Terry Barkley (Linda Blair) is a teenage musical prodigy who plays the flute, but her mind is elsewhere - by the beach, and on rollerskates. She picks up her best friend in her car and they head off to where all the rollerskaters hang out. Bobby James (Jim Bray) is an expert on the skates, and works renting the boots to the visitors for the beach, but as he is impressing the passersby with his fancy moves, he tries to pull Terry out of the crowd to join in and she refuses, passing him by. However, she has caught his eye, and that night, at the local roller rink, they meet again, and romance blossoms between them...
Is there anything more dated than the title of this film? You can't imagine anyone naming their work Roller Boogie at any time other than 1979, not even in an ironic, miming quotation marks in the air, kind of way. Written by Barry Schneider from a story by producer Irwin Yablans, it is typically mediocre teenage fare in the vein of a fifties rock 'n' roll movie, patently inspired by the success of Saturday Night Fever, but without the hit tunes, or capturing the spirit of the times passion. It may not have hit songs, apart from Earth Wind and Fire performing Boogie Wonderland, but what music it does have is relentlessly plugged for a just-missed-the-boat soundtrack album which must have ended up in bargain bins across the world.
Yes, barely five minutes goes by without the cast skating around in a fashion that suggests they're grimly determined to have fun. The romance is an uninspired one, with Blair's nice, rich girl and Bray's boy from the wrong side of the tracks making sparks fly with a tedious formula of having them enjoy each other's company, offend the other, then run away. This is repeated throughout the first forty-five minutes, yet is almost an afterthought to the dance sequences. Terry asks Bobby to teach her to rollerskate, and seeing Blair's embarrassed-looking attempts you can believe she needs tutoring, so when we hear that there's a contest coming up, roughly due at the end of the film, we think, surely they can't have Terry and Bobby win?
Don't get too comfortable, though, because there's the problem of gangsters to handle. The owner of the roller rink, Jammer (Sean McClory), is menaced by a group of thugs led by Thatcher (Mark Goddard), who threatens to raze the place to the ground if he doesn't hand over the building to him, so that he can turn it into a shopping mall. Bobby, Terry and the huge-earphones-wearing, descriptively-named Phones (Stoney Jackson) overhear this diabolical plot, and unwittingly tape Thatcher's threats on Phones' cassette recorder. Things are complicated by Thatcher being a client of Terry's lawyer father (Roger Perry), and the fact that her mother (exploitation veteran Beverly Garland) wants Terry to break off all links to rollerskating. What to do?
Along with the thriller aspect, there's comedy, as can be seen when Bobby and his friends turn up at Terry's garden party recital. Any amusing dialogue ("Look what you made me do! I've lost my horse doovers!") is supplanted by the old reliable, having the cast fall into the swimming pool when the Thatcher and his goons show up. This is but a distraction to the real reason we're here, to see more rollerskating, and there's an exciting chase which features Terry and Bobby (who's obviously been cast for skating ability rather than acting ability) being hounded through the streets by a car. There's all sorts of skating on offer: disco skating, thrill skating, comedy skating, even sad skating when Bobby has a moment alone on the darkened dancefloor. It's a movie about skating, get it? Roller Boogie is clunky nonsense, but has gained a camp appeal over the years which may conjure up viewing pleasure for you. If they'd made the film about skateboards it might still be relevant; as it is, it's about as cool as Cliff Richard's Wired for Sound video. Music by Bob Esty.
Prolific American director/producer who specialises in crowd-pleasing B-movies, usually action or horror. Earlier films include more serious works like the award-winning documentary Twilight of the Mayas and Steel Arena, plus 1976's hilarious exploiter Truck Stop Women, Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw and Roller Boogie, with Linda Blair.