Ride it...in Sensurround!
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 04/03/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the title, I had originally thought Rollercoaster (1977) was going to be a disaster type movie that were popular in the 70's like Airport (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), or The Towering Inferno (1974), but it turned out to be something a lot different. I guess it was for the best, as a film about a rollercoaster that was running out of control, throwing stars of old off at various points, probably wouldn't have worked too well and would have been like scraping the bottom of the disaster-venue barrel.
The film stars George Segal as Harry Caulder, a government safety inspector who's thrown into a situation having to deal with a terrorist (Timothy Bottoms) bent on blowing up rollercoasters, harming and killing innocent amusement park patrons unless his demands are met. Also in the film are Richard Widmark as federal agent Hoyt, Henry Fonda as Caulder's boss (Fonda appears for like a total of five minutes in two or three scenes...long enough to pick up a check, I suppose), Susan Strassberg as Caulder's girlfriend, and a teenagish Helen Hunt as Caulder's daughter.
The film wastes very little time as Bottom's character strikes, blowing up part of the track on a large rollercoaster. The cars crash, people die horribly, and Caulder is called in...Apparently, he had just inspected this ride a few months prior, and now this accident and the subsequent deaths has everyone asking, "What happened?" No one, it seems, has bother to do a thorough inspection of the damaged track, otherwise they would have noticed it had been blasted apart, and everyone is assuming it a just an accident due to equipment failure or some such thing. I would suspect the insurance company would want to have had this done before they paid out any monies, but what the heck do I know? Anyway, another accident happens at another park, and Caulder gets wind of a meeting between the big wigs of five different amusement parks all over the country, and decides to try and attend. During the meeting, they learn the motive behind the attacks, and also learn of the terms required by the terrorist in order for him to stop. Since attacks by the same person happened in different states, the feds (Widmark) are called in, but the terrorist has taken a shine to Caulder, and requests he be involved in the events soon to follow. Will the terrorists' demands be met? Or will he strike again? What exactly is his deal? Does he just hate rollercoasters, or amusement parks in general?
The film wasn't bad. As I said, this isn't a disaster movie, but more of a game of cat and mouse, with the feds chasing Bottoms' character, trying to determine his next move. Caulder, who managed to piece together a number of elements early on, get caught up in the proceedings, having to play the terrorists' games hoping to avoid any future tragedies. Other than the somewhat gruesome scenes (which were actually toned down prior to release) at the beginning, this film just had a strong feel of a television production to me. There was an effort to try and create a level of suspense, in the sense of a Hitchcock film, but the predictability overwhelmed this more often than not, along with a few glaring plot holes, stereotypical characters, and contrived plot devices. And the music...I like Lalo Schifrin, but I found the music that accompanied Bottoms' character, especially when he was getting ready to do evil things, to become very annoying. The rollercoaster photography was nice, and I am sure it played much better on the big screen, and the actors were all competent in their roles.
Presented here is a nice looking wide screen print, although not without some very minor speckling on the picture in one or two parts. It's noteworthy to mention the film was released in Sensurround, a process that `augmented the violent action on screen by intense waves of high decibel sound, enough, in some documented cases, to crack ribs.' according to Haliwell's Film Companion. The gimmick never really caught on as it often disrupted films being show in adjoining theaters, causing complaints to theater managers who decided it just wasn't worth the trouble. Only two other films, Earthquake (1974) and Midway (1976) also used the process before it was discontinued. Special features include production notes, bios, a trailer, and some web links. While predictable, Rollercoaster was not a bad ride, although at a run time of two hours, it could have been shortened a little bit, adding a little more quickness to the pacing. Oh yeah, look for a cameo by Steve Guttenberg around 82 minutes into the film, as Federal Agent #3. Don't blink, or you'll miss it.
Terror in the amusement park
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 07/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Think you're safe from terror when you enter an amusement park? This underrated 1977 thriller will make you think twice about that assumption. What JAWS did for the beaches, DUEL for the highways, and PSYCHO for motel showers, ROLLERCOASTER does for amusement parks--turns them into places where absolutely no one is safe.George Segal is quite good as a cynical civic inspector looking into two very suspicious amusement park ride "accidents." He soon comes into phone contact with a young man (Timothy Bottoms), who is actually perpetrating these accidents to extort one million dollars from the owners of these parks. The result is slowly escalating suspense leading to a very tense conflict between Bottoms, Segal, and an FBI team headed by a very cynical agent (Richard Widmark).Boosted by Lalo Schifrin's often sinister Herrmann/Stravinsky-like score and James Goldstone's efficient direction, ROLLERCOASTER isn't the disaster movie it is often pegged as. Rather, it is an unjustifiably overlooked movie that deserves a revival. Look for a very young Helen Hunt as Segal's daughter."
Joseph Hammerstone | 07/05/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for a campy, over-produced, disaster film of the seventies, you're gonna be disappointed. If you can get over the title of this film and actually watch it, you're gonna be plesently surprised. The premise may seem silly, but it actually works. Great acting, a smart script, even smarter dialogue, and excellent editing make this a real thriller. The suspense is almost on the same line as "Jaws". Sure the gaudy setting may be a turn-off, but just pay attention to the story and action and you'll become engaged. What makes this film so unique is the fact that people go to amusement parks everyday without the notion of anything going wrong. You can feel for this film because we've all been in the situation where we know something bad can happen, but our own enjoyment can distract us. What "Poltergeist" does to the suburbs and "Speed" does to public transportation, "Rollercoaster" does the same thing to the least likeliest place of terror- family amusements parks. Also, if you're planning a trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles, you'll DEFINITELY want to check this movie out!"
3.5 stars out of 4. One rollercoaster ride of a film indeed
Joseph Hammerstone | St. Louis, MO USA | 09/25/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very enjoyable film all around. The cast are great, in particular Timothy Bottoms, George Segal and Richard Widmark. Its nice to see Henry Fonda in his small role. The plot is pretty standard but that is nothing to complain about here, since it is executed very well. Shots from the POV of a rollercoaster rider are neat and interesting to see indeed. It looks like they have fun making the film and there really isn't a reason to see why a viewer wouldn't have fun watching it? Look for Helen Hunt as a teenager and a walk on by Steve Guttenberg. Enjoy!!"