Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Rollercoaster" (1977) - movie review

I've had the Lalo Shcifrin soundtrack LP to this movie "Rollercoaster" for years, so when Netflix added the flick a few weeks back I decided I should watch it.
George Segal plays the sharp dressed, 70s mustachioed amusement park safety inspector who acts and is treated by everyone he meets like an FBI agent. In fact, I might not have been paying that close of attention since I was making some movie snacks when it started and I thought he was a cop for the first half hour of the picture. Henry Fonda plays one of the heads of the mafia like amusement park chairmen who run the amusement park industry with a stern, old world attitude and just won't listen to Segal's crazy ideas no matter how many times he turns out to be correct. Timothy Bottoms is the terrorist/extortionist/mad bomber holding Magic Mountain in his icy grip of terror! Like the flip side of the Scorpio Killer from Dirty Harry, he's a calm and collected sociopath who he will stop at nothing to get what he wants (a million dollars!), even if it means killing hundreds of amusement park fans at the grand opening of a Magic Mountain loop coaster on the fourth of July!

Chilling, prescient and timely, this film is even more relevant today than when it was originally released.
"Rollercoaster" was part of the late 70s safety inspector craze I'm assuming was brought on by Walter Matthau mania and "The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3". In the 70s people LOVED safety inspecting! Safety Inspector fan clubs were everywhere, kids dressed as safety inspectors for Halloween, safety inspecting was the theme of every other tv show, play and movie that came out in 77 and 78, people just could not get enough safety inspecting! Don't worry though, "Rollercoaster" doesn't just glide along on safety inspector movie cliches, but brings it's own unique flavor and feel that creates a taut high wire thriller that's a worthy addition to the hallowed halls of the safety inspector thriller movie genre.

The picture was filmed in incredible soundiing 1:1 "Sensaround!" which consisted of putting a giant subwoofer in the theater that shook the seats during the rollercoaster POV scenes, and you can recreate at home with your "bass boost" button on your stereo remote. Oh, did I mention those rollercoaster POV shots? Do you like rollercoaster POV? If you do my friend, than you are in for a real treat! I think all you rollercoaster POV fans out there will REALLY enjoy this movie because there are A LOT of rollercoaster POV scenes. In fact, I'm going to wager a bet that the movie "Rollercoaster" might be one of the top 10 rollercoaster POV scene movies of all time. On top of that, there are some pretty damn good rollercoaster disaster movie scenes, people crying and screaming in terror, running everywhere as stuntmen and dummies plunge screaming from rollercoaster tracks, and makes for an exciting mixture of disaster film and 70s crime flick. Maybe not a ton of gore, but the stark terror of a coaster car plunging off the tracks and sending dummys and stuntmen flying through the air is something that you won't soon forget, and sticks with you long after the credits roll.

Sparks performs two songs at Magic Mountain that are pretty awesome. One is called "Big Boy" and they smash their gear at the end and the Magic Mountain crowd of kids goes crazy, waving balloons everywhere. There's also a lot of balloons in this movie. I'm not sure how long the actual studio version of the Spark's song is, but in the movie I think it's around 15 minutes long. "Big boy!" "Big boy!". No Sparks songs on the soundtrack LP, but I think I might download one of their albums.
Speaking of, the Lalo Shifrin score is really awesome for this flick. Crazy mix of calliope/circus music and 70s funk, as well as a couple good tense usual Shifrin style thriller/horror movie numbers. The songs actual weave in and out of each other in the movie and on the LP, which makes the funk and circus numbers have a sort of evil vibe that's really cool. If you see the LP I'd pick it up, especially if you're a Shifrin fan.

So, if you love safety inspecting even half as much as I do, move this underrated George Segal gem to the top of your queue today! Perfect for a safety inspector movie marathon!


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