Roller Blade (1986)

If you know me, chances are at some point in the past I made you watch “The Roller Blade Seven”, which is in the conversation for worst movie ever, not only because it’s mind-bogglingly terrible but because it seems to have been made that way on purpose. That is some ways in our future, though, as we’re still back in 1986 and director Donald Jackson’s second movie, made almost a decade after his first, “Demon Lover”.

Before we get into things, I think there’s an interesting story behind Mr Jackson. From information in “Demon Lover Diary”, the documentary made about his 1977 debut, there’s a strong possibility that his producing partner in that movie deliberately severed his own fingers to get an insurance payout from the place both he and Jackson worked, which is pretty sleazy, even for people in the sort of business we talk about.

But this leads to other questions. Why wait almost ten years to make another film, and what brought on the fixation with roller skates? He did an intereview with a French magazine which I’ve read in English translation, which he claims is the most indepth interview with him ever, and it explains nothing. He just saw hot women on rollerskates in LA and decided to make them the centerpiece of his life’s work?

He moved to LA after “Demon Lover” and got work at the bottom of the film industry, meeting and working with James Cameron on “Galaxy of Terror” and also befriending Randall Frakes, who co-wrote a bunch of his early scripts (including this one). He claims that Sam Raimi called him an inspiration, and to have shot a few small scenes in “The Terminator” when James Cameron was briefly unavailable, and did uncredited work on the movie apparently – whether you believe that or not is up to you, but I can certainly believe him hassling his old friend for a trip to the set and begging him for a job during shooting. For the record, he hates “Demon Lover Diary” and claims they tried their hardest to make him look bad, were so dirty Jackson’s mother kicked them out of the house, he’s made 50 movies and they’ve hardly made any, so he wins, etc. When I get to the movies he made with Scott Shaw, someone remind of the comments he made about that guy in the French interview, as it’ll give you a laugh.

Anyway, this movie was made for the surprisingly low amount of $5,000, and was picked up by New World Pictures (Roger Corman’s old company) and made them a decent amount of money, which led to his run of relatively big budget pictures for them, including “Hell Comes To Frogtown”. I’ve been sorely tempted to call it incomprehensible, or mock it as so-bad-it’s-good, but it’s neither of those things. It’s just really really bad.

We’re in a post-apocalyptic / dystopian future, in “The City of Lost Angels”, only the millionth time that’s been used as if it’s a brand new idea. The Cosmic Order Of The Roller Blade (by the way, there are no roller-blades in this movie, as they hadn’t been invented yet. Jackson claims his movies gave them the idea for the name) looks after a magic gem / crystal / whatever the hell it is, that protects the Earth, possibly. What it does is really quite vague, but it’s a vague MacGuffin for the action to circle round. Sharon Cross (Suzanne Solari) kills a cop and delivers something to the evil Doctor Saticoy, a masked fellow with a weird creature attached to his arm – I thought he just chose to talk through a plastic toy he had taped to his fist, but it turns out to be a “real” creature in the world of the movie. She wants payment, but he insists on her doing another job for him – infiltrate the Sisterhood and steal the gem, so he can power his rocket car across a chasm to Mecca Co and get all the old world’s weapons so he can run the new one.

There’s also the friendly Marshall Goodman, who protects the Sisterhood, and their leader Mother Speed, as main characters. Showing up as Goodman’s 8-year old son is Christopher Olen Ray, son of “legendary” director Fred, and who we met before as director of “Mercenaries” and “Three Headed Shark Attack”. He’s about as good an actor as he is a director, in case you were wondering.

But let’s wrap up the “plot”, I suppose. Sharon infiltrates but grows to admire the Sisterhood and what they do; Saticoy kidnaps the son, to stop Goodman from killing all his guys; and everyone goes round on roller-skates for absolutely no reason whatsoever. If I was being chased by a killer on roller-skates, as indeed someone is during the course of this movie, all I’d need to do to get away would be to run on slightly uneven ground, or even grass. But no.

There’s a three-woman bath where they all cleanse each other’s souls (one of the women is scream queen Michelle Bauer, presumably doing a favour for someone), and heal all their injuries (lot of magic injury healing in “Roller Blade”), and half the characters talk in what they imagine Biblical language was like, all thees and thous.

Struggling to find a way to describe it, the best I can manage is that it’s like an enthusiastic but slightly stupid teenager telling you about a role-playing game he played with his friends, in intense detail. Reading about Jackson’s career, he seems to have a view of his own abilities that is definitely, 100%, not borne out by the facts. The thing is…I feel like it’s a whisker away from being a parody of itself, a few tweaks and it could have been bizarre and hilarious – why does everyone wear roller-skates, all the damn time? – but it’s so cloth-eared that it just becomes boring. Technically, it’s sort of okay, as everything’s in focus, the colours match and the busy city of LA is hidden in the choice of shots used, but wow is it boring. Yes, a movie about post-apocalyptic Nuns taking on a weird mutant for control of a magic crystal is nothing more than deathly boring.

Rating: thumbs down


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