Roller Blade (1985) from Brainscan

Junior year. Seminars in Fiction. The Anti-Utopian novel. What did I learn? Not a hint of subtlety in the whole genre. Thought police, delta semi-morons bred solely for menial labor, handsome idiots nominally in charge while pure evil pulls the strings in the background. Things that could never happen in a decent society.

Senior year. The Modern Film. Post-Apocalyptic Visions. Same ol' same ol'. Subtlely comes in the form of enraged Aussie cops running over radiation-sickened evildoers in hockey masks.

So, boys and girls, let's put the two together. A Post-Apocalyptic Anti-Utopian movie is what we're talking about. And if we do the math... zero subtlety times zero subtlety ... what is there to expect but zero subtlety.

Yet even in that context, the dreadfulness of Roller Blade (1985) is unexpected. One can imagine that with a defter hand there might be might be entertaining stuff in the story of a religious order of women dedicated to justice in a fascist state which exists years after the apocalypse. Even if if were played as farce ... truly the last refuge of the talentless film maker ... you could see possibilities. What you don't expect is Donald G. Jackson, writer, director, producer, cinematographer, special effects technician and all-around anti-Midas of this film. He touched it and it turned to lead.

Nekkid gals are the only saving graces in all the film.

  • Suzanne Solari plays the main good-gal, Sister Sharon Cross. Gets something real bad spilled on her skimpy outfit toward the end of the movie and takes it off as quick as can be, while making sure she gives up few goodies. She looks great in a really silly scene.
  • Even sillier scenes happen early on as Michelle Bauer is roughed up by a bunch of guys and made to wrestle another woman, played by a gal named Lisa Marie, but who is really Lisa Stagno; who is really pornstar Crystal Breeze. This is a scene right out of TBS, this guys making hot chicks wrestle thing. Michelle gives up boobs and bum. Later, she and Crystal and a second pornstar, Barbara Peckinpaugh, enter the cleansing waters maintained by the religious order of Bod Sisters, and are healed of all wounds. All three gals are fully frontally clean.

But the real chuckles come when you focus on Crystal's character. She is earnestly in prayer, thoroughly cleansed, all by the power of a being who we like to call The American Idol. It is a "smiley face". That is what these women worship. And again, in the hands of someone who knew what he was doing, the use of a banal modern symbol as a religious icon coulda been amusing. But when you are hammered over the head with it and when the whole cleansing ritual is shown to work ... wounds are healed, bodies made whole and beautiful again ... you just gotta shake your head and mutter to yourself that this Donald G. Jackson guy must have been ridden out of Hollywood on a rail after Roller Blade came out.

Nope. IMDb lists terrible movie after terrible movie in which he played a fundamental part. Here is the career output of one Maximo T Bird, also known as Donald G. Jackson, the undisputed king of the grade-C roller blade genre.

  1. (3.93) - Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987)
  2. (3.90) - Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force (1989)
  3. (3.02) - Roller Blade (1985)
  4. (2.98) - The Demon Lover (1976)
  5. (2.92) - Guns of El Chupacabra (1997)
  6. (2.44) - Frogtown II (1993)
  7. (2.22) - Return of the Roller Blade Seven (1993)
  8. (2.08) - The Roller Blade Seven (1991)
  9. (1.54) - The Legend of the Rollerblade 7 (1992)

It's then I realized. Most of the really horrible movies are made by a handful of people. We're not talking the former cast members of SNL, either; cuz for every Corky Romano or Coneheads there is an Old School or a Ghostbusters. We're talking guys who never ever made a movie that anyone would graciously call halfway decent. Bombs, stinkeroos, disasters of the first order. One after another. What I can't figure out is how that is possible. Who is making money off these things? That's what I wanna know. Only reason I watch 'em is see a few frames of Michelle Bauer, nekkid again, but that's not everyone's motive, no matter how pure it might be.

Scoop's notes in yellow:

Thank God they did not stop Jackson from making more films. In my opinion, Donald made a tremendous recovery with his next movie. Hell Comes to Frogtown is a movie entirely dedicated to the subjects of Roddy Piper's testicles, and humanoid frogs with multiple penises. I just can't see how moviemaking could get much better than that.


see the main commentary

This film is not available on DVD. Here is the VHS info from Amazon

In addition to the films rated above, Donald also directed "Ghost Taxi", "Lingerie Kickboxer", and, interestingly enough, "American Beauty". OK, maybe not the last one, but the other two are really his. After his Roller Blade group, his most prolific series was Frogtown. He did three sequels, sneaking in one last one just before he died on October 20, 2003. He never cast Roddy Piper again. The part of Sam Hell was taken over by Robert Z'dar (one film) and Scott Shaw (the other two).

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus _______stars. James Berardinelli 2/4, Roger Ebert 3.5/4.

  • It was nominated for an Oscar for cinematography.

  • British consensus: Mail 1/10, Telegraph 2/10, Independent 3/10, Guardian 4/10, Standard 1/10, Sun 7/10, Express 7/10, Mirror 8/10

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $47 million for production, and the distribution/advertising costs are estimated around $30 million. It did nine million in its first five days, in 2400 theaters. (On the average, the studios get about 55% of box office receipts, the theater owners 45%.)

Miscellaneous ...

  • Official page
  • Downloads
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. If you like this genre, you will love this one.

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