 among countless others, shot Roller Boogie.  So yeah, this movie, among all I’ve talked about, has that going for it too.  And those roller rink scenes are quite great, so I’m sure we have him to thank for plenty of it.

You’ve probably heard this movie is terrible.  Fine.  But I’m telling you if you’re into cult movies, this is a MUST and an ABSOLUTE classic in that realm.  There is so much fun, and crazy you can’t take your eyes off.  It has enough competence and enjoyable factors in both good, crazy and bad territory that you won’t regret it and just find yourself with a big old grin on your face.  Now, where can I find the soundtrack?

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Roller Boogie is an Olive transfer that I thought looks really good for what it is.  I know Olive Films doesn’t do a lot of tinkering, but this one looks pretty much as I’m sure it was intended.  Detail is good on the scuffed up wooden skate floor and on the brushed metal of the skate wheels.  Fabrics and surface detail is decent.

Depth:  Depth is okay here.  Interiors look pretty above average.  Character movement is free on the rink, smooth and cinematic in appearance.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and a bit foggy.  Detail in hidden in dark the darkly lit roller rink scenes, but I believer its as intended by the filmmakers for the “look” of the place.

Color Reproduction:  Those awesome 70s yellows and the like come through quite nicely here but done bleed off the screen, just pop.  If you know what a Dean Cundey film looks like in terms of shading, lighting and coloring, its right in line with that.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout.  Facial details like wrinkles and make-up look quite good in close ups and medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  Pretty clean print.  It looks impressive considering I’m sure there wasn’t much tampering done to it.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  The sound here is good enough to do the trick, but I feel with a hint of some work, it could have been greatly improved.  There are many instances of the score or effects stepping on vocals or the likes or just an even mesh.  However, the songs in the film do sound pretty good, and the skate stomping and gliding works great for what we are given.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud and clear.  At a few intervals there is some slight peaking, but its probably that way in the source.

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Extras 

Roller Boogie contains no supplemental features.  Menu offers “Play Movie” and “Chapters”.

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Summary 

Roller Boogie is on Blu-ray and that’s reason to celebrate!  Olive Films’ release looks terrific, supported by some average but “gets the job done” audio in its 2.0 track.  Unfortunately there are no additional features (An interview with Linda Blair or Dean Cundey would have been spectacular).  However, would you rather have this cult classic never come to Blu-ray instead?  Me, I’ll take the bare bones or no bones at all!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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