This 16-minute documentary by Mike Edwards and newly posted on YouTube was made in 1977 to celebrate the Cyclone’s 50th anniversary. It’s fantastic to see the roller coaster in action in the ’70s. The opening sequence features Silvio Pinto, whose family bought and began operating the roller coaster in 1959 before selling it to the City a decade later. The film also stars famed riders Mike Boodley, who rode the Cyclone for 1001 consecutive rides, and Richard Rodriguez, who holds the Guinness World Record for riding the coaster continuously for four days. At the time the film was made, Edwards was a college student in Staten Island. His film was nominated for his school’s “Oscars” and toured NYC Parks with the Parks Foundation’s Filmobile.
As a boy born and raised on three of the 5 boroughs of NYC from 1951 to 1979, a summertime trip to Coney Island was always in the mix. I remember the day while confined to Steeplechase Park, (the grandest kiddie amusement park ever!), when my gaze became transfixed on the world class wooden roller coasters that thundered and squealed off in the distance. I couldn’t wait for the day when I was old enough and big enough to ride these coasters. I measured myself by first getting comfortable riding the Thunderbolt and then the Tornado roller coasters before I felt ready for the Cyclone.
Fast forward to 1977 when I chose the Cyclone to be the subject of a documentary film exercise while attending the very fine Richmond College, an experimental humanities school in the CUNY system, where I was to receive a BA in Cinema Studies. With either a wind-up Bolex 16 or a Bell & Howell Filmo 16mm camera and a 100’ spool of reversal film, I went to visit my subject while under a blanket of snow. Like coming upon a hibernating beast, I kept my distance shooting wide shots without a footprint. Aided by the calm of this early Sunday morning, I could feel a life-force at rest, knowing what was expected of it and what was to unfold in the early spring months. Right there on Surf Avenue, I knew my documentary project would be to explore and maybe expose that this mechanical, inanimate object is actually a being with a distinct personality.
Related posts on ATZ…
September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)
April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)
March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson
January 5, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island