The Poseidon Adventure is still my favourite disaster movie of all time – and possibly my favourite movie of all time too. For me, it cemented a genre that had not been given much love and firmly kick started off one of the biggest eras of disaster movie heaven. Often people refer to The Towering Inferno as the best of the lot – but I beg to differ – they are both in the very top tier – but this one edges it for me.
Runtime: 1hr 57 mins
A wave capsizes an old ship on its last voyage. Ten survives start a trek to climb out of the now upside down vessel. Who will survive?
The Disasters Faced
Capsizing, drowning, flooding, angry passengers, lack of hot-pants, having hot-pants, climbs, explosions and death by dribble.
Irwin Allen along with his team including Sterling Silliphant and Ronald Neame bring the disaster movie formula to life. We spend ten minutes meeting the cast whom are paraded in front of us after a title card announces that only a handful will survive. From there we are left guessing whom will make it as one by one the stars drop to their doom. Everything is very tightly woven, it doesn’t dwell on anything nor stay sitting still for any moment of time. The cast, all own their characters and have some progression throughout in tiny morsels and its the wonderful heart and soul they bring to the action that makes this one the big classic.
The boat model itself stands up well because there are no sky shots to reference things to nor is there any CGI. CGI utterly dates a film, this has none. The capsizing itself is still fantastic to watch and the sets are very well done too. The makeup helps. The fact that the actors are really dealing with the elements is what gives this film a certain grit that I really love.
Why It’s Worth Watching
The tight script, likeable characters and excellent cast really propel the film forward. There’s a little bit of sadness, a little comedy, characters to cheer for, characters to loathe. There are classic lines “Just panties what else do I need?” and there’s an awfully annoyingly catchy theme song. The music itself by John Williams is strong too. I also quite enjoy the whole religious side of the film too. The message of finding your inner strength instead of looking to someone else to solve your problems has always sat well with me.
A word on the special edition too as it has an excellent collection of special features. One is a part-time commentary with Ronald Neame with some fun stories to say, the other is a full length one of Stella Stevens, Pamela Sue Martin and Carol Lynley as they giggle and laugh their way through it. Carol and in particular Stella’s knowledge and titbits are really enjoyable to listen to. There’s also an extra disc with some of the cast looking back, looking at the script writing, how they did some of the effects and a plethora of photos.
Have a drink for every time Gene or Ernest shout a bit. You’ll be slaughtered by 45 minutes in. I really like the dramatic acting but I can see why some people may have wanted them to turn it down a notch. All the masculinity falls flat when they have a pulling hair fight anyway!
Each character is memorable and they all play off each other so well. My personal favourite changes over the years but it’s currently Stella Steven’s Linda Rogo. Utterly hilarious from start to finish, the tart with a heart that you want to root for. There’s so many though. I always root for Nonnie and Martin to get together, Manny to roll his eyes at Belle… ah. A great study in characters that can be easily established in such a short period of time.
The ballroom scene is fantastic but Shelley Winters famous death is so iconic you can’t ignore putting it here. “Life…always…matters very much…!” *dead*
Just as Shelley Winters died, Gene Hackman cries out “Not this woman” and then promptly dribbles all over her! Insult to injury!
Carol Lynley and Red Buttons disliked each other intensely during filming despite being the love interest on screen. Funnily enough post-film, the two actually became very good friends and when Poseidon was released in 2006, the two appeared with Pamela Sue Martin for Red Buttons’ final public appearance before his death.
Iconic, character-driven, action-packed adventure. It’s an absolute joyous ride from start to finish. If anyone wants to have a 101 on disaster movies, The Poseidon Adventure is absolutely the place to start.