Sony has finally released the long-awaited, much requested (at least here on HTF) skating disco “classic” Skatetown U.S.A. through the studio’s MOD program.
The Production: 2.5/5
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, after the success of John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever in 1977, nearly every studio in Hollywood tried to cash in on the disco movie craze, never really understanding what it was that actually made Fever such a success (it wasn’t just the discothèque setting). Movies like Can’t Stop the Music, The Apple, Roller Boogie, Thank God It’s Friday, Xanadu all crashed and burned, more or less, at the box office.
Skatetown U.S.A. is another splashy, colorful bit of nonsense that tried to latch on to not only the disco craze, but roller boogie as well. The film is mostly a string of dance numbers on skates, musical performances by Dave Mason and GQ, and comedy skits hosted by DJ The Wizard (stand-up comic Denny Johnston), all to hang a weak plot about a dance contest (which occurs during the film’s last thirty minutes) and ultimate showdown between gang member Ace (Patrick Swayze, in his debut role) and blonde Valley Guy Stan (Greg Bradford). Ace is the leader of the West Side Wheelers, a roller skating gang whose home turf is the roller disco Skatetown U.S.A., and Frankey (a bearded Ron Palillo) is his second in command. Stan’s skating partner is his sister (!) Susan (Maureen McCormick), and they are “managed” by Richie (Scott Baio). The club is owned by Jimmy (Billy Barty) and managed by his “son” Harvey (special guest star Flip Wilson). The in-house doctor is played by comedian Bill Kirchenbauer, who very likely was allowed to ad-lib most of his performance incorporating his stand-up routine. William E. Levey (better known for such Drive-In schlock as Slumber Party ’57 and The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington) directs the film haphazardly from a screenplay by first-timer Nick Castle (he would go on to write and/or direct Escape From New York, The Last Starfighter, and The Boy Who Could Fly). Look for cameos by such 1960s and 1970s icons Ruth Buzzi, Murray Langston (aka The Unknown Comic), David Landsberg, Sydney Lassick, Joe E. Ross, Judy Landers, and Dorothy Stratten.
Skatetown U.S.A., as a movie, is a disaster, essentially trying to capture a night at what Scott Baio, as manager Richie, describes as “a place of magic!” I can see, though, how the film has become a “cult” classic with its ability to capture the end of the disco craze of the 1970s, plus the fact that the film is just now making its home video debut forty years after its theatrical release.
3D Rating: NA
As I stated above, Sony’s MOD Blu-ray release is the first time Skatetown U.S.A. has ever been available on any home video format, at least officially. Sony is one of the few studios that takes pride in its catalog when releasing for the home market, regardless of the film’s popularity or quality. That pride in delivering a great looking product shows in this first-ever release. There is some highly noticeable grain during the opening credits (likely due to the heavy use of opticals) that quickly resolves once those credits are over (although it does re-appear later on when opticals are used again). This is a very clean image, free of dirt and scratches, with abundant and well-saturated use of colors (this was 1970s disco, after all). Detail is quite good, at least in the more brightly lit scenes, showing off the grain and scuff marks in the wooden floor, sparkles in The Wizard’s white Afro wig, etc. Detail suffers somewhat in the darker outdoor sequences, likely due to the poor lighting conditions, as does contrast. Fans of the film will be delighted in the care Sony’s technicians took to create this transfer.
Skatetown U.S.A. was released theatrically in optical mono, and Sony has replicated that experience in a nice but by-the-numbers DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. The track, like the picture, is clean with no noticeable pops, hiss, or other anomalies. Fidelity is very good, providing clarity to the music, mayhem, and dialogue. One can imagine, though, what a stereo or 5.1 remix might have sounded like. There are no subtitles or closed captions included.
Special Features: 0/5
This is about as bare-bones as you can get. The disc contains no menu whatsoever, no subtitles, not even a trailer. Pressing the Top Menu button disables the time code display on-screen and returns you to the opening Columbia Pictures logo.
Fans will be delighted, not only with the fact that they can finally own a legitimate copy of the film, but that the transfer of Skatetown U.S.A. was done with care. It’s kind of a shame that there were no extras, but pretty much anyone associated with this film that is still alive would prefer to forget the film (Scott Baio has referred to the film as “crapola,” attempting to block it from his memory, and Maureen McCormick blamed the movie for her cocaine relapse in the late 1970s).