Action Park in Vernon, New Jersey was straight out of a Gen X teenager’s dream. The R-rated version of a John Hughes film, or as Jason Bailey at the New York Times puts it, “a rule-free stew of dangerous rides, teen guests, teen employees, raging hormones, 80s-style machismo, and booze”.
But for all the nostalgia, the place comes with bad memories for those whose loved ones were seriously injured, and in some cases killed by the reckless actions of Gene Mulvihill, the fallen Wall Street mogul who owned and ran the park.
Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott, the co-directors of Class Action Park streamed on HBO Max, brilliantly capture both the time and place – Northern New Jersey in the 1980s and 1990s – that will never be repeated. And many would say thank God for that.
“The laughter of Action Park isn’t a designed joke; it’s not a comedy routine. It’s the laughter of a brain having no other way to process what it’s hearing. Laughter is something that happens when you can’t cry, you can’t scream, you can’t do anything else, all you can do is laugh. ” – Seth Porges
02:20 – What Action Park was, and the dangers there.
05:03 – What the film explores, and why it’s been so successful.
07:34 – The first clip of the film showing ‘The Cannonball Loop’.
09:38 – Who designed these crazy rides and how they tested them.
11:33 – A short clip showing the dangers involved with testing the new roller coasters.
14:01 – What the movie is really about and how different children’s upbringings used to be.
15:28 – The mix of nostalgia and darkness that is present in these old memories.
17:17 – What drives people to create such insane roller coasters.
18:18 – The way Action Park used radio ads to gain popularity.
20:15 – The terrifying nature of Action Park and how unique it was.
24:14 – A clip showing the dark side of the Park.
26:33 – How the dangerous nature of the park actually increased its popularity.
31:04 – How many people died or were seriously injured at the park.
33:00 – How the owner managed to win most of the class action suits brought against him.
35:27 – What inspired Seth to make a documentary about Action Park.
36:40 – How Chris became involved with the film.
38:00 – The biggest challenges they came up against when making the film.
41:16 – Talking to the parents of George Larson, who died at the park.
47:03 – Who the owner Gene Mulvihill was and what he was really like.
49:44 – The juxtaposition of freedom and safety that is shown in the film.
53:23 – What Seth and Chris want to achieve with this film.
Connect with Chris Charles Scott