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Rollerball (1975)

In a corporate-controlled future, an ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball represents the world, and one of its powerful athletes is out to defy those who want him out of the game.

Director:

Norman Jewison

Writer:

William Harrison (screenplay)
Reviews
Popularity
4,556 ( 1,481)
Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
James Caan ... Jonathan E.
John Houseman ... Bartholomew
Maud Adams ... Ella
John Beck ... Moonpie
Moses Gunn ... Cletus
Pamela Hensley ... Mackie
Barbara Trentham ... Daphne
John Normington ... Executive
Shane Rimmer ... Rusty, Team Executive
Burt Kwouk ... Japanese Doctor
Nancy Bleier ... Girl in Library
Richard LeParmentier ... Bartholomew's Aide (as Rick LeParmentier)
Robert Ito ... Strategy Coach for Houston Team
Ralph Richardson ... Librarian
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Storyline

In a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries, the violent game of Rollerball is used to control the populace by demonstrating the futility of individuality. However, one player, Jonathan E., rises to the top, fights for his personal freedom, and threatens the corporate control. Written by Jeff Hansen <jmh@umich.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

It's More Than Just a Game! See more »

Genres:

Action | Sci-Fi | Sport

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

UK | USA | Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 June 1975 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Rollerball See more »

Filming Locations:

Frankfurt, Germany See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$30,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Algonquin See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Norman Jewison said he cast James Caan as Jonathan E. after seeing him play Brian Piccolo, the real-life Chicago Bears running back in Brian's Song (1971). See more »

Goofs

Some of the long shots in the Tokyo match show an empty arena. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Pregame announcer: Good evening everyone! And welcome to Houston, the energy city, home of the defending Rollerball World Champions. This key international battle pits the divisional champions, visiting Madrid, against powerful Houston. - - And here they come to a standing ovation. On the track comes Houston! Houston, lead by captain Jonathan E, again their leading scorer this year.
See more »


Soundtracks

Adagio for Strings and Organ in G minor
(uncredited)
Composed by Tomaso Albinoni
Arranged by Remo Giazotto
Published by G. Ricordi & Company (London) Limited on its own behalf and on behalf of G. Ricordi & C.s.p.a. of 2,
Via Berchet, 20121 Milan, Italy
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Far superior to any "future sports" film that has been made since...
15 April 2003 | by mentalcriticSee all my reviews

...and that includes its own remake. Rollerball circa 1975 chooses a much more logical starting point, to begin with. The game has been in existence for a good decade or three, enough so that a firm sense of its purpose in society can be created. It is here that the writers of the 2002 remake so utterly failed - they didn't realise that the game itself only existed to move the greater plot along.

In this unspecified point of the future, nations no longer exist. In their place are corporations that control every aspect of human society. The upside to this is that citizens have everything they need to live - food, energy, a place to work, and so forth. The downside is that they are not allowed to seek any knowledge the corporations don't want them to have, and they must accomodate every whim of the corporation's executives or risk serious consequences. Rollerball star Jonathan E, as played by James Caan, knows this all too well - his wife was taken from him by one of the corporation's executives.

The game known as Rollerball fits in as a sort of enforcement of these rules. As Jonathan is told several times, the corporation masters created the game in order to demonstrate that individual effort is futile. They also make it pretty clear that above all else, no one player can become bigger than the spectacle of the game. But because these same corporate heads have given Jonathan too many reasons to not believe in them anymore, he is determined to defy them, regardless of the cost. He is told by the head of his team to retire or suffer the old-fashioned way. One of his star pupils gets it in the neck, and yet he still persists until the grand final, where almost all the rules are discarded.

Unlike the 2002 production, where one announcer contradicts himself in the description of the rules within three minutes, the 1975 production had a clearly defined set of rules that became self-explanatory as the game went on. So much so that the players could play the game (minus the well-staged attempts to kill one another, of course) in between takes. The difference this makes is obvious in every single frame. The simulated matches make sense, the tactics that each team use are very distinct (and they make sense), and Jonathan E's story makes sense.

You might wish to skip this paragraph if you haven't seen the film. Go get the DVD and watch it, it is well worth it. The ending is another major point where the 1975 original shows its superiority to the 2002 remake. After all the fuss about the game being created to show individual effort as futile and how no one man is allowed to become bigger than the game, Jonathan does just that. After a match in which the corporate masters do everything shy of giving Jonathan's opponents chainsaws in order to ensure he will not survive the game, he not only survives, but he refuses to descend to the level of the game by killing the last opponent, despite the fact that this is the same belligerent idiot who was rejected from Jonathan's team for not being able to follow his instructions. Unlike the remake that had to end in a typical action film style, the original ends with Jonathan putting the ball in the goal and doing his victory laps as the audience chants his name, signifying that not only has he become bigger than the game, but that the audience has regained their humanity as a result. A truly satisfying conclusion, and not a single Hollywood cliché in sight.

I also like the manner in which Jonathan's thirst for knowledge is suppressed by his corporate masters. Instead of simply denying him the reading materials he seeks, he goes to the one big computer that stores all the knowledge and records, and asks it who makes the decisions in society. Said computer throws a hissy fit, and it soon becomes clear that nobody knows who is truly in control of this society except they themselves. The party at which Jonathan is supposed to announce his retirement on a previously recorded television show is a good example of this. The guests wander off into the forests, shooting down trees with what looks like a really powerful flare gun, and the night rolls on with everyone drunk on their belief that there are no consequences, or that they don't have to face them.

The sad thing about Rollerball is the same sad thing about the real Black Sabbath's music - that it has grown more relevant to our society as time has gone on. We are told to recycle our packaging material, so we put it in seperate bins with no idea of what actually happens to it. We are told to filter our water or install taps that restrict the amount of water we use, but little or no research is done into the simple chemical process to create synthetic water. All it would take now is a sport or a game show in which the losing contestant is killed, and we'll have the beginnings of a Rollerball society. Here's to hoping that things might stop where they currently are.


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