Tag Archives: Donald G. Jackson


366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

DIRECTED BY: Donald G. Jackson

FEATURING: Suzanne Solari, Jeff Hutchinson, Shaun Michelle, Katina Garner, Sam Mann

PLOT: During the Second Dark Age in the City of Lost Angels, a holy order of avenging roller-skating nuns battle evil mutants.

Still from Roller Blade (1986)

COMMENTS: It’s extremely important not to overthink Roller Blade, because Donald G. Jackson, the Z-movie legend who thought up the thing, absolutely did not overthink it. This is, after all, the man who dreamed up “Zen Filmmaking,” a commitment to scriptless, why-the-hell-not productions that make everyone else look as obsessive as . So let’s try and embrace the spirit of Roller Blade and just get to the heart of the matter.

This is a film that is made up almost entirely of lunatic choices. Placing the fate of humanity in the hands of a group of nuns on roller skates who wield switchblades that heal the wounded should clue you in, but Jackson happily goes further. The forces of good all speak in faux Shakespearean patois, even the highway patrolman who is the sisters’ only ally. The villains, meanwhile, consist of a man in a steampunk luchador mask and his mini-me, a wrinkly puppet that looks and acts like a bleached Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. (Speaking of which, one of the nuns is an actual dog.) The voice of wisdom is the order’s mother superior, a wheelchair-bound sage with a Latka Gravas accent and a propensity for astounding cosmic aphorisms like “The Cosmic Order of Roller Blade is the only force on Earth where all weapons and battle techniques are converted into tools of love” and “My visions have shown me a new world where it will one day be easy to trust every beast.”

The nuttiness extends to the filmmaking as well. The opening credits intercut incomprehensible images of women dressed like garden gnomes, a writhing woman enduring a restless slumber, and a group of hooligans on the attack, all to the tune of bombastic music cues that crescendo long before the list of names is complete, meaning the score has to keep restarting. With no natural sound, everyone is dubbed in the fashion of a Japanese monster movie, and the filmmakers are so committed to not showing moving lips that one character manages to play harmonica through a bandana.

And let’s not overlook Jackson’s commitment to crowd-pleasing nudity. Early on, three of the sisters are kidnapped and forced to engage in a naked catfight. When they are later rescued, they are brought back to the sanctuary to step naked into a recuperative hot tub and rub each other back to health. A character quickly peels off her bodysuit after being splashed with acid, and later kneels before a dying man to bless him with her uncovered body. Jackson has an audience in mind, and he’s prepared to fulfill their expectations.

It’s fun to list all that is quite nuts about Roller Blade, but the movie is actually less than the sum of its parts. It’s very slow, nobody’s motivations are entirely clear, and the tone is wildly inconsistent, swinging from broad comedy to awkward earnestness at random. So there’s no argument that there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on, but it never really coheres into anything watchable. It’s just Jackson coming up with ideas and immediately finding ways to film them. An impressive accomplishment, but an iffy product.

Creatively, it might be a mess, but Roller Blade was a financial smash, grossing $1 million off its $20,000 budget and earning Jackson the right to make the iconic Hell Comes to Frogtown. But his heart never strayed far from his humble beginning chronicling the adventures of bodacious babes in roller skates. Although he didn’t make good on the promise of the closing title card (advertising Roller Blade 2: Holy Thunder), he eventually helmed four sequels, each of which has a reputation for being strange. Donald G. Jackson wasn’t skilled, but he had audacity, and given how many times we’ve seen the reverse, his is a career to salute.

Roller Blade has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray and is available on vintage VHS only. At this writing, it can be found on Tubi, however.

A BRIEF HISTORICAL NOTE: Despite what the title might imply, no one in this movie who skates (and nearly everyone does) wears the inline skates of the title, but rather classic roller skates. That is because the product bearing the trademark “Rollerblade” was first commercially available in 1987, the year after this movie came out. I’m not saying that the movie inspired the mode of transport, but it does explain the confusing lack of Rollerblades in Roller Blade. 366 Weird Movies: out here doing the hard work so you don’t have to.


“…embraces its cheesy, campy, exploitative and bad qualities to produce something bizarre, like a cheap Mad Max made while on acid and horny.”–Zev Toledano, The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

(This movie was nominated for review by Phoenix. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)


DIRECTED BY:  Donald G. Jackson, R.J. Kizer

FEATURING: Roddy Piper, Sandahl Bergman, Cec Verrell, William Smith,

PLOT: After a nuclear apocalypse Sam Hell, one of the few remaining virile men on earth, goes into a town ruled by mutant frogs to rescue a harem of fertile women.

Still from Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Frogtown‘s most memorable quote is “you are one weird dude!,” spoken by a frog man who is about to cut off a wastelander’s futuristic chastity belt with a chainsaw. It just goes to show that “weird” is subjective, based on what you’re used to encountering in daily life. Although this charmingly stupid post-apocalyptic flick has a goofy mutant premise, we’re so besotted in bizarre pictures that we can’t honestly say “this is one weird movie!”

COMMENTS: No matter what you think about Hell Comes to Frogtown‘s quality, you cannot deny that the film delivers exactly what the title promises: it’s about a man named Hell who goes to Frogtown, which, as the name implies, is a town populated by frogs. The absurd premise disguises a by-the-numbers action plot, but the script throws in a few additional entertaining eccentricities. The first is Sam Hell himself, played by the affable “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in his debut film. Piper plays the archetypal reluctant hero more as a frat boy jonesin’ for a kegger than a dangerous rogue. Until the final act, the filmmakers don’t take advantage of his wrestler’s physique or athleticism; through the first half of the movie he keeps his shirt on and does nothing at all that’s remotely heroic or even physically imposing. He doesn’t even get into his first scrape until the 45 minute mark, when he’s coldcocked by a single punch—to the breadbasket. Further, Frogtown‘s biggest running joke is that studly Hell, the world’s most fertile man alive who can sleep with any woman in the wasteland, is never in the mood for love because his potential mates are either too aggressive, or too amphibious. There is a surprising amount of bondage imagery: Hell is outfitted with an electroshock chastity belt, to control his behavior and protect his precious seed. He gets to turn the tables on his at captor and putative love interest, voluptuous Spangle (Sandahl Bergman), in a role-playing session where she goes undercover as his slave girl, dressed in trashy black lingerie and a dog collar. Never has the mutual bondage inherent in romance been so elegantly allegorized in a mutant frog movie. As outlaws go, Hell is as nonthreatening a regular guy as you could imagine. But so much for Hell; what about the movie’s star attraction: Frogtown? It as, as stated, a town (actually an abandoned oil refinery, with all the action taking place inside warehouse-like interiors) inhabited entirely by mutant frog people. There are sexy stripper frogs, trader frogs in fezzes, chainsaw-wielding frogs. The toad masks are inevitably silly-looking, but actually effective; in the murky interiors, where we can’t really study their latex textures, they appear genuinely slimy. Kudos to the makeup department for just barely putting this over, using obviously limited resources. The rest follows standard action movie tropes, with (for the most part) reasonable budget execution of stock fight scenes. Of course, the entire rescue mission makes no sense on multiple levels: Hell and Spangle simply march into Frogtown with no obvious plan to rescue the captive women; and, if the world’s studliest remaining man is so valuable, why would you risk him on a dangerous infiltration? Don’t think twice about these things, though, as the script clearly doesn’t. What makes Frogtown work is that it toes a fine line of camp. It doesn’t take itself seriously, but neither does it apologize for asking us suspend our disbelief on something so ridiculous. It plays out its post-apocalyptic harem scenario as if it took place in a real alternate world, keeping the fourth wall intact. Frogtown is every thirteen-year-old boy’s ultimate fantasy: it’s like a summer vacation full of adventures, girls, and occasional frog-gigging. If you’re a thirteen-year-old boy, it’s the awesomest movie ever made; if you’re not, you may still find enough good-natured ridiculousness to keep you watching until the happy ending.

Donald G. Jackson made Roller Blade (an even more bizarre flick about futuristic roller skating nuns) in 1986 for under $100,000, and it grossed over $1 million at drive-ins. This success convinced New World Pictures to allow Jackson to tackle a more ambitious project, but they were nervous about handing the neophyte auteur a million dollar budget, and insisted on a co-director for insurance purposes. R.J. Kizer came from a sound design background and had shot some second-unit footage for Godzilla 1985. According to Jackson on the DVD commentary, Kizer had little creative input in the production.


“The film has a clear eye for the absurdities of its own plot without fully rupturing the envelope of credibility…”–Richard Scheib, Moria: The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review

(This movie was nominated for review by Royce. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)