I Saw A Film!
Roller Derby, like surfing, one of those things I haven’t tried myself. Here we have a kind of gritty “underground” accounting of the life of a lovely young woman, a former playboy bunny in real life, who after quitting her cat food cannery job (in a kind of scummy I Love Lucy sequence) auditions for television Roller Derby. Now, this is one of those things that I’m not sure exists around the world. It had a barely recognizable heart-beat on regional television back when I was a kid (the 70s) and was always clearly professional wrestling’s little sister. The rules, stipulated in the film, were always vague and difficult to understand, but it turns out quite simple. Leaders just have to pass other team’s members on the round wooden course on roller skates. It was always clear that the fighting was the show, and the best performers were those taking spectacular dumps and crashes to keep the excitable audience interested. Of course, actual roller derby just like professional wrestling, is a cooperative, though visually violent, enterprise. The wrestling performers know who is supposed to win, but they kind of choose how that win will occur, and put on a show “selling” one another’s best known hits and moves. In a way, there’s a kind of sweetness in that sell, the idea is to put one another “over” for the fans. The audience buys the story that there’s a grudge or a genuine fight occurring and actually responds as fans of performer A or B, despite the knowledge that last year Performer A was a “bad guy” and has now become the hero . . . the angles and soap opera story-lines keep us invested.
Roller Derby is a bit like the GLOW series (and old pro-wrestling show) in which we watch these ladies rough-house with one another and attempt to get ahead. The problem is our heroine doesn’t seem to understand the game and feuds instead with her team mates and raises too much difficulty with the production. Which is played entirely cynically. One of the best sequences has the company teaching the ladies where they’re meant to fight on the concourse of the roller derby stage. One day they’ll spell this out for hockey too.
Most of the fun of the film is in the 70’s era exploitation of the “performing lifestyle”. It’s a bit like a circus movie in that respect, but with a bit of slapstick sexuality.
This is running free on Prime in the States and as a Corman production actually a bit more fun than the box implied.