The roller coaster crash that kicks off the film was significantly more graphic in its depiction of flying bodies and gore as the cars derail and topple over, and the sequence was toned down considerably before the film was released to avoid an "R" rating.
The filmmakers were originally going to include a scene of the Young Man (Timothy Bottoms) on the phone with his mother. It was to establish a motive behind his plot, namely to get the money from larger amusements parks that were forcing his parents' small family-owned amusement park out of business. The filmmakers later decided that the movie was more suspenseful if the motive behind the Young Man's actions were never known, as well as keeping the audience from sympathizing with the Young Man's situation.
Is the third film to be presented in "Sensurround", a special low-frequency bass speaker setup consisting of four huge speakers loaned by distributors to select theaters showing the film. This system was employed only during certain sequences of the film, and was so powerful that it actually cracked plaster at some movie theaters. "Sensurround" was employed in only three other films released by Universal: Earthquake (1974), Midway (1976), and the theatrical release of Battlestar Galactica (1978).
The mad bomber played by Timothy Bottoms is billed only as "Young Man" and never referred to by any personal name in the picture. In the accompanying film tie-in novel "Death Ride" by Burton Wohl, the bomber is given the name Eddie Parnassus.
The roller coaster featured in the main climax of the movie is the Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. It opened in 1976, and was the first roller coaster to feature a complete 360-degree vertical loop.
Tiger Beat Magazine and 16 Magazine reported to their readers in 1976 that the Scottish glam-rock band The Bay City Rollers were to perform in this film. However, The Bay City Rollers never did appear in this (or any other) theatrical film, and another glam-rock outfit, Sparks, are heard on the soundtrack instead.
Most of the actors portraying police officers in the film were real police officers from the surrounding areas. In fact, Charles W. Bennett, Jr., who played Bomb Squad Man, was a real-life bomb technician at the time the film was made. He was (in 1999) the chief of police in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Initially, Kennywood Amusement Park in West Mifflin, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was to be featured in the movie. But after reading the film's script, park management objected to the story. As such, the venue did not feature in the film, and the name in the script for this amusement park was changed to "Wonderworld".
First film where real location sound effects were recorded in Sensurround. The July and August 1977 edition of Movie News Magazine (Australia) reported, "a separate Senssurround sound crew was on hand throughout location filming, recording on prototype equipment designed for extremely low and high frequencies to give the film a dramatically realistic multiple-perspective sound."
Director James Goldstone once said of this movie: "But this is a suspense film not a disaster film. It is in the classic Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed tradition, in which the criminal challenges the police, and a surrogate, an innocent man, is drawn into the maelstrom."
Attractions at the Kings Dominion amusement park in Doswell, Virginia seen in the film included a replica of the Eiffel Tower, an antique modern monorail, a Lion Country Safari monorail, and the Rebel Yell twin-racing roller coaster.
Two stuntmen were injured and went to the hospital from filming a roller car crash sequence. The accident occurred at Ocean View Park in Norfolk, Virginia, for a sequence being captured by five cameras, where twenty-four passengers were to be killed from a roller coaster crash. One of the coaster cars hurled from the roller track as planned, landing on the balsa wood set building below the roller coaster with five stuntmen on-board, but two of them got injured.
Some movie posters for the film featured a long preamble that read: "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".
Another act that was rumored to have been offered an opportunity to appear in the film was KISS, but they allegedly turned it down. Ironically, the band filmed their much maligned film KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978) at Six Flags Magic Mountain, which was featured in this film.
Names of roller coasters in the movie included "The Rocket" (played by "The Southern Belle"), the wooden roller coaster "Rebel Yell" and Magic Mountain's "The Great American Revolution" ("La Revolución" and "The Revolution).
The original ending shot for this movie had Young Man (Timothy Bottoms) getting his feet caught in the roller coaster track, as he tries to jump off, and his legs get severed by the car. It was judged far too graphic (and might have resulted in an R-rating) and the scene was shortened where you see the cars woosh past him. The scene was cut so that you see no impact at all, just his body thrown to the ground.