Rollerball appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided DVD-14; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Only a few small problems appeared to slightly mar this otherwise excellent presentation.
Except for one special case that I’ll discuss at the end of this section, sharpness seemed solid. The movie always looked nicely crisp and distinct, with virtually no instances of softness on display. I detected no signs of jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also noticed no examples of edge enhancement. Other than that certain exception I’ll cover, the image remained mainly free of print flaws. Some small specks and grit popped up during the second half of the film, but those were infrequently and minor. Most of the flick came across as clean and fresh.
Colors appeared quite vibrant. The movie exhibited a bright and varied palette that made sense within its flashy world, and the DVD replicated all of these hues well. The tones looked clear and vibrant at all times. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow details was appropriately heavy. Low-light sequences never came across as overly dense or dark.
In regard to that notable exception to the standard picture quality, at one point in the movie, the image switched totally to green-tinted “night vision” photography. From what I understand, this wasn’t just an effect; the material apparently was shot in the dark with this special equipment. Because of that, the picture looked tremendously grainy during those sequences, and it also seemed somewhat soft and fuzzy. Clearly these issues resulted from the photographic process, so I didn’t regard them as flaws. Nonetheless, I thought I should at least mention this extreme variation in quality that affected a major portion of the film.
Don’t expect any erratic qualities for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Rollerball, however, as it offered a consistently terrific affair. For an aggressive film, I expect an aggressive mix, and Rollerball delivered. If anything, the track might be too active; it seemed like the filmmakers tried to use the sound to disguise the movie’s inherent emptiness. In any case, the track used all five channels frequently through the flick. Audio seemed appropriately localized and the elements blended together smoothly. Panning also was clean and accurate. Not surprisingly, the rollerball games offered the strongest aspects of the track, as those events actively popped up from all around the spectrum. Material came from all around, as the track used the surrounds as an active and engaging partner.
Audio quality seemed solid. Some dialogue suffered slightly from obvious dubbing, but most of the time lines appeared natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was bright and vivid, as the score and songs exhibited good dynamics and clarity. Effects also seemed clean and accurate, and they packed a serious punch when appropriate. The track featured loud, taut bass. Overall, this was a very good example of a state-of-the-art modern soundtrack.
For this special edition release of Rollerball, we find a moderate package of extras. First off, the version of the film seen here is not the one presented theatrically. Instead, we get an R-Rated Cut of Rollerball. Apparently the theatrical version ran 95 minutes, while this one lasts 98 minutes. (The DVD case states it goes for 100 minutes, but that’s incorrect, at least according to the running time display on my player.) Since I never saw the film in theaters, I can’t really comment on the differences, but I understand that the R-rated version includes more blood and some extra nude shots of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. The latter sounded good to me, but frankly, you really don’t get to see much.
Speaking of Romijn-Stamos, she also shows up for the DVD’s audio commentary. Dubbed the “Horsemen” commentary, it includes the actress along with fellow “teammates” Chris Klein and LL Cool J. Romijn-Stamos and Klein were recorded together, while Cool J was taped separately and his remarks were edited into the piece. All three clearly watched the film as they spoke, so the track takes on a fairly screen-specific tenor.
Unfortunately, like the movie it discusses, this is a pretty weak commentary. For one, it suffers from quite a few empty spaces. With three participants, I’d think it’d offer a pretty non-stop discussion, but that’s not the case, as far too many blank spots occur.
Even when the actors speak, they don’t say much. Actually, Klein and Romijn-Stamos prove moderately entertaining at times. They mainly cover the stunts and they provide a nicely self-deprecatory tone as they freely admit all the work they didn’t do. Klein dominates these moments and seems cheerful and fun, even though neither he nor Romijn-Stamos tell us much of substance.
Nonetheless, their moments seem like a film school seminar compared to Cool J’s. He literally gives us almost no actual information about the making of the movie. Mainly he just tells us how cool everything - the movie, the cast, the director, etc. - is. This leads to fascinating remarks like “This movie is cool!” and “That’s cool!” To throw us a curveball, occasionally Cool J will discuss the heat related to various elements, like “That car is hot!” If we just heard from Klein and Romijn-Stamos, the commentary would have been decent, but the periodic inanities from Cool J make this a poor track.
More compelling is Future Sport: The Stunts of Rollerball. This 20-minute and 53-second program covers that element of the production via the usual mix of film clips, behind the scenes material, and interviews with participants. In the latter category, we hear from Tony Meibock of K2 Skates, Olympic Oval Trainer Andrew Barron, stunt coordinators Jamie Jones and Gary Davis, visual effects supervisor John Sullivan, stunt doubles Melissa Stubbs and Brennan Dyson, extreme skater Eitan Kramer, motorcycle stuntperson Mouse McCoy, and actors Klein, Cool J, Romijn-Stamos, Mike Dopud, Lucia Rijker, and Andrew Bryniarski.
Overall, this offers a pretty good look at the movie’s stunts and practical effects. It benefits from a liberal helping of interesting behind the scenes material. Those elements add the best parts of the show, as they bring a nice sense of reality to the proceedings. In addition, the participants neatly cover the subjects, and the program seems generally compelling and useful.
Less positive is the Rollerball Yearbook. I thought this might be a more general look at the production, but instead it provides fairly bland information about the movie’s fictional characters and the game itself. “Teams” splits into four different groups: Horsemen, Hawks, Golden Horde and Marauders. Within each you find brief text about the team plus a “highlight reel”.
”Players” divides into “Heavy Hitters” and “Petrovich’s Players”. Within the former, you’ll see short biographies and highlight reels for Aurora, Jonathan, Ridley, Halloran, and La Guillotine. The other area simply lists 12 other players; it doesn’t provide any information about them.
”Game Gear” shows pictures and notes about that topic. We see “Helmets and Pads”, “Vehicles”, and “The Ball”. The first area runs 23 screens, while the second offers eight frames and the last one’s simply a single image. In “Roller Dome”, the materials emulate “The Ball”; five of the six subjects cover only one screen. These include “The Pit”, “Locker Rooms”, “Betting Booths”, “The Track”, “The Stands”, and “Media Control Room”. Overall, the “Yearbook” looks like it offers a lot of information, but it actually includes very little of substance.
Finally, the DVD provides both theatrical and teaser trailers for Rollerball. They’re presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 sound. We also get an ad for Stargate SG-1/Jeremiah and a music video for Rob Zombie’s “Never Gonna Stop”. Inexplicably, the clip adopts a Clockwork Orange look that doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything. However, at least it makes the video a little more compelling visually, and the song itself actually seems quite good.
Unfortunately, this reference to the Kubrick classic did little more than remind me how terrible Rollerball was. Both films looked at the effects of violence on society, but while Orange did this with depth and wit, Rollerball just flailed away with no sense of any substance. At least the DVD provided very solid picture and sound, though its supplements seemed lackluster. Even had the disc packed a slew of extras, I couldn’t recommend it, for the movie itself seemed so terrible. Unless you’re absolutely desperate to see few nude shots of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, avoid this clunker.