Review from the Vault: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The Poseidon Adventure is a 1972 American disaster film based on a novel by Paul Gallico. It concerns the capsizing of a luxurious ocean liner by a tidal wave caused by an under sea earthquake and the desperate struggles of a handful of survivors to journey up to the bottom of the hull of the liner before it sinks.

 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

 

It is quite funny reading this review I did back then – it is more a collection of facts from the internet that I have copied and pasted LOL, I wrote this in early 2008 – I hope I have improved a bit since then 🙂 This is one of my all time favourite films and is honestly one my first experiences with action films, it honestly changed my life.

I love a great disaster movie – as tacky and loathed as they are by critics and people who dislike the CGI of late these films totally rock! From watching the Staue of Liberty smash underwater in Deep Impact to then seeing it buried under snow in The Day After Tomorrow to my all time favourite film, and the only one based on fact, Titanic, these films have been around since about the 60’s or early 70’s and this film, The Poseidon Adventure, is the grand daddy of them all. It is also a film that has not dated, clothing excluded, and to me is a timeless masterpiece of the genre. I watched it for the first time when I was about six years old and fell in love with it, Shelley Winters, Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and the ocean. I recently found a Special Edition DVD for under $10- and had my mind blown again for my fresh viewing.

 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

 

It won the Academy Award for Best Song for “The Song from ‘The Poseidon Adventure'” (also known as “The Morning After”), which became a hit single for Maureen McGovern, as well as winning an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects. Shelley Winters was also nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a film for the role. The cast of the film includes five past Academy Award winners – Winters, Gene Hackman, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons and Ernest Borgnine. Parts of the movie were filmed aboard the RMS Queen Mary.

The plot centers upon the fictional ocean liner SS Poseidon, an aged luxury ship from the golden age of travel, on its final voyage from New York City to Athens before being sent to the scrapyard. On New Year’s Day, it is overturned by a tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake (scientifically inaccurate since tsunamis are small in open waters and the ship was more accurately capsized by a rogue wave; this information was corrected in later versions of the story). Passengers and crew are trapped inside and a rebellious preacher attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety.

 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

 

A huge box office success, it was the second highest grossing film of 1972, behind The Godfather. The success of this film is in the vein of other all-star disaster films in the 1970s such as Airport (1970) and later films like The Towering Inferno (1974), and Earthquake (1974). A sequel, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), had an equally star-studded cast, but was a box-office and critical failure. The film was remade twice, first as a television special in 2005 with the same name, and a theatrical release with the name Poseidon in 2006.

This one totally swamps (punn intended) the remake from 2006 that was an abberation. Why they bothered to remake it I will never know – why not RERELEASE the originals of these films. It would be a lot cheaper and I believe people would want to see it on the big screen again. I wouldn’t even mind seeing The Towering Inferno on the big screen also.

 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

 

This film not only delves into disaster but does a great way of showing the psychological effects it has on the struggling survivors. Being a film from the 70’s it explains everything to everyone as though they were 2yrs old but it isn’t a film of now where you have to work things out for yourself and pick up half the plot from the way the girl at the bar smiles in the film. The film keeps everything simple – it’s a survival of the fittest people and minds, it’s all about survival and there are no ulterior motives where one guy must go this way because there is a million dollars in it. There are no good and bad people in the film, there are only people who make good an bad choices, where the bad choices mean sleeping amongst the fishies.

The acting is brilliant – all the leads are great to watch and engaging onscreen – I suppose that’s the bonus of having so many talented actors of that time all working together. Gene Hackman and Shelley Winters are standouts for me. One surprising addition to the cast is Leslie Neilsen not being funny. For all I know he once had a serious acting career but I have only ever known him as the funny guy.

Trivia care of IMDB:
1) Most of the external shots of the Poseidon were shot using a model built from the original blueprints of the Queen Mary. The model is on display at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum at the Los Angeles harbor. The real Queen Mary is located just a few miles away in Long Beach.

2) Shot in sequence, taking advantage of the fact that the principals became dirtier and more tattered and suffered injuries – some real and some artificial – as they progressed.

3) Some of the pre-capsize sequences were shot aboard the Queen Mary, including the opening storm sequence, the pre-disaster scenes in the staterooms and hallways, the scenes above decks, and an early scene in the engine room.

 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

 

4) In the scene in which Rev. Scott rescues Robin, the set was built on tracks which would slowly lower the inclined set into a large water tank. The set was supposed to stop moving once the set was half-submerged, but for some reason it continued until the camera crew was underwater. The film magazine was rushed to the lab, where immediate processing showed the film was undamaged.

5) The set for the banquet hall was designed so that very few objects needed to be moved from the floor to the ceiling (and vice versa); the columns along the walls were identical at the top and bottom, and the wall decorations were all removable.

6) Part of the set was built on a hydraulic system which would raise it to a 45degree angle, and camera tricks were used to suggest more severe angles.

7) An ending scene showing rescue boats surrounding the sinking ship was planned, but the budget ran out. The shot of the helicopter lifting off the hull was done on the studio lot, looking upward to avoid seeing the surrounding buildings.

8) Except for the most dangerous sequences, all of the stunts were done by the actors themselves. All the actors at one point complained to the production staff about how difficult the shoot was physically.

 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

 

9) Shelley Winters gained 35 pounds for the part of Belle Rosen.

10) Filming was delayed twice because of the cost, and finally began only when Irwin Allen and outside backers matched the investment of Twentieth Century Fox. Reportedly, Allen found those backers by walking across the street from the Fox lot to a country club, where he found some friends playing cards. During the card game, they agreed to back the film. Because the studio never spent any of the backer’s money, the backers made a profit from the success of the film without actually spending a dime.

11) Shelley Winters trained with an Olympic swim coach so that her character, who is a former award-winning swimmer, would come across more realistically in the underwater scenes.

12) Paul Gallico was inspired to write his novel by a voyage he made on the Queen Mary. When he was having breakfast in the dining room, the liner was hit by a large wave, sending people and furniture crashing to the other side of the vessel. He was further inspired by a true incident which occurred aboard the Queen Mary during World War II. Packed with American troops bound for Europe, the ship was struck by a gargantuan freak wave in the North Atlantic. It was calculated that if the ship had rolled another five inches, she would have capsized like the Poseidon.

 

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

 

13) Red Buttons and Carol Lynley, whose characters fall in love in the movie, actually disliked each other intensely. They refused to have anything to do with each other except when the cameras were rolling.

This is an edge of your seat survival disaster thriller and something that deserves respect for being such a great grandfather of the action disaster genre. Worth $16- and on DVD at most places.

I have to thank Wiki for a lot of the facts.