Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourth of July, 1976

It's July 4th, 1976, and there's a lot of special events planned all over the country. A rodeo at Wild West Park in Dallas, the opening of Enchanted Castle at Funland, Wisconsin, and a beauty contest at Sky's The Limit in Detroit.

But nothing can top the grand opening of a brand new roller coaster at Magic Mountain, Los Angeles... Revolution, the world's first modern coaster with a vertical loop!

They've pulled out all the stops for this event, even hiring a pilot to sky-write the name REVOLUTION in the skies high above the ride.

The parking lot has filled up quickly, but there's a tram to whisk you to the front entrance.

As you might expect, crowds are HUGE...

But don't worry... while we wait for the inaugural ride of Revolution to launch at 4:00 PM, rock band Sparks will entertain the crowd with their hit song "Big Boy".

The coaster has been fitted with decorative bunting for now, which will be removed before the first riders board.

There are even a few workers applying last minute decorations to the track itself. But they almost seem preoccupied, as if they are looking for something hidden along the track. Something dangerous... like a bomb!

Meanwhile, the crowd is enjoying the concert.

Everyone that is, except this one lone weirdo. He's not here to enjoy the park. He's a terrorist, and he's planning to make sure the opening of the Revolution goes off with a bang!

Balloons are released! The ride is about to open! Those holding special golden tickets, please come to the front of the line.

A traditional marching band strikes up as the first riders board.

There go the first lucky riders. I can just tell this coaster is going to be the bomb!

This 4th of July is from the thriller Rollercoaster (1977), in which an unnamed malcontent (Timothy Bottoms) tries to extort one million dollars from amusement park executives by planting bombs in parks across the country.

In a clever tie-in, the climax of the film is set at a fictional July 4th opening of Magic Mountain's new steel looper, Revolution (the coaster actually opened in May, 1976). Rollercoaster was one of four films originally released in "Sensurround", a gimmicky bass-heavy audio format requiring specially installed theater speakers.

As a thriller, Rollercoaster is okay, but it's real draw is the screen time it gives to the targeted amusement parks, including an extended tour of King's Dominion in Richmond, Virginia.

Coaster inspector Harry Calder (George Segal) has been singled out as the bag man for a money drop to occur at the then new King's Dominion park. Here he waits at a toadstool shaped phone for instructions.

All the while, the bomber is keeping watch from the top of this towering park icon, a 1/3 scale replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Hoping to confuse law enforcement officials who are monitoring the transaction remotely (and perhaps have a little fun in the process), the bomber sends Calder on an outright scavenger hunt through the park, requiring him to get his weight guessed by a boardwalk barker, purchase and wear a silly stitched hat...

...and even ride several rides, like this racing wooden-coaster which is still in service today, Rebel Yell.

Meanwhile sharp-eyed audiences will catch glimpses of some of the costumed Hanna Barbera characters roaming the park, including Banana Splits members Fleagal and Bingo...

...and despised Scooby-Doo spin-off, Scooby-Dum.

Magic Mountain's Revolution coaster, incidentally, seemed to be a real draw for terrorists. Just a few years after Rollercoaster, it was occupied in a hostile takeover by a group calling itself "The Griswolds".

Rollercoaster is available on DVD, and can sometimes be found streaming on Netflix.


pJ said...

You are just hitting all my 4th favorites! I plan on watching this tomorrow night!

Brother Bill said...

The others on my list would be Jaws (of course!), Cape Fear (1991) and Zodiac (2007)

kakupacal said...

I recall seeing this one (in Sensurround) at the Jerry Lewis Tri-Cinema in Salem, NH way back in the day-o. Thanks for the FLASHBACK!

Victoria Phantasmagoria said...

I was too young to see this film back in the day, but my brother was the projectionist at theater where it was playing in "sensurround". The rumbling sounds and screams shook the walls and leaked into the next theater where I was hanging out, watching - I can't recall now, it seems like "Grease" or somesuch, I have to check the dates - anyway, it was a film where rumbling, rattling and shrieking were amusingly inappropriate. :p

I remembered the "sensurround" hadn't ever heard it mentioned again.

Paul B. said...

Sometime you'll have to do a post about another movie filmed at Magic Mountain a couple years later: "Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park." I wouldn't blame you, though, if you didn't feel like spending the time on a scene-by-scene breakdown for that one.