Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cannibal Rollerbabes (1997)

Directed by Kalman Szegvary
Starring Paul Noiles, John Sorbera, Lisa Heughan

"But why eat him?"

Any movie with the moxie to call itself Cannibal Rollerbabes is bound to be weird. There's just no way around it. But to throw those two garish elements together - hot girls on rollerskates (or so-so girls on rollerblades, in this case) and people-eating, and then to drizzle a homey, small-town, let's-put-on-a-show vibe on top? Well, this was not cobbled together by committee. This was a singular vision realized. The awesomely named Kalman Szegvary is that starry-eyed visionary, and in 1997, he made one very nutty Canadian fever dream come-true. Shot on what looks like 16mm film stock snatched from the bottom of a stagnant pond, there is something entirely otherworldly about Cannibal Rollerbabes that belies its relatively recent vintage. It looks much more like the low-rung title on an all-night quadruple shock-show from 1975; even the evil genius's weapon of mass distraction - a jumbo transistor radio with a whirlygig glued on top - looks like a Fonz-era artifact.

The story, such as it is, is pure low-grade hokum, a confusing mash-up of Italian post-apocalyptic gangwar flicks and...I dunno, that Village People movie, maybe. Scott (John Sorbera) is a small town guy who works at a diner.

Said diner may also be a pizza joint that employs a jump-suited disco queen in a purple dunebuggy, but that might also just be a bit of random awesomeness. After a hard night of slinging hash, Scott decides to take off with his FM DJ friend Chuck (Mark Tyler) to the country for a week of fishing, rollerblading, and bromancing.

They drive out to Chuck's cabin-by-the-lake and run into some bizarrely dressed chicks that seem sorta hot to trot. But Scott, a perennial stick in the mud, wants to stay home and rest, because the ride up was too cold. Scott complains about the cold a lot, which begs a host of questions. Ostensibly, Cannibal Rollerbabes is supposed to take place in Los Angeles, but it was very obviously shot in small-town Ontario. Are Scott's near-constant complaints about the weather supposed to throw us off, to make us think that LA is experiencing an unusual cold snap? Or perhaps these are the complaints of the actor himself, miffed that he must perform underdressed during those cold Canadian nights, just to preserve this pathetic ruse about the film's true location? Regardless, it really makes Scott sound like a pain in the ass.

Meanwhile, Atman (Paul Noiles) a hair-gel slathered, bespectacled, gym-toned, spandex short-ed, open-shirted guy in a dune buggy, shows up at some underground bunker festooned with birthday party decorations, and informs his group of militant roller-disco girls that their 'guest' has escaped, and needs to be fetched. So the girls take off through the woods - on rollerskates - after some fat guy wearing a fanny pack, and not much else.

Meanwhile, Scott and Chuck go fishing and Chuck tells his friend about the abandoned old scientific lab on a deserted island near the lake. Then Scott complains about being cold again, so they go to a bar. There, Scott first sees Atman, now under his more media-friendly guise of Mayor Caplan, head-honcho in whatever awful backwater they're in. Snooping around, Scott gets the 411 on the mayor from a local: "People around here think he's God because he went to college."

Later on, Scott has a nightmare about Atman, and when he wakes up he finds a letter in the empty wine bottle he caught when he was fishing. The letter was from a beautiful blonde princess, trapped on the island. Scott had a vision about her earlier. He goes to see the sheriff to ask him about it, but the jumpy lawman tells him it's just a local myth. By the way, the sheriff has a hostile secretary named Judy (Judy Levesque) who consistently dresses in skimpy outfits that reveal her ample cleavage and womanly figure. Dunno why, but it's a bright spot in the murk, that's for sure.

The two city-boys go to see a psychic who tells Scott he's supposed to be with the message-in-a-bottle-princess, but has to go to the deserted island to get her.

Scott mulls it over during a rollerblading trip to the park with Chuck. Things quickly go awry when Atman shows up with machete - he's also on roller blades - and they have a seriously awkward fight.

Meanwhile, Chuck gets absconded by two of the roller-chicks, who take him off to the island. Scott goes back to Chuck's place and plays video games and grills a steak, then heads off to the woods to look for his pal. He runs into a kid with pointy ears (Patrick Leggett). He's an elf named Random, and it's his job to defend the woods against Atman and his "Centurions"(two dudes dressed, vaguely, like bikers) who show up out of nowhere and do battle with our idiots/heroes. Amazingly, the two fight off the bikers, and Random gives Scott a special stick to fight Atman with.

By the way, Atman drives an evil dune buggy with a Led Zep sticker on the windshield. That was a nice touch. He also runs his operation out of what looks like an abandoned amusement park 'castle'. At any rate, Atman finds out that Scott is on his way to slay him with the magic stick, so he sends out his rollerbabes to nab him. He has to kick a balloon out of his way when he's yelling at them. There's balloons everywhere, for some reason.

Scott gets caught by the rollerbabes and gets thrown into a "cell" - clearly somebody's bedroom - where he finds his Princess (Amy Van Elle) waiting for him. She sorta explains what's going on, although all I really got was that Atman castrates all the men in town, so that he can keep control over all the women. Then Atman slips something in Scott and Princess's drinks, and they make sweet Canadian love (side-boob is shown) interspersed with Scott running over rocks down at the river while an Elton John-esque ballad plays.

Later on, Scott discovers that Chuck's been eaten - they had to justify the title somehow - and he tells Atman that "I met a little man in the woods who thinks I'm a demon", which may be the single greatest line of dialogue I've ever heard. And then he falls under Atman's spell via his 70's jumbo transistor radio. Things get weird from there.

Judging just from the celebrity skin/boner-popping factor, Cannibal Rollerbabes is a fiasco. Spike (Canadian Playboy model Lisa Heughan), the jump-suited cleavage queen from the opening scene, is Atman's sometimes-lover, but she never does unzip that thing all the way, and the other girls are either plain-Janes or shot from too faraway to really get a good look at them. Princess Anna is pleasant looking enough, but the sex scene is so weirdly choreographed that all erotic potential is thrown, forcibly, out the window. And yet, there's something so screwy, so inexplicable, so eye-abusingly 'What the what?!' about it all that Cannibal Rollerbabes retains a ragged, homemade charm, even in its draggiest, most amateur moments. There is magic in this movie. Saggy, mostly useless, highly Canadian magic, but a benign sorcery nonetheless. It's one of those things, man. You really have to see it to believe it.

Availability: Cannibal Rollerbabes is available on DVD.

- Ken McIntyre

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