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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Rollerball [Blu-ray]


(Norman Jewison, 1975)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Algonquin

Video: Twilight Time



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player) Limited to 3,000 Copies!

Runtime: 2:05:03.537

Disc Size: 44,619,573,953 bytes

Feature Size: 41,618,208,768 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3465 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3465 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit / DN -5dB)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1064 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1064 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)

DTS Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit / DN -3dB
DTS Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit
Isolated Score:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1712 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1712 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit / DN -5dB)



English (SDH), None



Audio Commentary with director Norman Jewison

Audio Commentary with writer William Harrison

Isolated Score

From Rome to Rollerball: The Full Circle (7:54)

Return to the Arena: The Making of Rollerball (25:05)

• TV Spots (1:32)

Theatrical Trailer (2:58)

Liner notes by Julie Kirgo





Description: Rollerball (1975) posits a dystopian future (2018!) in which war has been replaced by the titular game, a gladiatorial spectacle of violence that helps keep the global populace entertained and anesthetized. Director Norman Jewison and writer William Harrison further give us an athletic champion, Jonathan E (the great James Caan), whose individual expertise defeats the worldwide corporate leadership’s design: to emphasize the futility of individual effort. Corporate bigwigs (icily incarnated by John Houseman) need Jonathan to retire, but Jonathan begins to have his own dangerous ideas.



The Film:

In the year 2018 violence has been outlawed and corporations have replaced government as the ruling party following the demise of politics. With the absence of war or conflict, a forcibly passive population's bloodlust is satisfied by a brutal new sport known as Rollerball. A high-octane melding of the outlawed sports of the past, the worldwide phenomenon of Rollerball has resulted in a corporate-backed sensation. The most popular athlete in the world, Jonathan E. (James Caan) has steadily risen through the ranks to become a legendary veteran of the sport. When the corporate backers of Rollerball begin to fear that Jonathan's popularity has instilled him with a potentially dangerous amount of power, a thunderous struggle between man's free will and the oppression of the masses threatens to shatter the fragile strings that the puppet masters use to manipulate mankind. His determination to remain with the sport flying in the face of the very reason Rollerball was conceived, the corporate rulers hatch a plot to abandon the rules in hopes that Jonathan will be killed and their grip of power will remain an unyielding chokehold on an increasingly bloodthirsty populace.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Behind the vision of a future society, where the corporate world state controls the bloodlust of the populace through lethal games of rollerball, lies the familiar theme of individual struggle: Caan's champ takes on the grey eminence who wants to force his retirement. The script grapples with notions of freedom and privilege, but finally remains too oblique to throw much light either on our own society or on our possible future. Occasionally, though, insight triumphs, and Caan's struggle towards articulation remains one of the film's strong points. Otherwise, its main interest lies in the tensions generated by the gap between the script's intellectual aspirations and the gut reaction appeal of the games, which are highly physical and brutal. Hence, a group of drunken revellers deliberately and callously burning down some old fir trees makes more impression than all the destruction of human meat in the games. Ultimately, Rollerball gets by on its sheer monolithic quality - an abundance of quantity. Despite indifferent direction and dire humour, it is well mounted and photographed.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Rollerball - a longtime cult favorite - gets a Twilight Time Blu-ray release. Once again the distributor produces a very strong a/v. This is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. The vast improvement over past DVDs shows up in many areas - from the richness of the colors to the more layered contrast but, perhaps most notably - the high level of detail in close-ups. Much of the 'games' are with a very kinetic camera exemplifying the intense action. The futuristic world is clean and sanitized - and the high resolution image exemplifies that. The visuals are thick and fairly film-like with some pleasing textures. The Blu-ray provides a fabulous, authentic, video presentation. I image, this is a good as it will ever get for the film.



















Audio :

Twilight Time offer a DTS-HD Master 5.1 bump at 3465 kbps and an original mono in a DTS-HD Master at 1064 kbps. It is always appreciated to add the original. The bump sounds okay - some crisper separations buoy the sports-combative atmosphere. This is notable in the aggressive action and crowd noises but more so in the extensive use of classic pieces in the film, such as Adagio for Strings and Organ in G minor, memorable Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as well as some Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. It sounds wonderfully rich and deep (especially the organ). There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

Twilight Time add two, previously released, audio commentaries - the first with director Norman Jewison expanding on the futurism of the film as well as keen production details from his valued viewpoint and the second has screenplay writer and author William Harrison whose short story Roller Ball Murder - was the basis for the film. I believe this was originally on a Region 2 DVD. Twilight Time add their usual ability to access an isolated score - as well as vintage featurettes From Rome to Rollerball: The Full Circle and the lengthier, 2000, Return to the Arena: The Making of Rollerball directed by Jeffrey Schwarz. There are brief TV Spots, a theatrical trailer and the package contains liner notes by Julie Kirgo.



Surely, the definitive digital release for Jewison's Rollerball. This film can appeal to a varied viewership that both science-fiction aficionados and machismo sports enthusiasts can appreciate. The director's versatility and excellent storytelling ability help build the Dystopian world through excellent art direction with an obtuse pristine atmosphere. It's very cool.  The Blu-ray's 1080P offers a marvelous presentation and, once again, they have stacked the extras. This is limited to both 3.000 units and only 3 per customer. It will soon be out-of-print. Enthusiastically recommended! 

Gary Tooze

May 26th, 2014


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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