Science Fiction films can honestly be divided into the two very distinct categories of “Before Star Wars” and “After Star Wars”.
Now don’t get me wrong I don’t want to blast Star Wars because it is as classic a film as they ever get. But one of the bad things about what Star Wars did to film was that in science fiction movies, effects and imagery in many cases became more important then the story, plot characterization or general good time.
So let’s go back a ways before Star Wars, not too far back mind you, but let’s look back on some of the truly enjoyable science fiction films that were popping up all over the place before changed things forever…..
The Omega Man
Chuck, oh Chuck, you are like a God to me.
Charlton Heston has always been just about my favorite movie star ever. He is just so much bigger then life and his movies always just felt sort of epic. And Chuck most importantly of all, was the first major movie star to make science fiction movies.
Before Heston, science fiction was the acting ghetto and nobody who wanted to be taken seriously would ever appear in one. But Chuck changed all that.
Plus it doesn’t hurt that his movies were just plain good.
The Omega Man was the second time Richard Matheson’s, I AM Legend was turned into a film. And while this one was the furthest away from the original source, it is my favorite of the two.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Vincent Price thriller, but those shots of Chuck driving through an empty LA, alone and slowly going insane, plus the stand-out performance by Anthony Zerbe as the head of the mutant cult that rules the night and Rosalyn Cash as the last woman really bring this one up to a higher level.
It is one of my very favorite movies.
Now I will be the first to admit that the actual story told in Rollerball isn’t really all that deep or imaginative, but director Norman Jewison does a brilliant job of creating a totally fictional sprot on screen that actually manages to look real. The men playing the game look like a bunch of professional jocks and the way they talk and move and play just smacks of being “real”.
The movie itself is all about the game though. Everything else, all the drawn out scenes about totalitarianism and freedom are really in the end just so much filler, and admittedly sometimes really dull filler at that. But the game is still amazing to watch after all these years. The men in the ring sweat and struggle and move like the game is as real as anything in a football stadium. And they all look the part too, big, beefy and tough.
One of the things I really hated about the insipid remake from a few years ago is that not one of the people in that film honestly looked anything like a real live actual jock.
Finally James Cann puts in one of his very best performances as Jonathan the sports greatest player who discovers that his greatest act of rebellion is to just keep on being the best.