Kansas City Bomber (1972)

Kansas City Bomber (1972)

“We’re all used — you, me, anybody on two legs. That’s what it’s all about. That’s your American pie for you.”

A single mother (Raquel Welch) working on the Roller Derby circuit while her two kids (Jodie Foster and Stephen Manley) live with her mom (Martine Bartlett) is transferred by a new team owner (Kevin McCarthy) from Kansas City to Portland, where she befriends two teammates (Katherine Pass and Norman Alden) but makes an instant rival in the team’s reigning alcoholic queen (Helena Kallianiotes).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Jodie Foster Films
  • Kevin McCarthy Films
  • Raquel Welch Films
  • Rivalry
  • Single Mothers
  • Sports
  • Strong Females

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “sleeper about the trials and tribulations of a roller-derby queen isn’t half bad” and “does contain what [he thinks] is Raquel Welch’s one genuinely fine movie performance”, noting somewhat disparagingly that “for once, she truly worked at establishing a real character.” He adds that the “picture has feminist slant; we get to admire this woman despite sleazy profession, as she stands alone against owner and jealous teammates — and we sympathize because she’s a working single mother who is always on the road and away from her child.” Like Peary, I was very pleasantly surprised by Welch’s characterization — not to mention her obvious skills on the derby rink. This film falls right in line with other movies about women (or men) trying to make a living in high-risk sports such a wrestling or boxing, who are ultimately pawns of those hoping to make a buck off of them at any cost. Both intense rivalry and loyal friendship are prevalant in a world like this — themes which the imperfect but serviceable script takes ample advantage of. While we don’t learn quite enough about Welch’s desire to be a derby girl, it is clear that this is one way she can provide for her family and escape from small-town drudgery. Watch for Jodie Foster in a small role as Welch’s daughter, and Martine Bartlett as a judgmental parent anyone would want to escape from (who can forget her role as Sally Field’s abusive mother in Sybil?).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Raquel Welch as K.C.
  • An effectively seedy glimpse at fans and the sport itself

Must See?
No, but it’s well worth a look, and probably has a bit of a cult following.


One thought on “Kansas City Bomber (1972)

  1. Not must-see. I would think this film has a small, specific audience (and they know who they are). Those viewers who aren’t quite the fans of sports films may feel they’re watching a sort of by-the-numbers overview of the roller landscape.

    ‘KCB’, in some way, may have been inspired by Sydney Pollack’s ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ (from a few years earlier). But Pollack’s film is much more ambitious, taking in a wide range of characters and using the dance marathon as a metaphor. …And it’s a downer.

    ‘KCB’ – something of a panacea for that – is the (somewhat-rambling) story of one woman making good against the odds. The film exists to give us someone – in particular, a woman – to root for.

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