When a roller coaster in California goes off its track, killing several people, safety inspector Harry Calder, who had recently inspected the coaster, is assigned to investigate. After another amusement park suffers a suspicious fire, Calder uncovers a blackmail plot by a psychopathic terrorist. The terrorist seems to know everything Calder and the FBI say and do, and insists that Calder deliver the blackmail money personally at an amusement park in Virginia. After running Calder all over the park, the money drop is made and the terrorist gets away, but he discovers that the FBI had marked the money, making it useless to him. He plots to get revenge by blowing up a giant new roller coaster on its opening day, and it's up to Calder to stop him.Written by
You are in a race against time...and terror. You are pursuing a nameless, faceless man through America's greatest amusement parks...and, for the first time, you are experiencing the most sensational rides of our time, IN SENSURROUND See more »
This film was generally released uncut in cinemas and later in the 1980s on VHS. However, at the end of the 1980s/the beginning of the 1990s, a few seconds were removed from the ending of the film (bodies lying on the floor, a one second close-up of the young man's face, bloody and with his eyes open). This version was used worldwide for subsequent TV airings, VHS re-release and then DVDs. See more »
I'd watched this thriller/disaster movie on Italian TV as a kid; I was looking forward to re-acquainting myself with it via the Universal DVD, as part of my ongoing Richard Widmark tribute but, unfortunately, the viewing was plagued by multiple freezing and jumps (beginning at the 47-minute mark and recurring every quarter of an hour or so thereafter!).
Despite some pacing problems which render the film a tad overlong, Roller-coaster is entertaining and fairly solid as these things go: once again, the casting sees a star in every major role. George Segal is the safety officer hero (his intelligence concealed by an essentially bemused countenance, he's ideal for playing the slightly neurotic common man suddenly thrust in the midst of a precarious situation), Timothy Bottoms the young extortionist/bomber (whose targets are various amusement parks across the U.S.), and Widmark plays the veteran F.B.I. agent out to get him (he also shares a typically antagonistic relationship with Segal). Henry Fonda appears as the hero's cantankerous boss (though featured in many of these films, his roles were always brief and basically thankless), Susan Strasberg as Segal's current girlfriend, Harry Guardino a local cop (curiously enough, he had appeared with both Widmark and Fonda in MADIGAN , another policier but much classier). By the way, Segal's daughter here is played by a very young Helen Hunt!
Another interesting connection to an earlier thriller featuring a member of the film's cast is NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (1968) with Segal; in both titles, the hero is contacted by the killer prior to making his moves (with this in mind, Bottoms' clean-cut appearance lends the latter a chilling quality though the characterization, in itself, is fairly limited). Incidentally, the film is more concerned with the chase for the killer (generating reasonable suspense towards the end especially in the way he determines to plant another bomb on an inaugural roller-coaster ride after his initial gizmo is detected) rather than depicting his mayhem; in fact, there's only one major disaster sequence early on (but it's an undeniably spectacular one)! I should mention, at this point, Lalo Schifrin's rather schizophrenic music the carousel jingle is quite effective, but the scoring of the suspense sequences is gratingly monotonous!
P.S. Director Goldstone followed this with another star-studded epic WHEN TIME RAN OUT (1980), about an erupting volcano which, however, was a notorious production that brought the disaster movie cycle to a lamentable conclusion. I wouldn't mind revisiting it at this stage, though
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