Rollerball (1975) review

Impressive AV and abundant extras ensure that this UK BD thrashes the opposition

In the 'not too distant future' of 2018 the world is ruled over by giant corporations and the population is gripped by a popular and bloodthirsty new mix of roller derby and gladiatorial combat called rollerball. However, when champion player Jonathan E. (James Caan) threatens to become too popular and powerful, the secret cabal that runs the sport decides it's time to make an example of him.

Easily the best-known 'future sport' film (Death Race 2000 runs it a close second), Norman Jewison's Rollerball is also the quintessential slice of 1970s dystopian sci-fi, touching on all of the cinematic themes (individual freedom, big business, drugs, the media, paranoid conspiracies, et al) that dominated the decade. Unfortunately, the film never quite pulls it all together coherently, but the rollerball sequences are nothing short of brilliant.

Picture: Rollerball made its Blu-ray debut in the US last year as one of boutique label Twilight Time's limited editions. Unsurprisingly, with only 3,000 produced, this disc quickly went out of print.

This UK Blu-ray is based on exactly the same source material and looks good. The 1.85:1 Full HD imagery feels a little warm when it comes to skin tones, but has no problems replicating the predominantly brown and beige interiors or the more vibrant primaries of the team uniforms. Meanwhile, film grain is well resolved and there's no significant print damage in evidence.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: While Twilight Time's disc offered a choice of DTS-HD Master Audio mono and 5.1 mixes, Arrow opts for a more authentic LPCM stereo mix in addition to the surround sound remix. Technically, both of the tracks on the UK disc are very robust with pleasingly open front soundstages – although the 5.1 mix succeeds in adding some extra ambience during the action-packed sports sequences.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: All of the bonus features from the out of print US Blu-ray edition are repeated here. These include a commentary by director Norman Jewison, a second commentary by writer William Harrison, The Making of Rollerball featurette (25 mins), the From Rome to Rollerball original EPK (eight mins) and an Isolated Music & Effects audio track (LPCM 2.0).

However, Arrow goes beyond this with a new interview with actor James Caan (11 mins), a tour of the film's Munich locations (19 mins), an interview with stunt artist Craig R. Bakley (18 mins) and a 28-page booklet containing an essay on the film. Equally worthy of praise is the newly commissioned sleeve art by Paul Shipper.
Extras: 4/5

We say: The definitive Blu-ray edition of this seminal slice of 'future sport'  cinema. Champion!

Rollerball, Arrow Video, Region B BD, £18 Approx