One of the most unchronicled aspects of 80’s junk culture is the post-apocalyptic metal video. They always seem to be inspired by the Mad Max trilogy, especially Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. While the video for Judas Priest’s “Locked In” (1986) is clearly a Thunderdome ripoff, there’s also the Scorpions' “Rock Me Like a Hurricane” and Krokus’ “Screaming in the Night”, which also seem to ripoff Thunderdome, yet somehow predate the movie. Could George Miller have been inspired by a Krokus video to create Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? Probably not. Maybe it was an aesthetic that was “in the air” at the time. After all, it was Ezra Pound that said that artists are the antennae of the human race, and sometimes those antennae pick up images of dudes fighting in cages and chicks with giant teased hair wearing tattered Amazon clothes.
Instead of the usual Van Halen video where Eddie is tapping his guitar into the camera and Diamond Dave is karate kicking while bouncing up and down on bungee chords (Dave might've been the world's first vocal athlete), here are videos that create a world and seem to be telling a story, yet the logic of the story slips through the viewer's fingers. Most people are dumbfounded at the “plotting”, laugh at the hair and the clothes, and then dismiss them as a nonsensical relic of a big stupid era. I watch them and think “I wish there was a whole movie like this. My life would finally be complete, or at least less empty”.
Well, such a movie exists, and it’s called Roller Blade. Here we have an 80’s post-apocalyptic metal video at a much lower budget, expanded to 90 minutes, and then elevated to uncompromising art. This insane world, further fleshed out in seven or so sequels that I have yet to see, is brought to us by Donald G. Jackson, semi-famous for making that post-apocalyptic frog movie that stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (that would be Hell Comes to Frogtown).
Roller Blade revolves around a roller blading convent that worships a smiley face, headed up by “Mother Speed”, who is confined to a wheelchair but still wears roller skates (I guess that would be a display of irony, or maybe it's just stupid). She has a bunch of big haired/big titted heroines (including Michelle Bauer and late porn actress Barbara Peckinpaugh, previously addressed and undressed in my review for Shadows Run Black) that exclusively wear spandex and leather when they’re actually wearing clothes. They do battle against the minions of an evil hand puppet (who apparently worships a shopping cart hanging from the ceiling) over a magic crystal, while combating roving gangs of punk rockers along the way. Trust me, it’ll all make sense once you watch the movie. That’s a lie, for the record.
Here, cheap jack visionary Jackson creates a hermetically sealed world that manages to comment on the fascistic consequences of consumerism run amok (the shopping cart is a clue), as well as a punk vs. metal treatise, all covered in fog and hairspray. Just like those post-apocalyptic videos, it transmits its ideas through fashion and pop iconography. More importantly, it creates an aesthetic universe that never existed before; a fashion show for the hopeless gluehuffer in all of us. If you don't buy any of that, just remember that the movie is filled with some pretty righteous nudity and a bunch of dumb stuff that makes no sense. It's a combination that really works if you're wasted on the brewskis.
Now, here are some pics:
that's what you call a "heavy metal entrance"
notice the punk rocker there in the background
killing is my business...and business is lackluster
the men are fashionable too
this magic bath heals battle wounds, so it's plot related, for the record
gotta have toonz
training sequence, folks
nunchukus, of course
that there's a shot
I know he's a haevy metal mascot, but I can't pin down the band
the evil master gets hotties delivered to him wrapped in tinfoil