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Rollercoaster (1977)

PG | | Action, Crime, Drama | 17 June 1977 (USA)
A blackmailer threatens to sabotage roller coasters at various American amusement parks if he isn't paid a huge ransom.

Director:

James Goldstone

Writers:

Sanford Sheldon (story), Richard Levinson (story) | 4 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... Harry Calder
Richard Widmark ... Hoyt
Timothy Bottoms ... Young Man
Henry Fonda ... Simon Davenport
Harry Guardino ... Keefer
Susan Strasberg ... Fran
Helen Hunt ... Tracy Calder
Dorothy Tristan ... Helen
Harry Davis Harry Davis ... Benny
Stephen Pearlman ... Lyons
G.F. Rowe G.F. Rowe ... Wayne Moore (as Gerald Rowe)
Wayne Tippit ... Christie
Michael Bell ... Demerest
Charlie Tuna Charlie Tuna ... Rock Concert M.C.
Lonny Stevens Lonny Stevens ... Federal Agent #1
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Storyline

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 Mark Walker

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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 »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 June 1977 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Rollercoaster See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$9,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Sensurround | Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The three amusement Parks featured in the film included Ocean View Park in Norfolk, Virginia, Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia, and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. See more »

Goofs

During the last ride of the Revolution roller coaster, the police chase after the young man. The chase is much longer than the actual roller coaster ride time. See more »

Quotes

Tracy Calder: Daddy, Confucius say "with faith, man can move mountain."
Harry Calder: I thought Jesus said that.
Tracy Calder: Well, maybe he did. But according to that fortune cookie...
Fran: Which is yours, by the way...
Tracy Calder: ...Confucius said it too.
Harry Calder: Don't believe everything you read.
Tracy Calder: I think daddy's pissed off.
Harry Calder: Where does she learn language like that?
[Fran shrugs]
See more »

Alternate Versions

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 »

Connections

Referenced in Bad Movie Beatdown: Meteor (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Hello! Ma Baby
(uncredited)
Written by Joseph E. Howard and Ida Emerson
[Singing Mushrooms in amusement park]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
If Columbo worked for Standards and Safety...
4 September 2009 | by Ajjam1967See all my reviews

A mysterious young man (Bottoms) derails a Roller-coaster with a bomb, killing or injuring passengers, then attacks more amusement parks across the US in order to extort $1m from the companies running them. It is not immediately obvious that these attacks were deliberate, as opposed to being accidents (e.g. through metal fatigue), so the Amusement Park owners can keep what is happening quiet. It also makes it easier for the extortionist as he has public hysteria to threaten the owners with if they don't pay him off.

Harry Calder (Segal) works for Standards and Safety. He had inspected the derailed Roller-coaster, realises other amusement parks have suffered similar problems and finds out about the plot. Calder gets involved more deeply than he envisaged, as he becomes a reluctant 'bag man' for the $1m, whilst the FBI try to catch the mystery man, just as the US heads towards 4th July and a wealth of potential targets.

This movie is a decent suspense thriller and I have seen it several times. I have never regarded it as part of the 'disaster' movie genre and feel such a description is both lazy and inappropriate. Whilst the Roller-coaster crash scenes were fairly horrible for the time, they seem pale today. The horror is in the mind, and there are only a couple of such scenes in the movie. It is not therefore a bloody horror flick, either.

I don't know if this misconception comes from bad marketing, suggesting that this is a disaster movie, or if there were suggested scenes of gore and blood for the horror fans, in order to con people into the cinema, or if this is down to the critics of the time being lazy and perhaps even reviewing a movie they didn't see. I am a little too young to have seen or read anything at the time.

This is a suspense thriller, even though there is no suspense about 'whodunit', but the movie's style is familiar and it is no surprise to see 'Columbo' creators Levinson and Link in the credits.

The strength of this movie is the cynical, maverick, but quick-witted Calder character that is played so well by Segal. He also has the often-amusing story thread to play with of trying to quit smoking (you wonder if 'Airplane' got the "picked a hell-of-a-day to quit smoking" from Roller-coaster). Calder, we also find, is divorced from his wife, amicably, and has a daughter called Tracy (Helen Hunt, in a child role that hints of the actress to come), and he has a lover, Fran (Strasberg).

Widmark gives FBI Agent Hoyt authority and a little added depth as the film progresses and he spars nicely, if not quite equally, with Segal's Calder. Henry Fonda, in his 70s, essentially has a cameo as Calder's boss, and Strasberg is underused as Calder's girlfriend, in a role that you suspect may have had a little more to it in the script than there was in the movie's final cut. I smell a plot twist that was cut for some reason, perhaps time.

Bottoms is suitably chilling as the amoral, perhaps sociopathic extortionist, because he is young, good-looking, quiet, polite, intelligent, clean-cut, and, as he corrects Calder about his "psychological profile", this is for him a business transaction; he is only interested in the money.

Some may feel that this character is a bit thin, and this may (again) be down to a cut from the original script, but he might simply have been written that way. You don't really need to know more than you ever find out about this character, but because he is a cool, calm sort of a madman, as opposed to the more traditional 'raving lunatic', you may be left wanting at the lack of an obvious answer or explanation for his actions.

There are hints, however. As well as the sociopathic traits, he is an explosives expert, electronics expert, about 30 and, in an early scene, a decent marksman. In mid-1970s USA, what does that suggest? Perhaps the guy running the amusement park duck shoot has him correctly pegged; perhaps not. The Bottoms character simply smiles and walks away, staying mysterious.

There are also bit parts for Harry Guardino, Craig Wasson and Steve Guttenberg, and it features real life band, Sparks.

I recommend this movie. It is a suspense movie that appeals to the brain rather than a horror or disaster movie that appeals more to the senses. It has become a bit dated, as, for example, a $1m extortion fee seems small these days, and Roller-coaster rides were really at their height then, so the enthusiasm for the rides by adults indicates a bygone era, and a 70s movie in setting and style is too distinctive to be anything else, but that now becomes part of its latter-day charm.

Roller-coaster is also a duel of wits, with Segal perfectly cast, and Bottoms, as I say, suitably chilling. With both characters being intelligent and quick-witted, able to plan and to improvise, this adds to the plot, the tension and therefore the overall enjoyment.

You might also recall and bear in mind that this movie was made at the time of "Son of Sam", "The Hillside Stranglers" and Ted Bundy.


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