Friday, October 13, 2006


Friday morning. You know what that means. Let's get to it, shall we? The Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day for today is . . .


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.


Blogger Thrillhous said...

Lordy, have a few IMDB links!

I think Ermey is in a movie that's coming out soon. Don't remember which one, though, so I'm not much help.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Lordy, have a few IMDB links!

Think of it as education, Thrill. No one has to click em all, but they're available for any who want to learn . . . useless facts about Hollywood nobodies, never-weres, never-will-bes, and the occasional was-but-isn't any more.

I think Ermey is in a movie that's coming out soon. Don't remember which one, though, so I'm not much help.

A three second-spin on Lee's IMBD link will answer that problem! You see, Thrill, I'm providing a valuable service here.

For free.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Okay, Body Double had the drill. Crimes of Passion had Kathleen Turner in the nude. Lots and lots of her in the nude playing a hooker. And Crimes of Passion also had Tony Perkins playing a, well, playing a psycho. Body Double had Melanie Griffith playing a porn star -- and I believe this was between her marriages to Don Johnson.

Oh, after seeing The Black Dahlia, am I the only one who thinks that Brian DePalma should've quit directing after The Untouchables?

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

No John, you're not the only one. In fact, other than film critic Armond White who thinks that DePalma, along with Jonathan Demme & Steven Spielberg (!), are the greatest living directors, I don't know anyone who thinks DePalma's has shit to offer any more.

I have a friend who insists DePalma's always been a hack, including The Untouchables. I'm not saying I totally agree re that particular film, but I've had to begrudgingly admit it's got some serious flaws. I still enjoy it from the mindless entertainment perspective, but great filmamking it ain't.

I can see the lightning bolts forming now, but I've always thought Scarface was idiotic. I'll watch it when it's on, but I'll also watch any movie I saw between the ages of 8 & 24 if it's on when I'll flipping channels.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

I never had understood the Scarface love. Pacino's accent changes from scene to scene, hell, from line to line. DePalma's always been a great visual director, but I just thought Scarface looked ugly. Well, except for Michelle Pfeiffer. If there's any reason to watch that movie, it's for Michelle Pfeiffer.

DePalma's always been a hack. He made his career on ripping off Hitchcock for people who'd never seen Hitchcock. But in the past, he was able to put together a story, now, it's just a bunch of visual images that generally don't make sense when edited together.

But that's just me. I also tend to think that Spielberg's a bit of a hack.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Pacino's accent changes from scene to scene, hell, from line to line.


Imagine if Kevin Costner played Manny.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Rollercoaster, whoo whoo whoo. Rollercoaster, whoo whoo whoo.

For some odd reason, that just popped into my head.
Now I hate you :)

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

But it's a good song, Ed! You shoild be thanking me, not hating.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On DePalma:

Untouchables - It's unbelievable to me that so many of my friends like it. Just a dumb, trite movie.

Body Double - Not great but my recollection is that it had some interesting camera work, at least to my novice eye.

Dressed to Kill - Excellent. DePalma's best work. A classic, IMHO.

Scarface - Stupid, cartoonish, but memorable. "Say hello to my rittle Fren!"

But overall, pretty much one disappointment after another since Dressed To Kill.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

The "anonymous" post from 4:09 was mine. Not sure what happened.


7:37 PM  

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