Category Archives: Dystopian cinema

‘It was never meant to be a game’: my monograph on Norman Jewison’s Rollerball

I have been pre-occupied with my Phd and various other commitments, so I’ve been a little bit slow off the mark to publicise my latest book, a monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction classic, Rollerball, out now on various platforms in the US, UK and Australia, through Auteur Publishing.

The book originated out of my curiosity to see whether I had it in me to write 40k based on a single film. The film I chose, in consultation with the publisher, was Rollerball. Only you can be the judge as to how good a job I have done, but I’ll let you all in on the first rule of writing a film monograph, make sure you like the film because you not only have to watch it numerous times but immerse yourself in everything to do with it.

I have always like Rollerball, ever since first seeing it twenty years ago. But I didn’t realise until I got stuck into researching the film for this book, just what a good viewing experience it still is and what a chilling dystopian vision it remains.

Rollerball depicts a future dominated by anonymous corporations and their executive elite, in which all individual effort and aggressive emotions are subsumed into a horrifically violent global sport, remains critically overlooked.… Read more

Pre-orders open for my monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 film, Rollerball

My monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction film, Rollerball, something I have been working on for the last couple of years, now has a cover and will soon be in the world via Constellations imprint of the independent film and media studies publisher, Auteur.

This is the first semi-academic publication I have written and I am excited but also a little nervous about how it is going to be received.

Rollerball depicts a future dominated by anonymous corporations and their executive elite, in which all individual effort and aggressive emotions are subsumed into a horrifically violent global sport, remains critically overlooked. What little has been written deals mainly with its place within the renaissance of Anglo-American science fiction cinema in the 1970s, or focuses on the elaborately shot, still visceral to watch, game sequences, so realistic they briefly gave rise to speculation Rollerball may become an actual sport.

Drawing on numerous sources, including little examined documents in the archive of the film’s screenwriter William Harrison,the book examines the many dimensions of Rollerball’s making and reception: the way it simultaneously exhibits the aesthetics and narrative tropes of mainstream action and art-house cinema; the elaborate and painstaking process of world creation undertaken by Jewison and Harrison; and the cultural forces and debates that influenced them, including the increasing corporate power and growing violence in Western society in late 1960s and early 1970s.… Read more

The Projection Booth podcast does The Running Man

While I am not a huge podcast consumer, one podcast I am a regular listener of is The Projection Booth, helmed by a man who has forgotten more about film than many of us will ever know, Detroit-based Mike White.

So, it was a huge honour to be asked to be a guest, along with Aaron Peterson, on their latest episode, which looks at the 1987 dystopian science fiction film, The Running Man. Set in the distant year of 2017, The Running Man, takes place in an authoritarian future America where the highest rating television show pits criminals against muscle-bound, spandex-clad “stalkers”. The film is based very loosely on the novel of the same name by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King, the film has a great cast, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Koto. Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura and Mara Conchita Alonso.

The Running Man is a film that aged surprisingly well. As part of the episode, Mike talks to the movie’s screen writer Steven E. de Souza and producer George Linder. We also jaw about the its odd production history, and other ‘people hunting people films’ including the 1970 German production, Das Millionenspiel, and Elio Petri’s wonderful 1965 effort, The 10th Victim.

You can listen to the entire episode at The Projection Booth site here.… Read more

Pulp Friday: A Clockwork Orange

It has been a while between posts, I know. This site, as well as a number of other things in my life, has taken a back seat in order for me to meet a few pressing deadlines, in particular, working on a monograph for a English publisher on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction classic, Rollerball.

While Jewison was not a great fan of science fiction he was impressed by two science fiction films, both of them made by Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971 (although it was not released in Australian until 1988). It is this latter film that is the subject of today’s Pulp Friday post.

Published by Anthony Burgess in 1962, A Clockwork Orange is set in a near future dystopian England suffering from an epidemic of extreme youth violence and economic stagnation. The book’s teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates the story of his various criminal exploits and the subsequent efforts of the conservative state authorities to rehabilitate him, in a made up language Burgess called ‘Nadsat’.

Burgess’s own politics were conservative, with a streak of anarchism running through his thinking. He wrote A Clockwork Orange in three weeks, influenced by his views of the growing youth culture in early sixties England.… Read more

Return to The Last Wave

The Last Wave posterDuring the recent Melbourne International Film Festival, I had an interesting discussion about whether genre films can ever deal with important social issues in a way that is not titillating or exploitative. One example of a genre film that does, shown at this year’s MIFF, is Peter Weir’s 1977 film, The Last Wave.

The Internet Movie Database classifies The Last Wave as a ‘drama/mystery/thriller’ but it is also laced with supernatural/occult tropes popular in many horror films of the seventies. It’s a story about weather and the climate, in a way that can now be viewed as a remarkably prescient. But most importantly, given my introductory comments, it is also a relatively sophisticated attempt by a white director to engage with Indigenous Australian issues and mythology and the clash between Aboriginal law and Western law.

You can read my piece on Weir’s The Last Wave in full here on the Overland site.