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  Kansas City Bomber Great Skates
Year: 1972
Director: Jerrold Freedman
Stars: Raquel Welch, Kevin McCarthy, Helena Kallianiotes, Norman Alden, Jeanne Cooper, Mary Kay Pass, William Gray Espy, Stephen Manley, Patti 'Moo Moo' Cavin, Cornelia Sharpe, Russ Marin, Martine Bartlett, Richard Lane, Jodie Foster
Genre: Drama, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: K.C. Carr (Raquel Welch) is a roller derby skater with the Kansas City team; the rules are simple, the player simply has to pass one of the rival players on each lap to score a point. However, what the rules don't take into account is the amount of violence involved, ranging from jostling to throwing punches to barging rivals over the barrier. K.C. can take this punishment physically, but psychologically it's much harder to bear. Tonight she is challenged to a one on one match with her team mate Big Bertha (Patti 'Moo Moo' Cavin), with the loser fated to leave Kansas City... forever.

During the seventies, the attempts at realism gave birth to many types of films that took on social problems, but did so with a slant that offered entertainment as well as a message. One strain of this was the feminist picture, a reworking of the "womens' pictures" of yesteryear, which featured such accomplishments as Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Norma Rae. Kansas City Bomber was one such film, and star Welch got to show off her previously unhinted at acting chops, as she'd been largely decorative before.

Adapted from a Barry Sandler script by Calvin Clements Sr and Thomas Rickman, it's as gritty a Raquel Welch film as you're ever likely to see, although this telling it like it is translates into pretty much ninety-nine minutes of misery. K.C. is, of course, a single mother to two kids (including little Jodie Foster), but her job ensures she has to leave them to be looked after by her mother for most of the time and sees them rarely: cue tear-jerking scenes with her being rejected by them. But mainly it's the trials of being a skater that concerns the story.

K.C. loses that match with Big Bertha, and so is transferred about ten minutes into the film to the Portland team (didn't Portland City Bomber sound right?) where she has a hard time finding acceptance. She makes friends with Lovey (Mary Kay Pass) who offers her a place to sleep, but everyone else, with two exceptions, isn't interested and K.C. gets a reputation for being bad luck to have around. She is especially disliked by captain Jackie (Helena Kallianiotes), an alcoholic skater who sees her as a threat, but the team boss, Burt Henry (Kevin McCarthy verging on the sleazy) wants her as a romantic partner, which K.C. has to go along with or risk losing her job.

Almost everywhere the noble K.C. goes she is faced with antagonism, and even those who like her are contrived to turn against her eventually, so that after an hour of this you're thinking, "Give the girl a break!" Welch certainly throws herself into the role; you can tell when she's replaced with a stunt double because the double ensures her long wig covers her face and turns away from the camera. Yet for many of the action sequences you can tell Welch is performing her own stunts, which not only makes you respect her character, but the actress as well. With all the gloom over K.C.'s head, however, it's not certain exactly how much of a triumph that ending is as her problems are far from cleared up, but as an illustration of a sport not taken as seriously as some, the film is a good snapshot of the times. Music by Don Ellis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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