Often people declare that there’s no way a studio can remake a film only to find the “re-imagined” version playing at the multiplex a month later with Jessica Chastain as the female lead. Seems like any movie is up for grabs as long as the studio sees a way to make more money than re-issuing the old title. Universal will never remake Rollercoaster. How can this be stated as a fact? Simply put, Universal is now in the amusement park industry. Do they really want audiences to fear that a mad bomber will be blowing up Dragon Challenge at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Of course not. Rollercoaster will never be replaced by a sleeker 21st Century version. Thankfully the film has been given a high definition upgrade that delivers the original Sensurround soundtrack that shock theater seats in the summer of 1977.
As the Ocean View Amusement Park in Norfolk, Virginia opens in the morning, the crew gets the place prepared for the summer crowd. There’s a stranger checking out The Rocket rollercoaster. Turns out it’s Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show) is the guy and he’s up to no good as he creeps around as night sets in. He pulls out a remote control and gives the people on The Rocket a reason to scream as he presses a button. A rail explodes and the cars go flying. It’s pure mayhem in the park. Field inspector Harry Calder (George Segal) gets called by his boss (Henry Fonda) in to investigate the rollercoaster and find out how the inspection didn’t catch the fatal flaw. Harry picked the wrong day to quit smoking. He’s under the gun as to why the ride failed. During the investigation, Bottoms sets fire to a shutdown rollercoaster in Pittsburgh. Harry quickly deducts something is up. When he tries to get a hold of the amusement park owners, he discovers a wall of silence and they’ve flown off for a meeting in Chicago. He gets into the meeting and discovers Bottoms will do more damage if they don’t pay him a million dollars. The owners don’t want Harry near them. He seems to prefer spending time with his daughter (Helen Hunt). But Bottoms wants Harry to be the bag man for payoff. This turns into a bit of a chase that ends with the opening of The Great American Revolution at Magic Mountain. How many people will get the final ride of their life before Bottoms is finished?
Rollercoaster isn’t too over the top with disaster carnage which is great. The film mainly rests on George Seagal and Timothy Bottoms playing cat and mouse. Seagal is great as an Oscar Madison character. Bottoms is chilly as the bomber. Richard Widmark is just cold as the head of the amusement park owners who wants this to just stop. There’s even a surprise cameo from Steve Guttenberg. The film offers great views of amusement parks during the Bicentennial summer including Kings Dominion and Magic Mountain when things were a little simpler and less overloading to the senses. Plus there’s the excitement of seeing Sparks performing for a huge crowd that must have been scratching their heads when the cameras weren’t rolling. The best part about Rollercoaster is knowing that it won’t be getting remade anytime soon with The Rock and Benedict Cumberbatch. This is the only movie about amusement park destruction that will be made by Universal since they need to keep people thinking Universal Studios is a safe place to be scared. Rollercoaster remains a fun summer thriller as long as you don’t watch it on your iPhone while waiting for the Dragon Challenge. Then you’re going to be extra scared.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer transports you onto the rollercoasters during the POV scenes. The audio is 2.1 Dolby True HD Sensurround Audio along with a 2.0 DTS-HD Master audio. The Sensurround is preferred since you get to feel that rollercoaster rumble in your molars. The movie is subtitled.
Interview with writer Tommy Cook (12:51) has him discuss how his passion for rollercoasters made him want to make the movie. He explains his primal story about a frustrated soldier returned to America who uses his explosives expertise to get revenge on the America that turned his back on him. His story on how the movie got made involves Dean Martin and Bob Evans. He points out the film did fine even though it came out during the summer of Star Wars.
Radio Spots (2:08) makes it sound like a POV film as you get the chase down the killer and ride the rollercoaster.
Still Gallery (4:55) is plenty of publicity stills including Helen Hunt eating lunch. We get to see that camera rig for the front of the coaster shots. The foreign posters and the alternate titles are fun.
Theatrical Trailer (1:19) gets us ready for the thrill of our life.
Shout! Factory presents Rollercoaster. Directed by: James Goldstone. Screenplay by: Tommy Cook, Sanford Sheldon, Richard Levinson & William Link. Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Henry Fonda, Helen Hunt, George Segal. Running Time: 118 minutes. Rated: PG. Released: June 21, 2016.
Tags: George Segal, Rollercoaster