Saturday, May 16, 2015

Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979)

          Running down the cast of Skatetown, U.S.A. should explain why the movie is such a glorious train wreck—that is, if the title didn’t do the job already. Happy Days kid Scott Baio plays Richie, a fast-talking hustler who wants to help his best friend, Adonis-like blond Stan (Greg Bradford), and Stan’s nymphomaniac sister, Susan (Maureen McCormick, a/k/a “Marcia Brady” from The Brady Bunch), win a roller-disco championship. The team’s destination is Skatetown, U.S.A., a rink located on the Santa Monica peer and operated by stressed-out comedian/entrepreneur Harvey (Flip Wilson), who spends most of his time keeping his diminutive second-in-commend, Jimmy (Billy Barty), from hitting on voluptuous ticket-seller played by ’70s TV starlet Judy Landers. Meanwhile, an evil roller-skating gang led by Ace (Patrick Swayze, in his embarrassing movie debut) tries to fix the context, employing the strategy of intimidating Harvey with threats of violence and sending gang member Frankey (Ron Palillo (a/k/a “Arnold Horshack” from Welcome, Back Kotter) to distract Susan. Yes, that means Skatetown, U.S.A. includes scenes of Horshack and Marcia Brady necking in a convertible.
          While all of this “intrigue” unfolds, grade-Z comedy actors perform stupid bits, rock singer Dave Mason appears periodically to perform tunes including “Feelin’ Alright,” and a DJ character called “The Wizard” (Denny Johnston)—who wears some sort of gigantic albino-Afro wig—uses magic laser beams to make roller skaters appear. Oh, and most of the film’s screen time is consumed by endless roller-disco scenes, including tightly choreographed routines by ensembles, as well as eroticized duets such as Swazye’s bondage-themed dance set to a mediocre cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” Need it be said that Skatetown, U.S..A. concludes with a Rebel Without a Cause-style chicken run between Ace and Stan, who zoom down the Santa Monica Pier on skates equipped with rockets? Or that Wilson plays a second role, as his own character’s wife, in drag? Notorious as one of the few ’70s movies with major actors never to be released on any form of home video, Skatetown, U.S.A. is staggeringly awful from the first frame to the last. Although clearly made with a decent budget and featuring some impressive dancing, the movie is atrocious in terms of acting, direction, and writing. And yet that’s why it’s weirdly compelling, and something of a cult favorite among devotees of cinematic misfires. The horrors of Skatetown, U.S.A. are legion.

Skatetown, U.S.A.: LAME


Bob Johns said...

Horshack and Marcia Brady necking in a convertible YES!!

starofshonteff1 said...

The budget was apparently $3m.
Rastar Pictures were also behind SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT.
There was a short-lived buzz around roller-disco movies being the next big thing in 1979, but the failure of SKATETOWN, U.S.A. (it only returned $2.35m in the U.S.) and ROLLER BOOGIE, the follow-up to HALLOWEEN from Compass International, soon put paid to that.
XANADU was conceived as a roller-disco movie but reworked as a dance film with the emphasis on the limited participation of Gene Kelly when the above titles flopped.