Written by: Giuseppe Rijitano on August 21st, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: USA, February 1978
Director: George Gage
Writers: Dick Wolf (screenplay, story), George Gage (screenplay)
Cast: Allen Garfield, Kathleen Lloyd, Leif Garrett, Richard Van der Wyk, Tony Alva, Steve Monahan, David Hyde, Ellen O’Neal, Pam Kenneally, Antony Carbone.
DVD released: July 27th, 2010
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
“We’ll soon be headed for a natural high and we’ll never come down. On our way to the sun skating freeee.” – from the Skateboard soundtrack.
Down on his luck talent agent Manny Bloom (Allen Garfield) has reached the end of his rope. His ex-wife is after him over unpaid alimony and Solly (Antony Carbone) the local mobbed-up bookie is on his ass for over six grand’s worth of piled up debts. In a last ditch effort to save himself from Solly’s goons he blurts out that he’s got a foolproof moneymaker of an idea to tap into the ‘youth market'; skateboarding. Having to deliver on his hastily improvised idea he seeks out the annoying teenagers that skate around and jump over his car on a daily basis. Offering them the chance to form a pro-team and put on exhibitions, enter skate-off meets across the country and eventually work their way to the Burbank Invitational which offers a cash prize of $20,000 that would see Manny’s legs not get broken by Solly. So The L.A. Wheels are born; a pimply, spaced out, skinny but talented bunch of kids including Brad (Leif Garrett), Jason (Richard Van der Wyk), Tony (Tony Alva) and Randi (Pam Kenneally). All they really want to do is chill out, drink beer and like skate man so Manny’s sweaty anxious mess of a coaching strategy soon starts rubbing them all up the wrong way despite their success. This internal conflict combined with Solly’s insistence that the team take a dive in the final so he can triple his money may just lead to an L.A. Wheels implosion before they even reach Burbank…….
Apparently the first ever feature film about pro-skateboarders this cult classic from 1978 finally makes it’s way onto DVD thanks to Scorpion Releasing. Coming across like a skateboarding variation of The Bad News Bears it’s a well-worn sporting movie formula that is aided primarily by it’s look at what was then a new sport and the performance of perennial sleazeball character actor Garfield and also to a lesser extent Kathleen Lloyd (as the team nurse) and inexplicably popular teen icon Leif Garrett as one of the young skaters. Also of note to skate fans that want to see some of the legendary icons of the sport perform; Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Ellen O’Neal are shown flying around rinks and pools.
The script was co-written and co-produced by Dick Wolfe (of Law & Order fame) and directed by George Gage who only went on to make one more feature film before moving into the world of documentary filmmaking. Tellingly some of the best moments of this film are those almost documentary-like scenes that appear to be semi-improvisational with Garfield and the kids ad-libbing and the quite good skating montages that show off the real talent on display. It’s a standard looking low budget 70’s flick that will appeal mainly to those that fondly remember the drive-in generation and the younger less cynical age when all street loitering teenagers didn’t seem to be out to stab, rob and kill you. The script ranges from the amateur with odd scenes that lead nowhere to the actually quite spot-on moments of teen sex and drinking – look out for one of the kids getting arrested skating under the influence in his hilarious blue dungarees! For the most part however the kids are essentially faceless skaters with Garfield’s story being the main hook for the audience and it’s an excellent performance; all shaggy-haired 70’s comb-over and beergut quivering with anxious sweaty nervous energy. Garfield never succumbs to the melancholic soft and fuzzies of similar coaching flicks but remains an off-beat dodgy loser right to the end, albeit one with a heart. The soundtrack is very groovy with a plethora of hippy-trippy 70’s skate anthems and music from prolific TV-meister Mark Snow (Smallville, X-Files, etc).
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks very good indeed; colors are strong and vivid, good contrast levels, solid blacks, some minor print damage and dirt that is fairly unnoticeable. Mono English audio track is clean and clear.
Nice little package of extras on this DVD:
An audio commentary track featuring director George Gage and actor/skater Tony Alva – An amiable chatty track with both participants fondly recalling their time making the movie. Alva in particular is a well-spoken commentator with interesting and intelligent observations on the themes explored within the movie, which for him was essentially a dramatization of the life he was leading at the time to a certain extent.
An interview with Tony Alva – Running 17 minutes, this is an interesting chat with the surfer/skater. He talks about how he got started in skateboarding, what it’s like to look back at the age of 52 on this film he made when he was just a 19 year old kid, how much he enjoyed working with professional actors and the lasting connections he made with people in the film.
An interview with director George Gage – Running 13 minutes, Gage talks about casting the film, developing the script, his time as a ‘Mad Man’ in advertising and his current activities filming documentaries with his wife.
An interview with director George Gage & Tony Alva – Running 5 minutes this seems to be all about just getting the two in the same shot for a quick natter on camera and a look at a piece of memorabilia from the movie.
Plus an original theatrical trailer for the main feature and a bonus trailer for Where The Boys Are.