Science fiction is one genre that can get dated fast when actual technology grows beyond what artists ever imagined. Rollerball avoided many of those traps, and the new 4K UHD from Shout! Factory makes it look all the more modern 47 years later.
Rollerball opens on a hardwood roller rink floor. Then the green hats the fans wear and the arena lights add color. Then Houston’s red uniforms totally pop.
With high dynamic range, the shadows in the owner’s box are deep. Then you can see all the detail in the sweaty locker room with all the ‘70s body hair.
The slick futuristic buildings are actually in Munich in the 1970s, with that austere white interior. Computers are the only dated artifacts with their big colored buttons, but the circular chrome computer room in Geneva is still evocative.
More of the movie than you remember is off the court. It’s about Jonathan (James Caan) coping with forced retirement. It’s a relevant metaphor for present contact sports, and the sci-fi trope of corporate control.
We take deathsports for granted in sci-fi now but Rollerball really captures the dramatic buildup to the moment Jonathan realizes player deaths were the point.
Bonus features date back to on-set behind-the-scenes features and the DVD era, covering elaboration of the game from the short story. Caan speaks in an HD era feature and mentions a sequel they never made which sounds like it would’ve been cool. He also shares how short pickup rollerball games lasted and dispels any notion they were badass
Action fans will consider Craig Baxley just as big a name. He and his team were the actual badasses, doing all the stuff too dangerous for Caan. Although Baxley devised one stunt for him to be involved with.
Seeing the Munich locations today, they still look a bit futuristic. They cover the history of the Rollerball production at Olympic facilities. They still built the track Inside the arena, and filled it with extras, who had to be region specific for the Tokyo game.