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The Next Reel • Season 13 • Series: 1976 Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation Nominees • Rollerball


“Game? This wasn’t meant to be a game. Never!”

James Caan stars as Jonathan E., a legendary athlete in the brutal sport of Rollerball in Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian sci-fi thriller. With a screenplay by William Harrison based on his short story, Jewison intended the film as a critique of exploitative sports and their dehumanizing effects. However, audiences were enthralled by the violent future sport depicted. Rollerball entered a crowded field of 1970s dystopian sci-fi, alongside classics like A Clockwork Orange. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue the 1976 Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation Nominees series with a conversation about Rollerball.

Here’s a hint at what we talk about:

We discuss Rollerball as an early example of dystopian sports cinema, designed to make a point about authoritative control. Though we find flaws, like some pacing issues, we agree that Rollerball was prescient in its corporate allegory. We also touch on the fascinating real-world attempts to turn the fictional sport of Rollerball into a reality.

Here are a few other points in our discussion:

  • The minimalist performance of a subdued James Caan – does it work?
  • John Houseman as the chilling corporate overlord
  • Appreciation for the practical stunt work (and that they recognized it in the credits!)
  • How audiences often miss the point of satirical films
  • The abysmal 2002 remake

In the end, we find Rollerball an imperfect but thought-provoking 1970s sci-fi film. Despite its uneven pacing, we have a great time talking about it, so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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