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Encyclopedia > Rollerball (1975 film)

Rollerball is a 1975 science fiction film directed by Norman Jewison from the 1973 short story Roller Ball Murder by William Harrison, which was published in Esquire magazine and subsequently nominated for the Pulitzer prize. Harrison himself wrote the screenplay for the film. Image File history File links File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... 1975 (MCMLXXV) was a common year starting on Wednesday. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... This article is about motion pictures. ... Norman Frederick Jewison, CC, BA, LL.D (born July 21, 1926) is a Canadian film director, producer, and actor. ...

Contents

The Game

In the film, the world of 2018 is a global corporate state, containing entities such as the Energy Corporation, a global energy monopoly based in Houston which deals with nominally-peer corporations controlling access to all Transport, Luxury, Housing and Food on a global basis. The concept of the corporate state developed under the context of Fascism in Mussolinis Italy as a means of regulating industrial relations. ... In economics, a monopoly (from the Latin word monopolium - Greek language monos, one + polein, to sell) is defined as a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a product or service. ... Houston redirects here. ...


The film's title is the name of a violent, internationally popular sport around which the events of the film take place. It is similar to Roller Derby in that two teams clad in body armor skate on roller skates around a banked, circular track. There, however, the similarity ends. The object of the game is to score points by throwing a softball-sized metal ball into their goal, which is a cone-shaped area inset into the wall of the arena (the opposing team's goal being on the opposite side of the track). It is a full-contact sport in which players have considerable leeway to attack opposing players in order to take or maintain possession of the ball and to score points; in fact, in this overpopulated future, the object of the game in the original short story is to kill off the players. In addition, each team has three players who ride motorcycles to which teammates can latch on and be towed. The player in possession of the ball must hold it in plain view at all times. Oakland Outlaws, A Roller Derby Team. ... The roller skate is a type of skate with wheels to be used on solid ground (as opposed to the ice skate which is to be used on ice. ... Softball is a team sport in which a ball, eleven to twelve inches (or rarely, 16 inches) (28 to 30. ...


Rollerball teams, named after the cities in which they are based, are owned by the various global corporations. Energy Corporation sponsors the Houston team. The game is a substitute for all current team sports, and for war. While its ostensible purpose is entertainment, it also serves to demonstrate a valuable lesson: the individual athletes pale in importance to the team itself (evident in the fact that only their numbers appear on their uniforms, and not their names), just as the individual is meaningless compared with the corporation-centered society, which is paramount. Or, as Mr. Bartholomew puts it, it is a sport designed to show the futility of individual effort. Womens Australian rules football is a team sport. ... A war is a violent conflict between two or more groups that involve large numbers of individuals. ...


Plot summary

Jonathan E Rollerball Team, Jonathan with 6
Jonathan E Rollerball Team, Jonathan with 6

The film tells the story of Jonathan E, the veteran star of the Energy Corporation's Houston team, played by James Caan. By virtue of his stellar performance over the years, Jonathan has become the most recognizable Rollerballer in history; civilians all over the world recognize him on sight. This recognition is problematic for the hegemonic corporations due to their egalitarian rubric. After another impressive performance in Houston's season-ending victory over Madrid, Energy Corporation chairman Mr. Bartholomew, played by John Houseman, offers a nice retirement package— including a televised highlight show and an incentive package featuring "privileges", the currency of the society— to Jonothan E. It is revealed that Jonathan had a relationship with a woman, Ella (played by Maud Adams) that ended when she was promised to an executive. Image File history File links Vlcsnap-43281. ... Image File history File links Vlcsnap-43281. ... James Edmund Caan[1] (born March 26, 1940 in The Bronx, New York) is an Academy Award, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated American film, stage and television actor. ... John Houseman John Houseman (September 22, 1902 – October 31, 1988) was a Romanian-born actor and film producer. ... Maud Adams (born in LuleÃ¥, Sweden February 12, 1945, as Maud Solveig Christina Wikström), is an actress and supermodel, most known for her roles in two James Bond movies. ...


The film revolves around the struggle of Jonathan to understand why he faces so much pressure to retire, as, for him, Rollerball degrades into senseless violence. It is announced that the semi-final game versus Tokyo will be played with no penalties and limited player substitutions, yet Jonathan refuses to yield and plays in the game; the brutality claims the lives of several players and leaves his best friend and teammate Moonpie (played by John Beck) braindead. John Beck (born 28 January 1943 in Chicago, Illinois, USA) is an actor. ...


The Corporations hold an emergency meeting to discuss Jonathan's obstinate refusal to retire, and decide that the championship game against New York will be played without penalties, player substitutions, or a time-limit, in the hope that Johnathan E, if he decides to participate, will be killed during the course of the game.


After much personal introspection, and further delving into the true nature of the Corporations that run the world, Jonathan decides he is going to play in the game despite the obvious dangers. Naturally, the final game quickly loses all semblance of order as players are crippled and killed in swift order. The crowd, raucous and energetic at the game's beginning, gradually becomes more and more subdued as the carnage builds and degrades to a gladitorial "last man standing" event.


Toward the end, Jonathan is the last mobile member of the Houston team. Two players remain from New York. After a brief and violent struggle, Jonathan dispatches one of the players, then gets possession of the ball, grabs the last, helpless New York player by the collar and prepares to fatally smite him as the crowd, both coaches and Mr. Bartholomew watch in complete silence.


With a moment's pause, Jonathan releases his opponent, slowly gets to his feet, and painfully makes his way to the goal, scoring for the last time. He "wins" in a game where there is to be no winner.


While Mr. Bartholomew leaves in disgust, the coaches and fans of both teams start chanting "Jon-a-than!" louder and louder as Jonathan circles the track. As the cheering reaches a crescendo, the movie cuts to a sudden end.


Corporate authority in Rollerball

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Jonathan stay at the last after the game
Jonathan stay at the last after the game

In Rollerball, the rule of the global corporations is absolute. With the defeat of the nations by the corporations, the typical bases of governmental authority , such as consent of the governed, birthright of kings and concentration of military force, are meaningless. Image File history File links Circle-question. ... Image File history File links Vlcsnap-50580. ... Image File history File links Vlcsnap-50580. ...


Instead the governance of the world is based on a corporate model. Some are executives, who play some role in decision-making. The rest are either employees or consumers, or some combination of the two. The relationship of employee/consumer to executive is not one of consent but one of mutual need. But it is an unequal relationship. The corporation holds everything valuable as its exclusive, patented property.


The corporations impose strictly limited access to knowledge including all knowledge of history - so that there will be no competing belief systems such as science or religion. HIStory: Past, Present and Future – Book I is a two-disc album by Michael Jackson released in 1995 by the Epic Records division of Sony BMG. The first disc (HIStory Begins) is a fifteen-track greatest hits (later released as Greatest Hits - HIStory Volume I), while the second disc (HIStory... Part of a scientific laboratory at the University of Cologne. ...


The corporate system could be seen as a form of neofeudalism. Historical evidence of the Corporate Wars, by which corporations originally came to power, is hidden. All printed material had been converted to digital form and summarized by the corporations. It is systematically purged so that mankind no longer has knowledge of periods of history that might provide lessons on the weaknesses of corporate control or inspire individual action. Neofeudalism is a pejorative term used by some critics to describe the policies of various right-wing politicians, particularly those in the American Republican Party. ...


Corporations tend to maintain control of individuals. Transport controls individual movements, Housing monitors behavior, Food provides individuals with drugs and Luxury assigns and re-assigns the mates of individuals at will— taking advantage of this reassignment to place spies.


In the film, Jonathan opines that society lost something when it allowed the global corporations to take over all aspects of life for the benefits of safety and comfort. That something was self-determination and individuality.


The story also skillfully unmasks and explains what is perhaps most powerful aspect of corporate culture: its ability to obscure how decisions are made. That obscuration prevents accountability. When those in power can place responsibility on faceless and absent colleagues or higher-ups for a decision, there is no one for people to blame or from whom to seek justice.


A key scene in the film shows a board meeting with Dr. Bartholomew courteously but firmly pressuring other executives to agree to the rule changes. They all vote, they all share in the responsibility of the decision. But when the changes are announced, Bartholomew hides the corporate process by simply saying this is what "has been decided."


Differences from the short story

Game rules differences
Roller Ball Murder Rollerball
The track is oval, with a long axis of fifty yards and a short axis of thirty yards The track is circular, approximately fifty yards in diameter
Teams consist of twenty players: ten roller skaters, five motorbike riders, and five runners (or clubbers) Teams are ten strong: three motorbike riders and seven skaters (five skaters + two catchers)
Points are scored when a team's runners manage to pass the opposing skaters, pick up a ball and pass it to one of their bikers Teams score by throwing or placing the ball into the opposing team's goal, a small, conical, magnetic hole on the outer edge of the track
Balls are fired by several cannons (up to four will be in play at once in one game), in the same direction players skate, with the aim of hitting and disabling players from behind. In the last two games of the story, the balls are oblong, to increase the chance of hitting players There is apparently only one cannon, balls are fired in the opposite direction, are always spherical, and are used for scoring points
Games typically last two hours, with no rest periods Games have three periods of twenty minutes, with rest periods of two minutes in between
At the start, games with Jonathan E already have no substitutions and - in practice - no penalties. Other games, which he has heard about but not apparently seen, have no time limits or mixed sex teams No time limit, no penalties and no substitutions is only in place for the final game
Rules changes are presented as being made to satisfy the global audience's demand for more blood during games Rules changes are made to put pressure on Jonathan E to retire

Filming locations

Among the filming locations used was the then-new BMW Headquarters and Museum buildings in Munich, Germany, appearing as the headquarter buildings of Energy Corporation. BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany is one of the few buildings built from top to bottom. ... Munich: Frauenkirche and Town Hall steeple Munich: St. ...


Film Trivia

  • This was the first motion picture to give screen credits to stunt performers. Prior to this film, their work appeared on screen anonymously. [this is from imdb trivia page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073631/trivia]
  • Contrary to urban legend, no one was killed during the filming of this movie. James Caan did break his thumb during filming, as he disclosed in an interview to Howard Cosell on ABC television's Wide World of Sports and according to Norman Jewison's commentary on the DVD reissue, some of the stunt people suffered minor injuries
  • the poster strapline for the film was "In The Future There Will Be No Wars...But There Will Be.....Rollerball".
  • The movie has several apparent references to The Prisoner including the overall theme, the protagonist's jersey number, and the Zero computer.
  • The party scene in Rollerball is an homage to Jean Renoir's iconic film The Rules of the Game which contains a similar party with a similar set of decadent characters honoring a daring hero. 'Rollerball' even includes 'Rules' architecture and has the camera zeroing in on vignettes while moving in and out of multiple sets of French-doors.
  • almost every scene in the film features Jonathan -- the only exceptions are the opening scenes of the the party sequence, and the later scenes in this section when the revellers destroy the trees in the park with the super-gun (although Jonathan witnesses this through the window); the other is the video-conference between Mr Bartholemew and the other corporation executives
  • there are no corporate real-life corporate logos or advertising signage of any kind;
  • there is no smoking whatsoever in the film
  • one of the executive guests glimpsed during in opening scenes of the party sequence (just before Jonathan arrives) appears to be author Gore Vidal

An urban legend is a kind of modern folklore consisting of stories often thought to be factual by those circulating them. ... The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) operates television and radio networks in the United States and is also shown on basic cable in Canada. ... ABCs Wide World of Sports is a long-running sports anthology show on American television. ... The Prisoner was a 1967 UK science fiction television series, starring Patrick McGoohan. ... Jean Renoir Jean Renoir (September 15, 1894 – February 12, 1979), born in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France was a film director. ... The Rules of the Game (original French title: La règle du jeu) is a 1939 film directed by Jean Renoir about upper-class French society just before the start of World War II. The film was initially condemned for its satire on the French upper classes and was greeted... Gore Vidal in 1948, photographed by Carl Van Vechten Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (born October 3, 1925) is a prolific, versatile American writer of novels, stage plays, screenplays, and essays, and, of late, a liberal political pundit. ...

Other Media

  • IJK Software based its Commodore 64 game Rocketball (1985) on Rollerball.
  • In the videogame Rocky Legends, close to the arena in Times Square there is a theater with a large Rollerball billboard with the tagline (In the future...).

The Commodore 64 is the best selling single personal computer model of all time. ...

See also

Rollerball was a 2002 remake of the 1975 science fiction film also titled Rollerball. ... For album titles with the same name, see 2002 (album). ... The Philadelphia Flyers are a professional ice hockey team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ... The Philadelphia Flyers are a National Hockey League team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ...

External links

Rollerball (1975) at the Internet Movie Database The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information about actors, films, television shows, television stars, video games and production crew personnel. ...

  • The Rules of The Game – The evolution of the sport of Rollerball, collecting together all known official rules.
  • Rollerball Resource – Resource that includes a detailed hypothesis outlining the Rules to the Game.
  • The Physics of Rollerball – An article on SciFi.com.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Rollerball (2002) (718 words)
Though the original Rollerball was no masterpiece, it featured many intriguing elements, not least of all the ultra-violent sport at its heart; a game in which teams on roller skates and motor bikes compete for fame, glory and television ratings at the potential risk of their lives.
In the 1975 film, Harrison's cyberpunk yarn of a death sport veteran contemplating the emptiness of his life and society was expanded and tweaked into a satire on the sports industry and the soullessness of corporate power.
Rollerball is, at the moment, a fringe sport; a quasi-legal cult success in Eastern European, Asian, and African countries, watched by the teeming masses yearning to be free and overseen by Russian hard man Jean Reno (Godzilla).
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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