Friday, September 9, 2016

The Demon of the Derby (2001)

Director: Sharon Rutter

Composer: Jeff Pittson

Starring: Ann Calvello

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The Ann Calvello Story: She's not just alive...she's kicking!

Plot: This documentary portrait follows Roller Derby's "Meanest Mama on Skates", Ann Calvello. Now in her 70s, Ann refuses to give up the limelight - she is still bashing heads on the banked track of any upstart league that will have her. And she's still acting like the bawdy bad girl of the Derby, even as she bags groceries at her part-time job at Safeway. In the two years the documentary follows her, Ann simultaneously grapples with her declining ability to skate and her determination to be the first professional athlete to have competed continuously in a sport for six decades.

My rating:7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

In the past couple of years I've been to a few roller derby games (my first) and they're lots of fun.  That's when I sought out movies and documentaries on the subject.  This was the first one I watched.  This stuff was HUGE when I was a kid in the 70s but I'd mostly forgotten about it in the time since.  Anyway, this 53 minute documentary gives you about everything you'd want in a career overview of the game's most notorious and violent players.  She comes across very full of herself and that she's still got that chip on her shoulder.  Part of that could be playing up her celebrity image but I think she's genuine in that regard.  She's rough around the edges and doesn't give a shit about much of anything.  To hear her colleagues talk about her, she's a total bitch (well, some of them think that).  Still, she led an interesting and vibrant career in the sport, full of controversy which is probably the only way she liked it.  The best part of this film, though, is the gobs of vintage footage of the games.  That was a lot of fun to watch.  I'd love to see one of them in its entirety someday.  Now I'm ready to move onto some of the movies made on the subject back in the 70s. 

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