Scene That I Love: Linda Blair and Jim Bray’s Roller Skate Routine From Roller Boogie

Today is not only Jim Jarmusch’s birthday.  It’s also Linda Blair’s!

Now, of course, the first film that probably comes to mind when you hear the name “Linda Blair” is The Exorcist and that makes sense.  After all, it’s probably the best film in which Blair ever appeared.  Blair even received an Oscar nomination for playing the demonically possessed Regan MacNeil and for convincingly vomiting all over Jason Miller and Max von Sydow. If not for the fact that Mercedes McCambridge provided the voice of the demon, Blair probably would have won that Oscar as well.  Instead, the Oscar went to Tatum O’Neal.

Blair’s gone on to have an active career, though none of her subsequent films ever proven to be as popular with critics or audiences as The Exorcist.  In fact, the majority of her films have been received rather dismissively by the critics.  Of course, Blair’s subsequent films haven’t exactly been in the type of genres that are usually embraced by the critics.  Instead, Linda Blair appeared in several women-in-prison films.  She also appeared in several vigilante films, including Savage Streets.  She did several low-budget horror movies, like the classic Hell Night.  Blair also appeared in two bad-but-kind-of-fun sequels, Airport 1975 and Exorcist II: The Heretic.  (Airport 1975 features Linda Blair as the most perky seriously ill person ever.  Exorcist II, of course, featured Blair trying to keep a street face.)

And here’s the thing — the movies may have occasionally been bad but Linda Blair always kicked ass. In fact, she often literally did just that.  At her best, Blair was the type of exploitation heroine who would kick the bad guy in the balls and then taunt him for crying about it afterwards.  And good for her!

Now admittedly, today’s scene of the day does not feature Linda Blair kicking anyone or exacting violent revenge on the patriarchy.  But no matter.  The 1979 film Roller Boogie is a lot of fun, precisely because it’s a mix of disco, roller skating, and the mob.  Linda Blair and Jim Bray have to protect their favorite skating rink from the mafia.  They also have to win the annual Boogie contest.  Needless to say, that’s a lot to deal with but if anyone can handle it, it’s Linda Blair.

“It’s love on wheels!” the posters proclaimed, presumably because Skatetown U.S.A. was already using, “It’s the greatest story that ever rolled.”  Roller Boogie is a thoroughly silly movie and, not surprisingly, it’s also a very 70s movie.  Every single moment of the film screams out, “1979!”  You know how Saturday Night Fever used the disco scene as the backdrop for a rather melancholy story about a young person struggling to grow up and become a better person? Well, Roller Boogie‘s not like that at all but it does feature a lot of disco and a lot of skating and how can you go wrong with that?

Anyway, here is today’s scene that I love.  Here are Linda Blair and Jim Bray competing for the top prize in Roller Boogie!

Scenes That I Love: The Final Scene of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita

100 years ago today, the great Federico Fellini was born in Rimini, Italy.  It seems appropriate that today’s scene of the day should come from my favorite Fellini film, 1960’s La Dolce Vita.

In this scene, which occurs at the end of the film, jaded journalist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) finds himself hung over on the beach, watching as a group of people pulls a dead sea serpent out of the ocean.  The serpent appears to be a giant squid of some sort.  Myself, I’ve always felt that it was the equivalent of the Biblical Leviathan and maybe the fish that swallowed Jonah.  Regardless of the fish’s history, it’s now dead but, as Marcello points out, its eyes continue to stare.  The people on the beach are less interested in what the fish is and instead more concerned with what they can do with the carcass.

Marcello looks away from them and sees a young woman named Paola (Valeria Ciangottini) standing at the other end of the beach, calling out and motioning to him.  Marcello attempts to hear what Paola is saying but he cannot hear her words over the sounds of the ocean.  For once, Marcello, the journalist and the high society insider, does not know what is being said.  Finally, Marcello walks away with another woman, leaving Paola’s message a mystery.

What was Paola saying?  Perhaps, in the end, that’s not as important as what we think she may have been saying.  (Sofia Coppola later played a sort of homage to this ending with the final scene of Lost In Translation.)  Marcello missed the message but the good life — La Dolce Vita — continues.

A Scene That I Love: “The Sword Has Been Drawn” from John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981)

Today is the 87th birthday of director John Boorman.

A former journalist and documentarian, Boorman got his start as a feature film director in 1965 when he was offered the chance to direct Catch Us If You Can, an enjoyable take on A Hard Day’s Night that starred the Dave Clark Five.  Boorman went on to establish himself as one of the most idiosyncratic and unique directors working in the British film industry.  Among the films that Boorman would direct: Zardoz, Deliverance, Point Blank, The General, Hope and Glory, and The Emerald Forest.  Among the films that Boorman was offered but turned down: The Exorcist, Fatal Attraction, Rocky, and Sharky’s Machine.  Few directors can claim a filmography as varied and unique as John Boorman’s.

During the 70s, Boorman made an unsuccessful attempt to put together a film version of Lord of the Rings.  Boorman intended to tell the entire story in just one film but he couldn’t find financial backing for his epic vision.  So, instead, Boorman directed Excalibur, an film about King Arthur which, thematically, has as much in common with Tolkein as it does with Malory.

Starring Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, and Liam Neeson, Excalibur is my personal favorite of the many cinematic adaptations of the Arthurian legend.  (I like it even more than Monty Python and the Holy Grail, though it’s a close race.)  In the scene below, Arthur (Nigel Terry) first removes Excalibur from the stone.  By removing the sword, Arthur confirms that it his destiny to bring “the Land,” (as Britain is referred to as being in Excalibur) together.  Not everyone is convinced but Leondegrance knows a king when he sees on.  (That’s not surprising, considering that he’s played by Patrick Stewart.)

Scenes I Love: Goldie’s Panetarium From The Mack (Happy Birthday, Max Julien!)

Today, Max Julien is 75 yeas old.

This classically trained actor and veteran of Shakespeare in the Park achieved cult immortality when he starred in The Mack (1973), the definitive pimp film.  In the role of Goldie, Julien set the standard by which all other cinematic pimps would be judged.  Julien, who also starred in Thomasine and Bushrod and wrote the script for Cleopatra Jones, may have never become a mainstream film star but his performance in The Mack ensures that he will never be forgotten.

In the scene below, Goldie takes his “ladies” to a planetarium and goes full MK-Ultra on them.  This is the most ridiculous scene in the movie but Max Julien pulls it off like a champ.