Rollerball (1975)

Rollerball (1975), produced and directed by Norman Jewison.

In the future corporations rule everything. There is peace and prosperity but no freedom. People are diverted with pills, acts of entertaining cruelty and worldwide Rollerball tournaments, a type of violent roller-derby with motorcycles, studded gloves and a steel ball for scoring.

Jonathan (James Caan) is the current champion. The story is his effort to understand why the Executives insist that he retire, and why the rules keep changing to make the game ever more violent.

At over 2 hours it's leisurely paced, although punctuated by plenty of scenes from the game itself, impressively played by the actors and stuntmen. The message is a mild one. I'd class it with other dystopian visions of that era, like Soylent Green (1973) and Logan's Run (1976). None are in the same class as THX 1138 (1971), A Clockwork Orange (1971) or Fahrenheit 451 (1966). All these films are about our fears, with maybe a glimpse of our hopes. In this case we worry about the danger of concentrated economic and political power, of violence as entertainment and the loss of individuality.

Some bits rise a bit higher:

Andre Previn score, although mostly he conducts classical excerpts.

I have not seen the unloved remake of 2002.

Flipper DVD with 4:3 letterboxed and 4:3 pan & scan: 2h04m jammed into 3.2GB of video. The PAL imports all appear to be anamorphic.

The director provides an inconsequential commentary track.