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Archive for February 19, 2019

Roller Blade Warriors

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Roller Blade Warriors starts out promising enough. We open with two riders on a horse travelling through a wintry desert. This could be the opening to any early 80s sci-fi fantasy, as an overdubbed describes the world and the legend of Roller Blade. Sister Karen Crosse escorts a young Psychic named Gretchen Hope to the safety of the nuns Mission. Crosse is played by Kathleen Kinmont , a veteran of cult sequels like Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers, Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster, and Bride of Re-Animator. She’d go on to be a familiar face on TV. Her young companion is Elizabeth Kaitan, who was a frequent victim in slasher sequels like Silent Night Deadly Night 2 and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood. She’d spend the rest of her career doing low budget boob flicks with directors like David DeCoteau and Joe Esposito.

We start off strong with a sword fight in this snowy desert, a skeleton languishing on a post in the background and blood on the fresh snow. ). It’s overdubbed by a Rory Calhon doing his best David Carradine impression and soon plunges us into the same incomprehensible post-apocalyptic imagery. You have the imagery of the abandoned factories juxtaposed with tuxedos and human sacrifice.

We cut to a beautician named Karp working on his patient.  Manicure, make-up and general prettification along with nice shoes and satin underwear, he preps this person in his tent. Slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, the make-up artist brings this person to the abandoned factory. A man in a hazmat suit and gas mask drags her in. She’s manacled to an old mattress and left as a sacrifice to the creature that lives in the imagesstacks. But the monster is unhappy, because it turns out this is not a real woman – it’s a man made up as a woman and the monster only likes to eat women. The rejected sacrifice is tossed from the top of the battery, its blonde wig scornfully cast down beside it and the monster raging behind a smoke. My first impression of the monster is that it looks like the hand puppet from the first Roller Blade has grown up. The man in the hazmat suit is not pleased.

Terrified, Karp and his partner, Streak (A scruffy long hair in a leather duster), promises to go beyond the rocks, all the way to Hell’s Anvil to go and try and find a real woman – if there are any left in this wasteland. Together they assemble a team to go out looking for women to sacrifice. They grab a tracker, Kosai, who looks uncannily like Rufio (the kid who took over the Lost Boys when Peter Pan left in Hook) and acts like a dog. Off they go searching for “girlflesh”.

 

There are actually some clever innovations in the Roller Blade universe this time around. The nuns ride a jury-rigged bike with wind sales, and it gives us a greater look at the broken down society (Something that was missing in the previous film). It also follows, for the most art, the traditional three act structure, thanks to the scriptwriting contributions of Randall Frakes. Both the dialogue and sound have improved as well. We’ve moved past the awful dubbing, and while the dialogue remains ridiculous, it’s not quite as over the top. They’ve gotten rid of most of the Kings English, though it still seeps in from time to time. What is still over the top though, is the score. For this entry, they decided on a bouncy, goofy, Benny Hill sort of background music that gives this a really strange feel. They frequently switch over 2 to chord synth cues, but that goofy music comes in so often that it just breaks me out of the film and reminds me how ridiculous (Indeed there are frequent slap fights that remind me of the three stooges) this all is.

 

After acquiring a bike, the nuns shed the red and blue robes from the last film for more appropriate post-apocalyptic garb.

“I have to get you to the mission!,” Crosse insists to the psychic Hope. “Mother speed is waiting!”

Strange that it may seem, These are comforting words – placing us firmly in the world that Donald Jackson created with the first Roller Blade. Despite the higher production values, if feels good to be back in familiar territory. The nuns fill up their water skin at a shallow brook and pray before heading back to the wind powered motorcycle to retrieve their camping gear.

Elsewhere in the desert, roving gang of barbarian women on roller skates wonder through the windy canyon. These are Roller Blade warriors commanded to meet up with Crosse and Hope, skating the path of righteousness. At least, that’s what the narrator tells us. One volunteers to go alone to retrieve the psychic and her mentor.

Back in the Devil’s Anvil, the group of men searching for a virgin sacrifice come upon a steam punk pimp. Kosai the tracker perks up.

“I smell something!” he exclaims, smelling the air. “It smells like a girl, on wheels!” while half of the group goes off with the pimp to examine his wares, the others go searching for the roller blade warriors. It doesn’t take long before they find the single girl who is off looking for her compatriots. She wields her samurai sword and engages the two men. Unlike the blades in the first rollerblade film, this sword isn’t meant for healing; it’s absolutely a weapon designed to kill. The fight goes all over the rocks, with the hunter giving into his rage and slashing her across the belly. His partner is furious.

“Are you kidding me? The thing in the stacks only wants fresh meat! She’s no good to us now!”

The hunters that followed the pimp are having better luck, he doesn’t deed have three girls for sale – they examined them to make sure the movie has the requisite nudity for an “R” rating. (Nice to know you can still get breast implants after the apocalypse (It’s cruel and gross but just shy of getting to rapey. That happens later).

Back on the trail, the two roller blade warriors find their fallen companion. She’s too far gone to heal, and they set off in search of revenge. Meanwhile, the hunters and the steam punk pimp drag the three girls down the road. The roller blade warriors come across them, and leap into action, slicing and dicing the pimp then freeing the slave girls.

The hunters escape and meet up with you after their team. They’ve got to find a way to avoid the roller blade patrols in this area. Suddenly, Karp remembers that there is a cannibal up in the hills and they head out in that direction to recruit him.

While the hunters look for their cannibal ally, Crosse and Hope get to know each other better. The nun wistfully tells the young psychic about how much she misses her man – the lawman who guards the mission (I can only assume she’s referring to Marshall Goodman from the previous film though she never mentions him by name). They wrap up in a sleeping bag and get ready to snooze.

“Can I ask you a question?” Hope asks.  “I never loved a man… What’s it like?”
“Warm, like soup.” Crosse replies.

With that comforting thought, they drift off to sleep… But the psychic awakens in the morning, screaming. Evil is near! It’s down in the valley below the rocks, and it’s coming for them! Crosse grabs her blade and sets off to investigate, only to find the hunters have stolen her bike!

The cannibal looks like an old mountain man survivalist and comes down to greet the hunters, shotgun in hand. Above him, Crosse stalks him, sweeping down and cutting him up with her sword. Unfortunately, while she is distracted by killing the cannibal, one of the hunters lobs a rock at her head, knocking her off the ledge. Up the rocks, the hunters capture Hope.

Below, we discover that Crosse wasn’t killed by the fall, merely knocked out. When she awakens, she starts to have flashes of the psychic as the hunters on horseback transport her back to their stomping grounds.

“I saw a fair angel, riding a prancing horse, coming to Abadoooooooon! And in my dream, she was being followed by a she-demon on wheels…”

Crosse follows the trail of the hunters to the city of Abaddon, complete with the requisite sign “if you lived here you be home now” it’s buried and half hidden in the rubbish, but it’s there nonetheless. If Abaddon looks familiar by the way, it should. This is the same factory complex used in the climax of Robocop, frequently shot from the exact same angles. Terminator 2 had shot here just a year and a half prior. Jackson was familiar with the location already from his time on Hell Comes to Frogtown, and it was an old favorite.

She meets an old man at the door; Rory Calhoun, finally appearing in the flesh. Crosse must defeat this sword wielding guard to be able to get inside. She brings him down with a blade that pops out of the toe of her roller skates (It seems to me like the spurs on the heels would have worked just as well…). Dying, he gives her his sword.

“He still has a lot of killing to do. Besides, you’ll earn it in time.”

The blue wrap on the white grip of the katana as well as its red scabbard makes me think of her nun’s robes from the opening sequence. Infiltrating further inside, she swipes a jug of moonshine from a couple of rednecks in a barn. They pointed her towards “Streak” – the harvester who collects women to feed to the thing in the stack. She heads over to the local saloon. There Crosse discovers Rinaldi – the man in a huge fur coat who runs things in this town (Take note of that name by the way. You’ll be seeing a lot of villains with the same moniker in Jackson’s later films). He shows her around this mining town where they dig for uranium, taking her to the processing plant (the stacks where the monster lives). The psychic connection is still live, and Crosse flashes on and uncomfortable rape sequence and she can tell that Hope is not there. They need to keep searching.

Out of nowhere, Rinaldi the bursts into the hunter’s lair, pulling them off the girl and lays a beat down on them. The problem is, he’s not there to rescue Hope, The hunters are working under his orders.

Back at the bar, Streak starts hitting on Rinaldi’s girlfriend – mentioning that one of these days he’s going to be the head of town, after he takes Rinaldi out. It’s bad timing because Mr. big fur coat walks in with a very long gun pointed straight at it. It’s at this point that Crosse catches back up with him, just in time to see Rinaldi blow the hunter away.

“What’s he a sinner?”

“The worst.”

Rinaldi then tries to convince Crosse that the psychic is dead. She’s not buying it, and demands to see the body – maybe she can heal it. He takes her up to a vat of bubbling green toxic waste to convince her. She prays for vengeance as Rinaldi offers to put her up for the night in a room above the saloon.

Mother Speed sends out a search party to find the Roller Blade patrol as well as Crosse and the psychic. They promptly get caught by nomads with drugged water.

Rinaldi dines with his girlfriend who expresses concern about Crosse staying with them. He’s preparing to sacrifice the psychic to the thing in the stacks while Crosse still has nightmares about the psychic’s assault. When she wakes, she realizes the psychic is still alive.

Rinaldi carries the girl into the monster’s lair as his girlfriend gives Crosse the history of the town. These sacrifices have been going on for a long time. They arrive at the entrance to the stacks, the factory that houses the monster as the psychic gets strapped to the bedframe for the monster to find her. Through the smoke, the monster gets closer and closer as Crosse searches for her young ward. She finds Hope and they take off, slipping though the smoke, only to find themselves locked in by Rinaldi. In the distance, the monster growls.

Back in the desert, the search party wake up, finding themselves tied up. Their captors wander back in the tent, but the overpower them and escape – now disguised as the nomads.

We cut to the factory, where the bloated mutant monster has found our roller blade warrior and her psychic. Crosse draws her sword and battles the beast, eventually running him through and escaping the depths of the stacks. There’s daylight in sight but she’s not out yet. A simple stabbing isn’t enough to keep a good monster down though. It awakes in a rage and comes after them. It’ll take some trickery to take out the monster before they can slip out of the factory.

Now on the outside, Crosse and Hope find they still have the hunters to deal with. They are joined by the search party, still disguised as nomads. They rip off their desert robes (Fortunately, it hasn’t messed their hair up at all. The apocalyptic future sure has some good hair spray) and the battle commences. All that metal and concrete makes a spectacular setting, with different levels and constant shape and movement. The last of the hunters, the beautician in his tux, grabs his gun and blows his own head off, rather than face the steel of a Roller Blade Warrior.

The last to face them down is Rinaldi.

“You wouldn’t hurt an unarmed man?” He quips, removing his right arm. It’s a cybernetic prosthetic and it doubles as a gun. Crosse races her way towards him as fast as her skates can spin while Rinaldi unleashes blast after blast from his arm-gun. The ground explodes around her as she races through the smoke, swinging her samurai sword. The gun jams and Rinaldi finds himself defenseless as Crosse turs his own weapon back on him.

“Please! Agent of Mercy! No!”
“God forgives,” she replies, her eyes cold as steel. “I don’t.”

indexWith Rinaldi dispatched, the women find the horses left behind by the hunters and ride off into the post nuclear sunset. Mother Speed is pleased.

“Bless you all. Now go forth, and skate the path of righteousness!”

A third direct sequel to this film was planned, but ultimately scrapped. Still you can’t keep a good man down, and Jackson would be teaming up with Zen filmmaker Scott Shaw to create a whole series of spinoff sequels set in this same universe.

More on that next time