Rollercoaster (1977) (NTSC)

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Released 9-Aug-2019

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 118:14
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By James Goldstone
ViaVision Starring George Segal
Richard Widmark
Henry Fonda
Timothy Bottoms
Susan Strasberg
Harry Guardino
Helen Hunt
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI ? Music Lalo Schifrin

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Department of Safety inspector Harry Calder (George Segal) is divorced, trying to give up smoking and at odds with his boss Simon Davenport (Henry Fonda). When a rollercoaster Calder had inspected two months previously and given a clean bill of health to crashes killing a number of people Harry is both aghast and distressed. But when another rollercoaster 2,000 miles away across the country shortly afterwards catches fire Harry starts to suspect the rides are being sabotaged and he gate-crashes a meeting in Chicago of five theme park owners where an extortion demand of $1 million is delivered. The FBI are alerted and agent Hoyt (Richard Widmark) takes charge. They agree to pay the bomber, who is only named Young Man in the credits (Timothy Bottoms), and he selects a theme park in Virginia for the drop and insists that Harry is the one to deliver the money. After a long cat and mouse chase around the theme park the money is delivered. However, the FBI have marked the bills and the young man, feeling betrayed by Harry and the theme park owners, decides to deliver a message on the 4th of July holiday weekend they will not forget.

     Rollercoaster was directed by James Goldstone whose 60 credits in the IMDb are primarily TV although the year before Rollercoaster he had directed the action film Swashbuckler with Robert Shaw, James Earl Jones and Genevieve Bujold. His direction of Rollercoaster is slick and, of course, putting the camera in the front seat of a rollercoaster as he does frequently cannot help but get the heart racing! Rollercoaster is a simple film in its plotting, spending no time on an explanation of the young man’s background or reason for his actions. There are also only three main set pieces, but each is very effective as Goldstone stages them slowly, gradually allowing the tension to build. For example, the opening sequence leading to a rollercoaster crash is over 12 minutes in length; the audience knows there is a bomb in the tracks but rides go by when we expect an explosion, which goes on and on and is heart in the mouth stuff. The cat and mouse sequence with the ransom is long, intricate and intense, the climax on the 4th of July explosive.

     The casting is impressive. George Segal is excellent as the rumpled investigator, always on the hunt to bum a cigarette, while Timothy Bottoms and Richard Widmark are also very good. Henry Fonda, however, has little to do while the main cast is rounded out by Susan Strasberg, Harry Guardino (familiar from the Dirty Harry films) and a very young Helen Hunt, who later won an Oscar for As Good as It Gets (1997), in her first feature role.

     Rollercoaster is a blast! There is no mystery as to the identity of the bomber, in fact he is the first character we see on screen. Rather, the film is an intelligent thriller, and a duel of wits as the young man outsmarts the FBI, staying one step ahead of them at every turn as the film, slowly, ratchets up, and up, the tension. Rollercoaster is an old fashioned thriller, but a good one.

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Transfer Quality


     Rollercoaster is in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, NTSC and 16x9 enhanced. The cover states that this DVD release is the “remastered uncut version . . . on DVD for the first time”. For information about the cuts that were made to the film, see the censorship section below.

     Rollercoaster looks very good, you only need to compare the feature with the dull and soft Original Theatrical Trailer in the extras to see the difference. While some establishing widescreen shots are a little soft, detail elsewhere is firm even in the sequences when the camera POV is in the front seat of a rollercoaster flying along the rails and around turns; indeed the ups and downs of the ride may well induce nausea! The detail is strong enough to see where dummies were used in the opening scene crash, although it must be said that elsewhere in that crash sequence two stuntmen were injured. Colours are vibrant in the theme parks, highlighting the laughing clowns, displays and rides while the balloons stand out against a brilliant blue sky. Blacks are solid, shadow detail very good, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent. I may have noticed a couple of fleeting marks but that was all.

     The layer change is not noticeable.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224 Kbps. In most theatres this was the original sound however in selected theatres that could be outfitted with special speakers the film featured “Sensurround” which produced vibrations intended to allow the audience to feel, as well as see, the ride. However, this proved less than successful; people reported feeling sick and in one theatre a net had to be spread above the audience to catch plaster shaken loose from the ceiling. Rollercoaster was the third film to be released in Sensurround following Earthquake (1974) and Midway (1976) and after the fourth film, Battlestar Galactica (1978), Sensurround was abandoned.

     Dialogue is always clear. The effects, such as the roar of water fountains, helicopter engines and especially the boom of the rollercoaster on its rails are loud and unnerving. It would have sounded something else in Sensurround, but for a mono track this is very good.

     The score by Lalo Schifrin is catchy. Over his long career Schifrin was nominated 6 times for Oscars, including for Cool Hand Luke (1967), but never won although in 2019 he received an Honorary Award. He is perhaps best known for composing the Mission Impossible theme.

    Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Original Theatrical Trailer (1:18)

    The trailer is soft with faded colours, showing what the film could have looked like prior to restoration.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The DVD reviews I can find of Rollercoaster are of the version that was released two decades ago. Where Blu-ray is concerned, the most complete release is the more recent Region B UK version which has two cuts of the film, an audio commentary and a new 22 minute documentary. For DVD, for now, I will call it a draw until more information comes to hand.


     Rollercoaster is 40 years old but as an exciting and entertaining thriller it has not aged a bit, illustrating again that thrills and excitement don’t have to depend on CGI explosions but can be generated by a tight script and good acting. Rollercoaster is an unexpected delight.

     The video and audio are good. A trailer is the only extra.

     Rollercoaster was supplied for review by Via Vision Entertainment. Visit their Facebook page for the latest releases, giveaways, deals and more.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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