Friday, September 7, 2012
The Unholy Rollers (1972)
Roller derby, however, is back in force. Our local team, the Hammer City Roller Girls, are kicking all sorts of ass, and trend-chasing acting robot Drew Barrymore has made a recent flick about roller derby with less bare breasts and more of a female empowerment message than the old flicks- sort of "roller grrrl" let's say. Roger Corman 's version, Unholy Rollers, takes a totally different approach. Here, there's less in the way of female empowerment and more in the way of female dis-enshirt-ment.
The movie never goes too long without displaying some female flesh, staging a roller derby sequence, or having Jennings freak out. The derby scenes are pretty well shot, if a bit badly lit, and edited by a young Martin Scorsese in a way that packs in a lot of action. There's also a great supporting cast, with exploitation luminaries like Collins, Jennings, Betty Ann Rees and Roberta Collins in prominent roles.
The big problem with the movie is the main character is a loony asshole for most of the flick. Jennings plays Karen as a chick who takes no shit, even when people really aren't giving her any. We get some indication of why she's this way when the film introduces her lower class mother, but suspect Mom is right when she calls her daughter crazy. Her character doesn't really change much over the course of the film- she's raging pissed at the beginning and out-of-control pissed at the end. It's more a story of lunatic empowerment than anything else. Definitely worth seeing if you're a derby fan- again the derby scenes are pretty good, although the Avengers only ever seem to take on one other team!- or a fan of exploitation actresses though.