my Movie

Movie Details

Title:   Skatetown, USA
Director:   William A. Levey
Year:   1979
Genre:   Comedy
Times Seen:   1
Last Seen:   04.09.08

Other Movies Seen By This Director (0)

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
04.09.08Weird Wednesday Skatetown, USA. Man oh man. What do I say about a movie like this. Zack frequently notes how movies of the 80s (especially early 80s) were an era of fun; A maximum injection of fun filling each frame with something radical or dudical or tubular or totally awesome. Sometimes I don't quite see his point but this was a prime example of what I believe he's talking about.

The movie starts with a ghostly afro-disco albino taking an elevator up to a DJ booth where he greets hello to his location and "wakes up" different parts of the building with - no kidding - magic white thunderbolts from his fingers. Lights turn on, glitterballs start rotating, popcorn starts popping (waking up the cook who's - no kidding - asleep on the edge of the counter with a hot dog in his mouth. This alone would've set the film's tone as woefully and joyously 80s goof but then... THEN... the DJ points his magic fingers at the floor and POOF! A roller rink filled with avid skaters! At this point, I stamped my passport and took a trip to a magical little place called Skatetown.

A personal note: When I was a kid my school used to take us every friday to different "fun" activities nearby. We're talking kindergarten here, maybe 1st or 2nd grade, something like that. So one week we'd walk over to a nearby park and play on the playground equipment and take a hike to the hidden bamboo field behind the gate, another week we'd go to the public pool and generally invade. Then some weeks we'd go to the roller rink and try to skate. I was never any good at it. My balance has never been great and I've always been tall and from way up here, the ground looks far away and hard. So I was always the kid going back and forth holding on to the rail while everyone else got to dance to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." Never had it in me.

Flash forward what, twenty years? Very recently I was more or less forced to go skating as part of a surprise birthday party. We went to Playland during adult skate night and I put on shoes that put little red spots on my feet that are just now going away and I figured that maybe, with my increased wisdom, intelligence, etc. that I would somehow figure out how to skate better than I used to. Uh huh, sure. Someone led me around back and forth on the carpet trying to explain how to do it and I couldn't figure it out. There was some core disconnect between my feet and my brain that couldn't allow me to understand how to propel myself forward. It just didn't happen. So I mostly sat and watched the other people skate.

So I have real life experience in the modern-day roller skate environment. I know what it's really like. This is why I treasured Skatetown as the Disneyland Xanadu disco fantasy that it was. In that DJ's mind, that's his world; that's where he lived. I want to live there too.

So there's a pretty long list of names attached to this (mostly minor) but I don't have access to imdb at the moment so you'll have to look it up for yourself. I will say that the guy who played the doctor was live in person and gave some entertaining thoughts on the film beforehand (i could try to spell his name out but I'd just get it wrong. Look him up too). Also, Lars had an LP of the film's soundtrack (graciously donated by Micah even though I claimed credit for working on Reel Distraction) for which scored of audience members made drawings on order cards to vie for after the show (Lars said he'd post the best ones online. He probably has by now). These events, along with excellent trailers for Xanadu and Roller Boogie, got the crowd in the perfect mood for the transcendental disco-beat journey they were about to take.

The stand-out performance by far was Patrick Swayze's incredible screen debut. He plays Ace, the tuff leader of the local roller skate gang The Westside Wheelers who inhabit Venice and the Santa Monica Pier and therefore Skatetown itself. I love that he hands out playing cards to introduce himself. I also love that he wears a belt just to take off during skating competitions to thrash about and show everyone how angry he is. I guess I love most though that there's a whole gang trying to be tough even though they're wearing purple and their ideas of sabotage are things like itching powder, mirror reflections, and pea shooters. It makes the scene where the one crazy guy's peeling an apple with his switchblade about as authentic as Flip Wilson's vagina when he appears as his own mother later in the movie.

The ironic thing about the whole skate competition plot arc that really drives the whole film though is that Swayze actually was a MUCH better skater and definitely should've won fair or fixed.

I'm neglecting about a million things here. Billy Barty skating: awesome. That old guy throwing out dead fish jokes to Dorothy Stratton in a bikini: a personal highlight for me. Sow as the good guy skating down the pier to "Born to be Alive." And the minor subplot about pills getting ground into the mozzarella cheese for pizzas (Skatetown ground their own mozzarella and made their own tomato sauce!?!?) so practically everyone in the movie had to act like the pizza was great when in reality it looked like maybe the worst pizza I've ever seen anyone eat in the history of the world. I also loved how, you know, it didn't really look THAT cheap. They obviously wanted to get the movement and excitement of... rolling around in circles with wheels strapped to your shoes so the photography is high-gloss and fluid and surprisingly well-shot. The soundtrack is also chock-full of hits; I don't know if they cleared everything but whatever it's there! I think there was even a crane shot or two... a rarity for Weird Wednesday fare!

This was one of those bombarding shove-the-awesome-moments-down-your-throat types of movies where you physically can't stop yourself from succumbing to the 4/4 beat and having fun with it. I mean, I want to move to Skatetown and I can't even skate! What's that say!?

Maybe that i didn't get enough sleep? Whatever.

Speaking of that though... I really have to start making it back out every wednesday. I think the sad truth is that I'll no longer be able to do both wednesdays and thursdays, but I'm really missing my Weird Wednesdays... It was completely revitalizing to see this movie. Skatetown! round and round!
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