|Category||Sports Action/Science Fiction||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.85:1 (non-16x9), Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Year Released||1975||Commentary Tracks||Yes, 1 - Norman Jewison (Director/Producer)|
|Running Time||119:41 Minutes||Other Extras||Booklet|
|Start Up||Language Selection then Menu|
Fox Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
|16x9 Enhancement||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 4.0, 256Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The year is 2018, and nations no longer exist except to give names to the land masses that cover a quarter of the planet, with one great organization known as the Energy Corporation in control of almost every aspect of every life. Part of the method by which they control everyone's lives is by proxy of a rather anarchic sport known as Rollerball, and they do manage to control lives quite effectively. Jonathan E (James Caan) is the greatest, most valuable, and most loved player in the Rollerball league, and perhaps the history of the game, with a crowd of followers and fanatical fans following his every match. However, Jonathan is soon asked to announce his retirement by Bartholomew (John Houseman), in keeping with the philosophy that no one player should become greater the game. What follows is Jonathan's struggle against a society that has done him much wrong, by proxy of the same sport that the society in question set up to keep the laymen in a docile state. Not one to let things rest without being made to understand them, Jonathan asks an old friend by the name of Cletus (Moses Gunn) to investigate the reason why the Energy Corporation wants him out of the public eye.
If you think I consider this film to be somewhat ordinary and indistinct, then you're probably right, because I still feel there are some things which should be left in ages past. This film, of course, only just borders on not being one of them. Obviously, not every film produced in America can be a great masterpiece, but that doesn't make them any less a manner by which to occupy a couple of hours. As long as you aren't expecting a similar film to The Godfather (which James Caan starred in as Santino Corleone a couple of years earlier), you won't be terribly disappointed. Everything about this film screams that it was independently produced, came and went by itself, and has only sort of enjoyed a small following since, but Caan lifts the show out of the ordinary with yet another powerful performance in a career dotted by them. This is a piece of cinematic history, and one that should be in the home of every respectable film buff to serve as a relic to the days when films that were originally produced independently still had some substance to them.
The colour saturation is the biggest giveaway to this film's age, with all colours looking absolutely deadpan and flat, as if the camera had somehow sucked all of the life out of them. As I mentioned earlier, a comparison to daytime television shows such as Days Of Our Lives often springs to mind, with reds and yellows being somehow dull and yet overemphasized at the same time. Much of the action takes place in areas where these particular hues are prominent in the decor, much like the generally tasteless decor that still dominates government buildings that were constructed in the same era as the film was made.
MPEG artefacts were not present in the transfer, with the bitrate of the transfer being nice and high to accommodate the needs of the sometimes quite dirty-looking image. Film-to-video artefacts were mostly absent, with only the occasional hint of aliasing here and there on chrome objects that will probably escape most people's notice. Telecine wobble was noticed at a couple of points, but it was a mild and slow wobble that was more likely introduced by an imperfect camera mechanism than any problem with the transfer process. Film artefacts were the real weak point of the transfer, with black and white spots appearing quite often in generous amounts in various points of the film, as well as the occasional scratch or black line on the picture. This reinforces the belief that this transfer has been taken from a less-than-ideal generation source, in spite of the fact that the MPEG encoding and film-to-video transfer has been handled remarkably well.
This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change occurring between Chapter 16 and 17, at 62:08. The only way I could figure out its location was to listen to the audio commentary, which reflects the nice job that has been done of hiding it.
The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, although this is mostly because the other sounds are not given a great deal of priority within the mix. There were moments when one had to strain to hear it over the sound of the sport being played, but these were relatively slight and not particularly detracting from the film. Some of James Caan's lines are affected by a mild tendency to mutter, and the impressive depth of his voice, but this only becomes apparent for a word or two here and there. Audio sync was never a problem, although the Japanese actors that appear in the middle of the film sounded a little like they were a few seconds behind their speech. A pop is present in the soundtrack at 116:47, just as the film ends and the credits begin.
The music found in this film is credited to Andre Previn, but features little that make it distinctive. Of the total running time, only about a quarter seemed to have any noticeable scoring, which sounded as if it were borrowed from pre-existing compositions anyway. The only parts of the score that did make themselves known to the ear were Bach compositions, as a matter of fact. The score was not nearly as effective in building the mood of the film as the incessant chanting of the crowds, or the general tone of the dialogue.
The surround presence was reasonable, but nothing particularly spectacular, with much of the dialogue and action coming from the front channels. Occasionally, the sound of cheering or crashes would be redirected into the rears, but they mostly sat around and twiddled their thumbs. The music was blasted out of the front speakers, causing a front-heavy feel to the soundtrack. The subwoofer had a whale of a time supporting the sounds of music, impacts, and general bass-heavy behaviour.
The video quality is slightly above average, overall.
The audio quality is ordinary.
The extras are ordinary.
|DVD||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer|