Roller Boogie (1979)


(director: Mark L. Lester; screenwriters: Barry Schneider/story by Irwin Yablans; cinematographer: Dean Cundey; editors: Byron Brandt/Edilberto Cruz/Edward Salier; music: Craig Safan; cast: Linda Blair (Theresa Barkley), Jim Bray (Robert James), Beverly Garland (Lillian Barkley), Roger Perry (Roger Barkley), James Van Patten (Hoppy), Kimberly Beck (Lana), Kimberly Beck (Lana), Sean McClory (Jammer Delaney), Rick Sciacca (Complete Control Conway), Mark Goddard (Thatcher), Chris Nelson (Franklin Potter), Dorothy Meyer (Ada), Stoney Jackson (Phones); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Bruce Cohn Curtis/Irwin Yablans; MGM; 1979)

“Celebrates its mediocrity with much skating and dance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A revolting formulaic teen roller disco flick directed in a hapless manner by B-film filmmaker Mark L. Lester (“Commando”/ “Stunts”/ “Truck Stop Women”) and written with (probably) crayons by Barry Schneider from a story by producer Irwin Yablans. The trivial musical/comedy tried to cash in on the roller skating craze in full bloom in Venice Beach in the late ’70s. It’s the kind of vacuous teen flick that’s filled with loud forgettable disco music and obnoxious characters, but celebrates its mediocrity with much skating and dance.

Terry Barkley (Linda Blair) is a teenager musical prodigy proficient in the flute and accepted in Julliard; she’s a bitchy poor-little-rich girl living with her indifferent professional parents in Beverly Hills (Beverly Garland & Roger Perry), who ignore her feelings. So Terry in a huff goes off slumming with her snotty girlfriend to the beach, where she hooks up with the best and most cocky skater on Venice Beach, the working-class boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Bobby James (Jim Bray, real-life championship roller skater, in his one and only film performance). He’s a street-wise teen who spends his time practicing on the boardwalk for the Olympics and working in a skate rental place owned by former skating champion Jammer Delaney (Sean McClory). Despite Bobby’s friends telling him this chick is out of his league and her friends questioning her decision to go low-brow, she learns to skate from Bobby by paying him for lessons and now aims to win a roller boogie contest partnering with him. This tedious romance has for most of the film each digging each other’s company, dissing the other, and then running away to only start over again. Problems arise when her parents find out about her beach trips and Jammer, the owner of the local roller disco where all the skaters hang out, finds himself threatened by mobsters, led by Thatcher (Mark Goddard), who are looking to buy him out and turn the rink into a shopping mall. To complicate matters, Terry’s father is a lawyer and one of his clients is Thatcher.

It all winds down in predictable fashion, with guess who wins the roller boogie contest and who teams up to stop the greedy real-estate developers! Surprise! All end’s well in this clunky outdated teen flick that has for some reason that belies good taste become a cult favorite. During its release it was largely ignored by the public, who found it too flashy and trashy. Even rolling skate every day for a year would be better than watching this culturally barren film again.