Roller Blade (Review)
Story by Donald G. Jackson
Screenplay by Donald G. Jackson and Randall Frakes
Directed by Donald G. Jackson
A post-apocalyptic future where you live and die based on how well you roller blade. Yes, Roller Blade is a classic piece of b movie insanity from the mind of Donald G. Jackson. You might think that means there are roller blades in the film, but you would be wrong, everyone is using regular skates, as this was years before in-line skates or roller blades became popular.
Director Donald G. Jackson spent a whole $5000 making Roller Blade and it went on to become very successful, earning over a million dollars through video sales. He made several additional roller blade themed movies, some of which were funded by studios. Some drama happened that’s more appropriate to discuss in the relative films’ reviews, but needless to say it despite the increase in budget, it was not a pleasant experience for Jackson. The large amount of Roller Blade related films has ensured the films a cult following, even as Legend of the Roller Blade Seven has a reputation for being one of the worst films ever made.
Donald G. Jackson is known for being an advocate of Zen Filmmaking, a method of low-budget filmmaking that doesn’t use a script and focuses on using the energy of the cast and available resources to craft a film on the fly. Hence, many of Jackson’s films seem like they were made up by a group of friends on weekends, because they often are. Some of his more structured films such as Hell Comes to Frogtown are more focused, but you can see the roots of Zen Filmmaking here: The lack of focus or strong script, voice-overs instead of sync sound, characters that randomly become more important, and actors playing multiple roles.
In this world of the future (The Second Dark Age), there are no cars, and everyone uses wheeled transportation, particularly roller skates, to get around. There are the occasional skateboards, and even a few grocery store carts, but the roller skates rule. Good thing there is still so much pavement in the desolate future! The City of Lost Angels is a cement paradise in the midst of destruction. A lot of Lost Angels also looks like the ruins of the Pacific Coast batteries that dot the California ocean-side.
Roller Blade may be a product of the mid-1980s, but it would fit right in with lost of 1970s new age jargon. There is also the repeated imagery of the smiley face that shows up in stickers and graffiti around the ruins. Humanity is roughly divided into two groups. Those that fight on the force of light ally with Holy Order of the Roller Blade, a sisterhood of divine nuns who fight on the side of love and nonviolence. They literally transform their weapons into weapons of love and peace. The sisters all wear some crazy nun gear, blue dresses with white highlights. The big thing is a huge red hood with a hole cut in it for the entire face. The Holy Rollers are lead by Mother Speed (Katina Garner), who is confined to a wheelchair, but still has her roller skates on! Because that’s how they do in the Sisterhood. The Sisterhood allies with the noble Marshal Goodman (Jeff Hutchinson), who is law in this lawless wasteland. The Sisterhood’s church structure defines their entire being. Their religion is skates and the Word is warped Biblical verses modified to include references to roller skating. Most characters speak using Biblical prose, often dropping words like “verily”.
Those that follow the darker path follow the demon monster Saticoy, who is literally a puppet monster. He and his minions spend their days kidnapping Nuns and torturing them. Saticoy has a master plan that moves beyond the normal gang posturings, his goal is to take down the Holy Order and rule himself. Saticoy is actually a Humongous clone who uses the creepy puppet to communicate, though the Baby Saticoy as it is termed seems to have a life of his own. At one point, Saticoy threatens his followers that if they don’t do as he says, they will be cooked in acid stew! Saticoy sends an infiltrator into the church, an independent agent named Hunter (Shaun Michelle), to steal their power source.
We first meet Hunter in a sequence as the female roller warrior knifes down a dude, then fights a member of the “skater patrol” and kills him as well (though he does call her a sinner!) The whole segment uses voice-overs and seems like someone’s short test film that was just dubbed over for use in the film. Hunter works for Saticoy in exchange for batteries for her Walkman. Yes, Roller Blade predicted Guardians of the Galaxy by decades!
I think we all know where this plot is going. The roguish Hunter joins up with the Holy Church and learns their secrets and is dubbed Sister Fortune. But she also develops a connection to the women, which makes her eventual betrayal and theft of their sacred power crystal all the more heartbreaking. She’s then betrayed in turn by Saticoy, which causes her to join with the heroes to enable his destruction.
Along the way there is plenty of full frontal nudity from the various members of the Sisterhood. Sister Sharon Cross (Suzanne Solari) leads a group to rescue some of their captive members, and even with some of them badly injured and killed, the love-powered weapons are able to heal them, and they are brought back to the church for ritual healing that also involves not wearing any clothing. Mother Speed’s power of healing doesn’t extend to her own injuries, because the hate in her heart prevents her legs from healing. The Sisters are also joined by Gideon, the Holy Dog who can heal people. Something every movie needs!
Marshal Goodman’s son, Little Christopher (Christopher Douglas-Olen Ray ), is kidnapped by Saticoy’s forces, but the kidnapper, Waco (Sam Mann), is betrayed by Saticoy and murdered, only to be saved by Gideon. Waco then joins the forces of good to take down Saticoy. The final confrontation involves a lot of skating, acid, and a bobsled rocket.
Roller Blade is a big pile of goofy awesomeness that is charming in its sincerity. Despite the complete lack of a budget and obvious loose script, the overall arc of the story is solid and the effects and acting is charming. The focus on roller skates as religion is a fun twist, including skates being anointed with oil and Marshal Goodman saying “May Heaven’s Skate bless our crusade.” I do like that the leader of the Holy Order dedicated to love herself has hate in her heart, and the consequences of that remain logically consistent in-universe. The charm and the nudity helped propel this to a video store classic, and you can easily see why sequels were commissioned. Just stop watching before you get to Roller Gator if you want to keep your sanity!
Rated 9/10 (Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy)
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