Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like my buddy Michael Monterastelli, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a glorious showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. His passion for VHS is such that I thought it would be fun to talk him into sharing his vast collection with us. My only rule for him? The movies can’t be available on DVD.
Take it away, Mike!
Title: Roller Blade
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Roller-Skating Movie
Tagline: In a world of blood and greed, curvaceous crusaders battle to rebuild a battered land.
Released by: New World Video
Director: Donald G. Jackson
Plot: The place: The City of Lost Angels. The time: The Second Dark Age. In the ruins of a sun-drenched wasteland, a mystical cult of scantily clad, roller-skating nuns known as the Bod Sisters must stop the evil Doctor Saticoy and his army from obtaining a magical crystal of great power and save a helpless child from torture and death.
Armed with their unique roller-martial arts style and incredible psychic healing abilities, this sisterhood of bodacious babes on wheels embarks on their brutal quest, but first they’ll have to roll their way through the Acid Zone and battle the many savage gangs that roam there. Gangs like the Spikers, the Wiseguys and the Samurai Devils!
Thoughts: During the cold war era of the Reagan eighties there were two major things that all Americans were obsessed with: fear of the apocalypse and roller-skating. This was expressed in the movies of the day, such as Mad Max, Xanadau, Damnation Alley, Roller Boogie, The Bronx Warriors, Skatetown U.S.A., etc., etc. It only seemed logical that these two very different concepts would combine to create the subgenre we know today as: the post-apocalyptic roller-skating movie!
The studios hit first with the mind-roasting Solar Babies, which featured one of the greatest youth casts ever assembled for one of these types of films. It starred Jason Patric, Jami Gertz, Adrian Pasdar and James Le Gros when they were teenagers, along with a baby Lukas Haas to boot! It’s pure campy 80’s sci-fi fun at its best.
Then there’s the totally radical Prayer of the Rollerboys, a really great little action film, as well as being, in my opinion, one of the late Corey Haim’s finest dramatic performances, which I say with complete sincerity. Seriously, check it out if you’ve never seen it before and revisit it if you have, because it really rocks.
Which brings me to this week’s flick. I worked at a video store for a number of years while I was in college and I have a really great memory for all the titles I used to see and handle during that time, but for the life of me I’ve never seen or heard of the movie Roller Blade. I found it over a year and a half ago while I was digging through a dusty box of ex-rentals that were being sold for a quarter each at a video shop in Koreatown, which was going out of business. When I saw the cover, I immediately realized that I had unearthed an amazing treasure of some sort. It looked like a world wrestling video featuring a demonic version of Randy Savage and some other goons beating up on an aerobics teacher. I didn’t understand, but I wanted too. The Koreans that owned the store had obviously been so confused by the image themselves that it was mistakenly labeled as being in the horror genre, but one quick scan of the back cover told me I was in for something much more special and not as easily definable. I was right.
First of all, let me make this clear, Roller Blade is not a B-movie. It’s a C-movie. But it’s one of the craziest and most fun C-movies I’ve ever discovered in my life. Describing it to those who haven’t experienced its madness is difficult, but if I were to attempt to put it into cinematic terms, I would say that it’s as if Alejandro Jodorowsky had a four-way with Russ Meyer, Fred Olen Ray and George Miller, somehow a mutant offspring resulted from the tryst and they all decided to name it Roller Blade. It was shot on what appears to my trained eye to be video and all the voices are dubbed by different actors giving it a foreign exploitation feel, even though it was shot completely in Sun Valley, California for what appears to be a very, very small amount of bus fare change.
The film was co-written, produced, photographed and directed by the late C-movie maverick, Donald G. Jackson, whose filmography includes the low budget gems: Hell Comes to Frogtown, Baby Ghost, Toad Warrior, Lingerie Kickboker, Armageddon Boulevard, Crimes of the Chupacabra, Vampire Child, Ghost Taxi, Debbie Does Damnation, Rock n’ Roll Cops 2: The Adventure Begins, Vampire Blvd., and Super-Hero Central to name but a few. He also produced at least four other Roller Blade sequels: Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force, The Roller Blade Seven, Legend of the Roller Blade Seven and Return of the Roller Blade Seven. He also had something to do with a movie called Rollergator. I’m not making this shit up.
Roller Blade takes place in the City of Lost Angels during the Second Dark Age and let me tell you something, it’s one crazy fucking place. In this savage land you either SKATE OR DIE! The wasteland is known as the Acid Zone and it’s inhabited with crazed roller-skating gangs with names like the Spikers, the Wiseguys and the demonic Samurai Devils – henchmen of the maniacal Doctor Saticoy, a hulking muscleman who looks like a cartoonish cross between the Lord Humongous from The Road Warrior with a Canadian mounted policeman, and who also happens to have a talking mutant baby for a right hand. By the way, the baby loves potatoes. Once again, I’m not making this shit up.
In the middle of the darkness there is light in the form of a monastery full of hot, curvaceous nuns called the Bod Sisters. They are led by the wheelchair bound Mother Speed, who trains her nubile young holy rollers to fight with a unique style of martial arts mixed with roller-skating aerobics. Also, with the aid of a powerful magical crystal the sisters are given the gift to heal others and themselves with their butterfly switchblade knives. Whenever they perform this feat, a giant pink smiley face appears on the screen, which is the symbol of the Bod Sisters. In order to achieve this ability, the sisters perform a cleansing ceremony where they bathe each other naked in a hot tub. Their uniforms are a red nun habit with a giant Nazi-ish looking iron cross that’s emblazoned across the front, roller-skates and a thong. Not. Making.This. Shit. Up.
Okay, so Doctor Saticoy and his hand puppet need to get their mitts on the magical crystal, so they can use it as a fuel source to power their rocket sled across a chasm to a place called Mecca Co. They also hire a barbarian named Waco to abduct the young son of Marshall Goodman, leader of the Roller Patrol. It is rumored that the child will one day become a great prophet and lead a revolt against the evil Samurai Devils. Huh?
There’s a bunch of other crazy shit going on in this movie, too. Did I mention that a dog by the name of Gideon is a member of the sisterhood? It’s true. Oh, and everyone speaks in a version of English that sounds like a cross between Shakespeare and surf punk. Also, there’s an amazing scene where two of the Bod Sisters are captured by the bad guys and forced to fight and pull each other’s hair while topless in thongs and on roller-skates.
And while I’m on the subject, this movie has an incredibly generous amount of nudity and the girls are all luscious, big-haired babes from the eighties. You’ve got the stunning Suzanne Solari as our heroine, Sister Sharon Cross and blonde bombshell Shaun Michelle as Sister Fortune. Then there’s B-movie goddess Michelle Bauer, along with adult film actresses Susannah Britton and Crystal Breeze (billed under the name Lisa Marie) who also provide plenty of nakedness as fellow Bod Sisters.
Roller Blade entertains from start to finish and I’m pretty sure that all the weirdness was meant to be taken humorously, but at times it appears as if it’s being played straight, which makes it all the more delightful. It’s Zardoz on skates, with big tits instead of Sean Connery and I love it.
At the end of the credits there’s a title card that reads: Watch for Roller Blade Part 2: Holy Thunder. This particular title was never made, but there are four sequels in this franchise and I hope to see them all someday. And that includes Rollergator, too.
Well, I’ve got to head out to pick up some supplies at the army surplus before I hit the rink. Remember, SKATE OR DIE IN 2012!!!
Additional Thoughts from Josh: Michael is a professional. CHUD does not recommend readers attempt to view Rollergator themselves at home. It stars Martin Sheen’s brother Joe Estevez and it may have the worst recorded, most unintelligible audio track ever committed to VHS. Pregnant women should not handle copies of Rollergator.