NCL Free At Sea

1977’s Rollercoaster Now Available Via Instant Streaming On Netflix

By on 12/24/2010

Rollercoaster is an action-adventure movie that was released by Universal in 1977. Timothy Bottoms plays a disturbed young man who, after causing fatal accidents at multiple theme parks, tries to extort the owners of the theme parks for $1,000,000. George Segal plays a ride safety inspector who was responsible for the coaster involved in the first ‘accident’. As he probes deeper into the real cause of the accident, he stumbles onto the extortion plan and suddenly finds himself caught between the FBI, the extortionist and the theme park owners. After being paid off with marked bills, the extortionist threatens revenge with a major attack but doesn’t say where. George Segal’s character convinces the FBI that he’s going to attack Magic Mountain’s Great American Revolution on the day of its grand opening. Is he right? Will they find the bomb and stop the bomber in time?

This is a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time. Netflix just added it to its instant streaming collection so you can watch it now. It’s definitely got that 70’s look and feel. It’s not as campy as some of the 70’s movies, but it’s also not quite as intense as The Towering Inferno or Earthquake. George Segal was good in his role, but the real treat is seeing these theme parks in their earlier years.

The opening accident of the movie takes place in Ocean View Amusement Park, which was located in Norfolk, VA. Ocean View’s last day of business was during the filming of Rollercoaster. The wooden coaster in that park was called Sky Rocket, but the name was shortened to just Rocket for the movie. It was destroyed as part of the filming of another movie the following year. Another coaster featured in the movie was Rebel Yell at King’s Dominion. However, the centerpiece of Rollercoaster is the Great American Revolution, at Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA. It was huge at the time of this movie because it was the world’s first modern steel coaster with a vertical loop. Even though the ride had technically opened a year before the release of the movie, the movie was filmed right about the same time the ride made its debut, which was a major plot point of the movie. It was amazing to me to see how bare Magic Mountain (Six Flags didn’t take over until 1979) was back then. With no other major rides at the time, including Colossus, and no mature vegetation covering up the track yet, the vertical loop was basically the centerpiece of the park and stood out like a sore thumb. You’ll be hard pressed to see any of this track today, as it’s either hidden by vegetation or overshadowed by its bigger brother Tatsu.

If you’re interested in watching a decent roller coaster movie from the 70’s this holiday weekend, and not overly concerned with a deep plot or Oscar-worthy acting, give it a look. If nothing else, it’s fun to see some of these earlier coasters and the what the parks looked like back then.

On a related note, I couldn’t help notice that there were no head restraints on Revolution. Does anyone know if that’s how the coaster started out or were they simply removed for the movie? Please drop me a comment and let me know.


  1. Ellex King

    02/04/2011 at 12:33 am

    When the Revolution roller coaster opened in 1976 the train did not have the head restraints until 1979 when six flags took over. The trains were operated that way until 1992 when Six Flags added those horrible over the shoulder restraints. God those things really SUCK and there’s way to much braking through out the ride. Any how Also about the movie there were some scenes eddited. The derailment of the Rocket Coaster train and when Actor Timothy Bottoms was hit by the Revolution train they were to graphic for it’s PG rating. Enjoy the movie:-).

  2. Ray

    02/16/2011 at 10:43 pm

    I went to Magic Mountain in June 1976 not long after The Great American Revolution opened (I think it opened in May 1976). They definitely did not have those restraints on the cars. In fact, the movie is exactly how it looked and operated for several years afterward. I need to mention one “blooper” in the movie. During the opening scene at Magic Mountain, Calder is using the blueprints of The Great American Revolution to point out to Agent Hoyt where on the tracks he thinks the bomb would most likely be, he points to an area of the blueprint he says is the bottom of the loop. He is actually pointing to the last helix on the ride. You would think an engineer would be able to read a print.

    • admin

      02/17/2011 at 8:38 am

      Movies are notoriously bad at getting technical details right, especially back in the 70’s. Many hire consultants today to get the details as accurate as possible, but you still see lots of goofs. However, the general population isn’t as in tune with the details as someone in the know, so it’s really not a “blooper” to most of the viewers and doesn’t detract from their enjoyment of the film.

      • Ray

        02/17/2011 at 9:25 am

        I need to also add how much I loved the movie “Rollercoaster”. In the days the ride opened digital cameras and digital movie recorders didn’t exist so this movie is the only source for good clear pictures of how the ride truly looked. Six Flags has no class whatsoever. When you look at what they have done to it, it brings tears to my eyes. The Revolution holds a dear place in my heart and was the reason I pursued an engineering degree several years later. But, back to the movie….. I can remember recording the audio on a tape recorder when I was in junior high school off of the television when it was aired on TV for the first time. I used to listen to it almost every night when I went to bed. During the early 80’s my family bought our first VCR. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when the movie was shown again on network TV and I was able to record it with our VCR. I was in heaven!! The only bad part was they cut the movie to bits to fit in more commercials. A couple of years later it was shown on pay television. I don’t know if you remember ON TV? It was a pay television service. When it was aired on pay television I recorded it again but this time, thankfully, they did not cut it up and it was shown without commercials. Hooray!!! Then in the 2000’s they brought the movie to DVD! This was too good to be true. I bought it right away. A couple of years later I found the movie skipping in my DVD player so I bought another copy. But, yes I love this movie. The story is suspenseful but my favorite part is the ride that changed my life.

        • Ellex King

          02/17/2011 at 10:28 pm

          Ray I have to agree with you. Six Flags has NO CLASS!! My biggest complaint is how the park really messed up both Colossus and Revolution. Now I can understand why Six Flags reprofiled Colossus. I rode it when it opened in 1978 before the accident and I must say the ride was to painful after that second drop. That negative g-hill and double up was a BIG Ouch on the thighs!! After the reprofiling it was much better and even faster. And the ride today, well it just down right SUCKS!!! Still can’t understand why the park got rid of the double down and put in that worthless block brake. HOW STUPID. And the Revolution, well it made since to add the head restraints in 1979. It took a lot of strain off the neck going into the loop. And for a while there was no brake coming out of the tunnel and the speed into the final helix was incredible. And now those STUPID SHOULDER RESTRAINTS and that stupid brake before the long decline into the loop. The ride is nothing but a head banger. The last time I was at the park I didn’t even want to ride Revolution. Think I’ve said enough because I could Just keep going like the Energizer Bunny.

  3. joe

    01/21/2012 at 11:28 am

    Ive ridden revolution and its honestly not bad…. X2 was actually my VERY first rollercoaster ride…… Anyway, the only part i didnt like was the lap bar… that made it kinda uncomftorable…. By the way, has anyone seen any construction for Lex Luther Drop Of Doom?

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