PRESENTED, FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE, IN CHEESAROUND . . .
I saw this one back in 1977 with both my parents, and even though I enjoyed it immensely (the thing was named, "Rollercoaster," so that goes without saying, right?), I knew it was a shlocky piece of crap even at 9 years-old. My recollection of the plot: crazy dude plants time bombs on the tracks of various roller coasters around the US, causing death and mayhem. But as with Jaws & the Amity beach, or the proprietors of any family entertainment center in all 70's disaster flicks, they wanted to keep it all open and running during the busy season. More death & mayhem ensues as our heroes race against time to blah, blah, blah. You know the drill.
Anyway, two things stand out: it featured actual American roller coasters, and the movie was hyped for having Sensurround, which I presume was some early version of surround sound. Much of the camera work was presented from the POV of a roller coaster passenger, and the Sensurround added the sound element, and blah, blah, blah. I remember the theater having a lot more speakers than usual, and the whole movie was really loud. I don't recall thinking it felt like being on a roller coaster, but I was still a few months away from my first roller coaster ride, being too short to get on the friggin' Dragon Coaster at Playland, so what did I know?
And yes, I'm still very bitter about that. I don't even wanna talk about, ok?
Whew. Now then, let's get to the fun part, the Cast: Quite a cast in this one, actually. Among the quality actors who inexplicable found themselves in this disaster (the movie, not the scenes therein): Timothy Bottoms, still in that long transitional period that saw him moving from excellent early 70's films like The Last Picture Show, The Paper Chase, and Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo's movie version of his famous, anti-war novel, later featured in clips from the video for Metallica's "One," to a dependable "That Guy" of the small screen, usually playing fathers, doctors, sensible men & Presidents.
Richard Widmark, was also in Rollercoaster, playing "Agent Hoyt." I'm guessing that anytime an actor finds himself in a disaster flick, playing "Agent Hoyt," we're gonna be in the vicinity of a strong case of Agent Hate. Unbelievably, Henry Fonda also appeared, probably because he owed someone a favor.
Other notables include George Segal, who I believe was required by law to appear in 1/3 of all bad movies made between 1974 and 1981, and Craig Wasson, who starred in Body Double, one of Brian DePalma's patented "controversial" movies. This one, along with Ken Russell's awful Crimes of Passion, starring Kathleen Turner, caused much hand-wringing in 1984 for sex, violence, and violent sex (or was it sexual violence?). Anyway, like any 16 year boy worth his salt, I made sure to see both of them as soon as I could, and as always with such controversies, had no idea at all what the big deal was. One of them -- don't remember which -- featured a woman killed by a giant, industrial drill, which while symbolically heavy-handed, was neither shocking nor titillating. Both movies were pretty boring.
More importantly, Wasson appeared in 1978's The Boys in Company C, a fine Vietnam War movie, which included the first film appearence by good old R. Lee Ermey, best known as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket (no link required for that one, I think we can agree, no?). I haven't seen it in many years, but I remember Ermey in a relatively small role, playing the same crazy drill sergeant he always plays, though there he was sadistic without being quite as funny. That's what you get without Kubrick in the picture ("In the picture," get it? 'Cause a movie's a picture, basically, and . . . oh, never mind).
Also, 13 year-old Helen Hunt playing Tracy Calder. I won't lie and say I remember who that was, but a bet that she played the "cute little girl who either dies or nearly dies in a rollercoaster crash" is the smart money; the late Susan Strasberg, who was a major babe in her day; Stephen Mendillo, who played William Hurt's father in Broadcast News, and was also in Slapshot, and Eight Men Out, in small roles; and finally, Bruce French, who's resume seems to indicate that he's appeared in every show in television history at least once (for crissakes, he was even on Herman's Head, which co-starred Helen Hunt's husband of a year-and-a-half, the great Hank Azaria).
It's all connected, folks.