The Unholy Rollers


1h 28m 1972
The Unholy Rollers

Brief Synopsis

When her boorish boss at the factory begins to sexually harrass her, Karen quits and decides to try out for the roller derby. She wins a spot on the team and quickly rises to the top. Then despite the fact that Karen is not well-liked by her fellow teammates, she becomes a sensation among roller derby fans. Her desire for victory soon becomes an obsession however, as Karen ends up exposing more than just her naked ambition.

Film Details

Also Known As
Leader of the Pack
Genre
Action
Sports
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 15 Nov 1972
Production Company
Roger Corman Productions
Distribution Company
American International Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Karen Walker, a production line worker at a cat food factory, quits her job when the foreman sexually harasses her. After speeding up the automated conveyor belt so that it hurls cans across the factory's floor, the scrappy Karen shoves some cans in the foreman's face then walks out. Still exhilarated from watching a roller derby game the previous night, Karen decides to try out for the Los Angeles Avenger Roller Derby team. Recognizing that Karen's spunk and good looks will be a hit with the crowds, Stern, the owner of the team, hires her. On her first night as the Avengers face off with their arch-rivals, the San Diego Demons, Karen is propositioned by Mickey Martinez, a lesbian who is the Avenger's highest scoring player. When one of the Avengers is sidelined by an injury, the team's whip-wielding coach, Angie Striker, sends Karen in to take her place. Rather than follow the game plan as instructed however, Karen shows off by knocking down Demon Masked Marvin and snatching off his mask. After the game, Karen joins the rest of the team for a drink at a bar where Mickey, Jennifer and several other Avengers criticize her for not following the choreographed routine, and as punishment, push her onto a pool table and rip off her clothes. Nick, the only member of the team who comes to Karen's defense, retrieves her clothes and offers her a ride home on his motorcycle. Later that night they return to the roller rink, where they strap on their skates and ram into each other on the rink before having sex. The next day, Karen introduces Nick to her roommate Donna and Donna's boyfriend Greg. The four drive off together, and at the end of the day, Karen decides to have the name "Avengers" tattooed onto her arm. The Avengers then travel to San Diego to meet the Demons. When Karen once again slams Masked Marvin and raises her tattooed arm in a victory salute, the crowd roars its approval. Later on the team bus, Nick surprises Karen by revealing that he is married and introducing her to his wife. Undeterred, Karen carries on her passionate affair with Nick. Buoyed by her popularity, Karen is hired to appear in commercials and soon finds herself earning enough money to buy a house and fancy new car. In a match with the Demons, Karen is within three points of breaking Mickey's record when Mickey deliberately plows into her. When Rocco from the Demons joins Mickey to pummel Karen, a free-for-all erupts which results in Mickey being traded to the Demons for insubordination. Karen is then promoted to be the Avengers number one player, the player allowed to wear the helmet and score points. In need of a number two player, Stern imports Beverly Brayton from Fresno because she is black. Karen's success has made her even more cocky, and when Stern criticizes her attitude, she insults his manhood and kicks him in the groin. Soon after, Donna and Greg depart for Oregon to open a topless motorcycle repair shop. As time passes, the crowd warms to Beverly, making Karen even more belligerent and competitive. In a match between the Avengers and the Demons, Karen and Mickey start a fight, and the judges order a grudge race between the two players to resolve it. During the race, Karen shoves Mickey out of the ring, causing her to strike her head against the bleachers. Gravely injured, Mickey is hospitalized, angering the Avengers. To retaliate, the team gang up on Karen in the parking lot, and after beating her up, scratch her new car. Furious, Karen rams her car into one of her assailant's vehicles, then recklessly speeds off to visit her drunken, slatternly mother. That night, Karen is late to the game, and in her absence, Beverly has won several points as the lead player. Taking the helmet from Beverly, Karen enters the ring determined to best her rival. However, when Jennifer deliberately knocks down Karen, the Demons jump on her and the Avengers refuse to come to her aid. In a rage, Karen slams Beverly with the helmet, then goes berserk and skates off the track and out of the door into the parking lot. As she weaves crazily through the lot, Karen plays tag with the cars, slamming into them until one knocks her down. Still defiant, Karen picks herself up and raises her arm in a victory salute.

Film Details

Also Known As
Leader of the Pack
Genre
Action
Sports
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 15 Nov 1972
Production Company
Roger Corman Productions
Distribution Company
American International Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

The Unholy Rollers


It's got roller skating! And fighting! And sex! And ping pong! Wait, ping pong? Yes, shot from the table's POV, no less. Vernon Zimmerman gives it everything he's got for this tale of a hometown girl who wants to be a brutal roller derby star. He has to give it everything he's got because producer Roger Corman didn't give him any budget to speak of. Unholy Rollers (1972), is an epic roller derby comedy from the always reliable American International Pictures (AIP), produced by James H. Nicholson and Roger Corman. There may not have been much money on hand, but they delivered a finished product every time and, in the process, gave an onsite education to dozens of the most famous and successful filmmakers of the 1960s, '70s and '80s

Unholy Rollers stars Claudia Jennings, a former Playboy Playmate turned actress. Actually, she'd been acting for a while after first doing theater in high school. The Playboy gig only happened because she was a receptionist with the magazine and when she was offered several grand for a photo shoot, she saw it as an opportunity to pocket some cash and go to Hollywood. She did, although mostly Jennings got small parts on episodic television like Ironside and The Brady Bunch before landing film roles. That's when AIP came along. It turns out her gig with Playboy turned out to be bigger than expected. She became the top Playboy model of the decade and parlayed that into starring roles in low-budget movies like Unholy Rollers.

Unholy Rollers follows Jennings as Karen Walker, a girl with dreams of competing professionally in the roller derby. The sport was invented in the 1930s and saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s. Men and women in roller skates would race around a track smashing into each other while trying to lap the other team. They also beat the living daylights out of each other every chance they get. In fact, there's even a breakdown of where the fights take place in the movie. The players are reminded that all fights should take place in optimal viewing locations for the crowd. You see, no one really cares who laps who, they just want to see some good old-fashioned bloodshed. Ah, America.

Vernon Zimmerman came to Unholy Rollers with only a few credits under his belt but one of them, Deadhead Miles (1973), written by Terrence Malick, produced by Tony Bill, and starred Alan Arkin.. While Unholy Rollers, written and directed by Zimmerman specifically for drive-ins, he had greater success later with Fade to Black, a now classic horror satire made in 1980 starring Dennis Christopher and a young Mickey Rourke.

Claudia Jennings remained a popular model throughout the '70s but never crossed over into mainstream Hollywood roles. Late in the decade, producer Aaron Spelling was looking to replace Kate Jackson on tv's Charlie's Angels and Jennings was under consideration. She did not get the part but she did continue acting in B movies. Sadly, her life ended tragically when she was in a head-on collision on the Pacific Coast Highway in 1979 and died at the age of 29.

Director: Vernon Zimmerman
Screenplay: Howard Cohen (story and screenplay), Vernon Zimmerman (story)
Producers: Jack Bohrer, Roger Corman, James H. Nicholson, John Prizer
Music: Kendall Schmidt, Bobby Hart
Cinematography: Michael Shea
Film Editing: George Trirogoff, Yeu-Bun Yee Art Direction: Spencer Quinn
Costume Design: Cornelia McNamara
Cast: Claudia Jennings (Karen Walker), Louis Quinn (Mr. Stern), Betty Anne Rees (Mickey), Roberta Collins (Jennifer), Alan Vint (Greg), Candice Roman (Donna), Jay Varela (Nick), Charlene Jones (Beverly Brayton)

By Greg Ferrara
The Unholy Rollers

The Unholy Rollers

It's got roller skating! And fighting! And sex! And ping pong! Wait, ping pong? Yes, shot from the table's POV, no less. Vernon Zimmerman gives it everything he's got for this tale of a hometown girl who wants to be a brutal roller derby star. He has to give it everything he's got because producer Roger Corman didn't give him any budget to speak of. Unholy Rollers (1972), is an epic roller derby comedy from the always reliable American International Pictures (AIP), produced by James H. Nicholson and Roger Corman. There may not have been much money on hand, but they delivered a finished product every time and, in the process, gave an onsite education to dozens of the most famous and successful filmmakers of the 1960s, '70s and '80s Unholy Rollers stars Claudia Jennings, a former Playboy Playmate turned actress. Actually, she'd been acting for a while after first doing theater in high school. The Playboy gig only happened because she was a receptionist with the magazine and when she was offered several grand for a photo shoot, she saw it as an opportunity to pocket some cash and go to Hollywood. She did, although mostly Jennings got small parts on episodic television like Ironside and The Brady Bunch before landing film roles. That's when AIP came along. It turns out her gig with Playboy turned out to be bigger than expected. She became the top Playboy model of the decade and parlayed that into starring roles in low-budget movies like Unholy Rollers. Unholy Rollers follows Jennings as Karen Walker, a girl with dreams of competing professionally in the roller derby. The sport was invented in the 1930s and saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s. Men and women in roller skates would race around a track smashing into each other while trying to lap the other team. They also beat the living daylights out of each other every chance they get. In fact, there's even a breakdown of where the fights take place in the movie. The players are reminded that all fights should take place in optimal viewing locations for the crowd. You see, no one really cares who laps who, they just want to see some good old-fashioned bloodshed. Ah, America. Vernon Zimmerman came to Unholy Rollers with only a few credits under his belt but one of them, Deadhead Miles (1973), written by Terrence Malick, produced by Tony Bill, and starred Alan Arkin.. While Unholy Rollers, written and directed by Zimmerman specifically for drive-ins, he had greater success later with Fade to Black, a now classic horror satire made in 1980 starring Dennis Christopher and a young Mickey Rourke. Claudia Jennings remained a popular model throughout the '70s but never crossed over into mainstream Hollywood roles. Late in the decade, producer Aaron Spelling was looking to replace Kate Jackson on tv's Charlie's Angels and Jennings was under consideration. She did not get the part but she did continue acting in B movies. Sadly, her life ended tragically when she was in a head-on collision on the Pacific Coast Highway in 1979 and died at the age of 29. Director: Vernon Zimmerman Screenplay: Howard Cohen (story and screenplay), Vernon Zimmerman (story) Producers: Jack Bohrer, Roger Corman, James H. Nicholson, John Prizer Music: Kendall Schmidt, Bobby Hart Cinematography: Michael Shea Film Editing: George Trirogoff, Yeu-Bun Yee Art Direction: Spencer Quinn Costume Design: Cornelia McNamara Cast: Claudia Jennings (Karen Walker), Louis Quinn (Mr. Stern), Betty Anne Rees (Mickey), Roberta Collins (Jennifer), Alan Vint (Greg), Candice Roman (Donna), Jay Varela (Nick), Charlene Jones (Beverly Brayton) By Greg Ferrara

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film's working title was Leader of the Pack. In opening credits, Kathleen Freeman is called "The Mother," but in closing credits she is called "Karen's mother." Several reviewers commented on the similarity between The Unholy Rollers and Kansas City Bomber.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States September 1996

Released in United States September 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Corman's Children" September 7-28, 1996.)

Released in United States 1972