Sunday, June 24, 2012
It always irritates me when people are counting Rollercoaster as a disaster movie. It's not. With that logic we should call Dirty Harry a disaster movie. Or The Laughing Policeman. It has elements that would make it fit in as a disaster movie: a star-studded seventies thriller, a scene with some destruction. But that's it. Like Two-Minute Warning this is a good old thriller, and actually a damn fine one - even if I have one big complain about it. But more to that later on in the review.
George Segal is safety inspector Harry Calder, a man who has two problems in life: to stop smoking and to shut the fuck up. After a terrible accident - really a sabotage - happens at a rollercoaster, killing lots of people, he think there's something fishy going on. When a fire starts at another amusement park he really puts two and two together and gets himself involved in what is a case of blackmailing of five huge entertainment companies, all of them owning amusement parks. Soon he's up against a terrorist (Timothy Bottoms) who stops for no one, and now it's a personal game of cat and mouse...
What's the bad thing about this awesome set-up? I think you might have guessed it already. They put the most spectacular, violent, expensive and cool scene in the beginning - when the first bomb goes off and launches a dozen innocent life's to their death! Watch out for some nice dummy deaths here! It's a great sequence and it's a real shocker to start a movie with. Pity it all goes more...low-key from that, into a very well-written but not so spectacular thriller that lives on good dialogue and a wonderful cast. If you except those ingredients it will be no disappointment, but I remember as a kid watching this for the first time and slowly realized that "Yeah, it won't be any more violent than that first scene...".
I've a big boy now and I've learned to love the story and especially the very fine performance by handsome George Segal, who manages both to be a funny dude and a good typical seventies hero at the same time. He's cynical, human and witty. The whole movie is packed with good actors, and the usual one-location casting of Henry Fonda as the president... sorry, the boss of Harry Calder. Watch out for Helen Hunt, Steve Guttenberg and Craig Wasson in small parts - Helen as Calder's daughter and it took some time for me to recognize her. Richard Widmark, always a reliable tough guy, has a lot of good scenes opposite Segal.
Director James Goldstone, who later directed the mega-flop "When Time Ran Out..." for Irwin Allen, a very generic but still quite fun volcano-movie, does a good job here with establishing the characters and maybe mostly creating a sense of uncertainly around the calm, calculating terrorist played by Timothy Bottoms. I never grow tired of movies set in the seventies, and Goldstone both catches the grittiness that we love so much, but also that Disney-vibe of that "everything is okay" and "we're having ugly but still cool clothes."
The live performance by
is always awesome in a slightly outdated way. Cool band, I have to agree on
Rollercoaster is a good thriller which begins on the top and slowly works itself to the bottom - but in a good way. The game between Segal and Bottoms is the highlight of the movie, not counting the dummy deaths of course!