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Disco Week#4: Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979)

Disco Week continues with the final and worst movie in this marathon: Skatetown, U.S.A.

To tell you the truth, one of the main inspirations for writing this series of article is this movie. I found a list of “10 rare movies that you will never see it again” or something like that. Of course, it has classic titles like The Day The Clown Cried and Nothing Lasts Forever. But there’s one title that looks more prominent than others, it’s Skatetown, U.S.A. . I mean, it’s a film that takes place in roller disco and it has amazingly cool soundtrack (we’ll talk about that later), what could go wrong? So, before we talk about this film, let’s take a look at its trailer for a second.

It looks great, doesn’t it? This looks a film in which we are about to see an exciting story about two teenagers (one of them played by Patrick Swayze. This is another reason why it became a cult classic since this is his first movie) who compete against each other in a roller disco dancing competition. Plus, it has soundtracks from The Jacksons, Heatwave, Earth, Wind & Fire, etc. .So how could this go wrong?

Well, where should I begin?

TGIF meets MTV meets variety shows

The sentence above sums up the film pretty well. That’s right. A heated competition between these characters is only 50%-60% of the film. The rest is…

– Comedy sketches from other characters who have a good time here: from employees to elderly customers.

– Musical performance from artists.

– Montages of people skating in the rink while popular music is playing in the background.

–  A performance from The Unknown Comic, who, at the time, was really popular in The Gong Show.

These things slow down the film A LOT. I mean, I’m okay if a film has various characters and still giving more important at main plot than subplot, but this looks more like 70’s variety show that lasts 90 minutes. It just goes on and on and on to the point that I don’t even care about main plot anymore. In fact, I think there’s no plot in this film at all. It looks more like a time-capsule of what 1979 looked like. They should make a documentary about roller disco at the time instead.

And just like TGIF, some characters are really annoying. Many sketches aren’t funny at all.

Is there anything good about this film?

Unfortunately, there are three things I like about it.

– 70’s Chicks

Just look at Maureen McCormick (far left) and April Allen (far right) here, do I need to address anything else?

– Cinematography

As I said, there are parts in this film that looks more like I’m watching MTV than an actual film. It has quick cuts and blurry shots there and there. Plus, the film takes place in a gigantic roller disco. This is ONLY reason why I want to see it remastered, because I want to see these scenes in a glorious/original way as it should be.

– Soundtrack

This film has lots (I mean, LOTS) of popular songs from that era. Here’s an example

Cheap Trick – I Want You To Want Me

Heatwave – Boogie Nights

Anita Ward – Ring My Bell

The Jacksons – Shake You Body (Down To The Ground)

These are really great songs that you can enjoy listening to or introducing someone to Disco music. Unfortunately, this also causes another problem…

Why was it never released in any home entertainment format?

Besides the fact that this film is horrible, here are other possible reasons why we’ll never see it officially released: legal issues. Since this film used a lot of popular songs from that era, this means that Columbia Pictures has to pay Sony and other music labels for licensing this song again. Okay, we all know that Columbia Pictures is subsidiary company of Sony now, but I think they still have to pay tons of money. And since the film isn’t that popular by the way, they decided not to release it.

So where can you find this film? It spreads around an internet whether on ebay or torrents or YouTube. All of these copies are transferred from VHS that telecined from faded 16mm print of the film again. Not only does the pictures look unattractive, there are scenes that are kinda shaky due to the low VHS quality. That’s why I have no screenshot here.

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Overall, this film is just another cash-in for a trend. Besides hit soundtracks, I find no enjoyment here.

Thumbs down. (almost “middle-finger up”, BTW)

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Check out special Disco playlist and special article tomorrow! Same Disco time! Same Disco channel!

About The Author
Nuttawut Permphithak
Nuttawut Permphithak

A student who’s studying in marketing. He usually spends his free-time on watching movies, listening to music, reading books, and creating things you’re probably reading/listening right now.

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