Linda Blair, forever known as Regan from the first two Exorcist films, plays Terry Barkley. Terry is a cute girl with a scholarship to Juliard once she's out of high school. She comes from a well to do family and plays the flute in her spare time. Everything seems like it's coming up roses for Terry until she falls head over heels in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks named Bobby James (real honest-to-God roller skating champion Jim Bray).
Terry and Bobby love to do the roller boogie. Nothing makes them happier than slapping on their skates and getting down at the local roller disco rink in Beverly Hills. And hey, who can blame them. Love is grand, especially when it's clad in hot pink polyester and a whole lot of spandex. At any rate, Terry's snobby mother and father who don't think that Bobby is good enough for their little princess frown upon Terry and Bobby's love. This tends to complicate things for our Romeo and Juliette of the swinging 70s disc scene, but of course, true love prevails.
Things get even more complicated when the roller rink's very existence becomes threatened over a slightly crooked development deal. This could bring the rink down for good, and then where would our two star-struck boogie children go to get their mobile grooves on? No, this will not do at all, I hear you all cry in unison. Will Terry and Bobby be able to win the class war and declare their eternal devotion to one another? More importantly, will they be able to save the roller rink from destruction at the hands of a crazed real estate developer?
Roller Boogie is pure, unadulterated junk, but I mean that in the kindest sense of the word. The plot stinks, the acting isn't too hot, and the characters are flimsy and one-dimensional at best. None of that actually really matters at all though, because this movie delivers what you want in spades, and what you want is that special kind of camp that only the seventies disco movies can provide you. It's not on par with the classic of the genre, Saturday Night Fever mainly because no one here has the charisma and screen presence that John Travolta had in that movie. It sure does have a whole lot of dancing on roller skates though. For those of you out there who, like me, weren't coordinated to skate, let alone dance on skates as a kid (or quite possibly as an adult as well), you can live vicariously through this movie and pretend you were there.
Linda Blair is cute as a button in the lead, skating her way into your hearts and looking good doing it. Jim Bray, well, his performance is less than stellar but man does that cat have some moves. Wait until you see him in his ridiculously short short-shorts shaking what his momma gave him to some serious dance music out on the floor. You'll see why Linda Blair fell for him. He also kind of looks like Scott Baio - he has the same kind of hair.
So obviously we're not looking at Oscar winning material here. You can probably tell that by the cover art. But what we end up with is a great, campy, corny, genuinely bad movie that provides a whole lot of nostalgia and unintentional hilarity. It's garish, nonsensical, politically incorrect (watch for the one token black dude who shows up from time to time with his tape player around his neck), but a whole lot of fun.
MGM has gone out of their way to provide you with not one but two different ways to bask in the visual splendor that is Roller Boogie. One side A you get a fancy schmancy anamorphic widescreen 1.85.1 transfer and on side B you get a fullframe deal. Widescreen is the way to go on his puppy – the compositions look better and in all seriousness, some of the widescreen photography is quite good. There's a bit of print damage and mild coat of grain overtop the picture but for a film of roughly twenty-five years old, everything is in pretty nice shape. There is some noticeable edge enhancement during a few scenes, most noticeable in some of the nightclub scenes, but aside from that this is a nice way to experience the film.
An English Dolby Digital Stereo track is the order of the day, with English closed captioning included as well as optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. The track is very clean without and serious hiss or distortion but maybe the odd pop here and there. Music sounds nice and robust with well-balanced levels making sure that the dialogue is always easy to hear and to follow. There's not a whole lot going on in the way of channel separation, but what we have a decent sounding track that gets the job done well.
The only extra feature that MGM has supplied for the release of this monumental film is the original theatrical trailer.
Roller Boogie is a blast, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. It's totally dated, but that's where most of its charm comes from. MGM's disc looks and sounds pretty decent and despite the lack of any extras aside from the trailer, Roller Boogie is still an easy recommendation for anyone who appreciates disco cinema.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.