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In a corporate-controlled future they own everyone.

Ultraviolent roller derby…that’s a hell of an idea for an exploitation picture. But, wait, is this actually… something more? Starring  at the peak of his fame and directed by Norman Jewison (“In the Heat of the Night,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” and later “A Soldier’s Story” and “Moonstruck”) it is evident from the opening notes of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor that “” has nobler aspirations than the shocks of a futuristic spiked glove in your face. While the “extreme sports” action is brutal, there’s also some remarkable world-building on display. Nations have been replaced by corporations manipulative computers hold all historical records and society is kept in check with the bread and circuses of a complex, bloody roller skate-based sport…

In the year 2018, in the cult-classic film (), nations have gone bankrupt. Corporations rule a world of docile, vapid customer-citizens who are constantly surveilled. They’re fed happy pills, bought off with small luxuries, and distracted with a perilous, gladiator like roller sport (with motorcycles!).

…the world is divided into stratified social classes: the have-it-all executives, pulling the strings; the pampered but short-lived celebrity athletes, kept in the dark; and the have-just-enough working classes.

The population is concentrated in six corporate city-states: Transport, Food, Communication, Housing, Luxury, and Energy, each with its own team. The corporations share a computer that is supposed to be storing classified versions of every known document, yet it has inadvertently lost all record of the 13th century.

The calm corporate evildoer Mr. Bartholomew (played by the brilliant John Houseman) reveals that corporations designed to demonstrate the futility of individual effort. However, humanity’s hope is reawakened by the survival against the odds of its almost-awake star athlete, Caan, as “Jonathan E.”

Jonathan begins to question authority. When he’s ordered to retire, he refuses. Moreover, he manages to please the crowd by ‘not killing but by sparing a life’, revealing the brutal futility of the game and political system. The film implies that Jonathan may have awakened the masses to the machinations of its corrupt rule-makers. A possible loose cannon, and a dangerous one also, given he is loved by the people.

An underestimated , parts of which take on important new meanings today.

Director: Norman Jewison
Writer: William Harrison (screenplay)
Stars: , John Houseman, Maud Adams



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