Disasters Films of the 1970’s


Well, May 21, 2011 6:00 PM came and went and we’re all still here. All this talk about the end of the world got me thinking about how I can turn this into a blog entry. Then it hit me. (I’m talking about an idea, not a bolt of lightening.) I could do a blog entry on the disaster films of the 1970’s. After all, disasters flicks of the 1970’s have it all, action, drama, sometimes a secondary love story to keep the story going when there’s a lull in the action.

Also, what was going on 1970’s is similar to what is going on today, such as high energy prices, a war, a recession, high unemployment. In a way, is it not surprising that these films came out when they did and interestingly enough they were very successful, to boot. Yet, one would think that in such a situation, people would flock to see happy, escapist films, not films where people had to deal with earthquakes, fires, plane crashes or other catastrophes. My theory is that in a weird kind of way these films were escapist. The people watching these films were safe and sound in a movie theater, so they could comfort themselves with the thought, “Those people in the film REALLY have it bad.”

So, without further ado, here is a short list of disaster films of the 1970’s.

Airport 1970
What would happen if you got on a plane on a snowy night and one of the passengers carried a bomb?  No, this is not the latest terror plot, this is the plot of Airport. Based on the book of the same name by Arthur Hailey, the film stars Dean Martin, as pilot of the ill fated plane (in a rare dramatic turn), Burt Lancaster, as the airport’s manager and George Kennedy is the gruff mechanic who saves the day. This film was successful at the box office and spawned three sequels and the infamous Airplane! spoof movies.

The Poseidon Adventure 1972
Picture this: You’re on a cruise ship on New Year’s Eve. Everyone is at dinner, they’re happy and waiting for midnight to strike. Midnight comes and so does a tidal wave. Uh-oh. Well, that’s The Poseidon Adventure for you. But wait, there’s more than just a tidal wave. The wave turns the boat upside down, so people have to swim up to the bottom of the ship in the hopes of being rescued. Stars Ernest Borgnine, as a cop on his honeymoon, Stella Stevens, plays his wife, the prostitute who went straight and it also stars Gene Hackman, Shelly Winters and Roddy McDowell. This picture wasn’t a disaster at the box office and earned nine, count’em nine, Academy Award nominations. I guess this film floated the Academy’s boat. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Earthquake 1974
In the late 1970’s many a comedian made a joke out of the “Big One”, which is the earthquake that does more than just shake up California, but causes havoc. When I heard these jokes, I wondered where the comedians got this idea from. Then I saw the movie Earthquake on television and I stopped wondering. This movie came out just as the disaster flick was wearing thin, so its kind of a throw in everything but the kitchen sink, type of film.  It has major stars, such as Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene (as her father, no less, even though she was only 7 years younger then him), Charlton Heston and George Kennedy, as a gruff cop who saves the day. It has a disaster, i.e. the big earthquake that shakes Los Angeles to its core. It also has a cliché love story where businessman Heston has an affair with a young mother. The film didn’t win any awards, but it did feature a new sound system called  Sensurround. Yet, it this feature didn’t catch on for subsequent films. You think the fact that it was associated with the film Earthquake had something to do with it?

The Towering Inferno 1974
This film is considered the best of the disaster film genre, since the level of acting of its two major stars Paul Newman, as the architect of the the world’s tallest building and  Steve McQueen, in his last film role, as the fire chief who obviously wants to put out the fire, is top notch. The film also stars William Holden, as the chief builder, Richard Chamberlain (who plays the film’s villian, no less) as the electrican, Faye Dunaway and even Fred Astaire. Newman’s character returns from vacation and senses that something isn’t right with the building. He is proven right, as shoddy wiring starts a fire that quickly consumes the building, just as a high society party is going on at 129th floor. Who will be saved and who will go up in smoke? I don’t know. I guess, I’ll just have to watch the movie and find out.

Of course, this blog entry is no disaster, since no one was hurt in the writing of this entry. 

Sources:
http://www.amazon.com/Airport-Full-Screen-Burt-Lancaster/dp/B00000I1CJ/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

http://www.amazon.com/Poseidon-Adventure-Special-Gene-Hackman/dp/B000EHSVNW/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1305945909&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Earthquake-Charlton-Heston/dp/6305137277/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1305943269&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Towering-Inferno-Special-Paul-Newman/dp/B000EHSVOG/ref=pd_sim_d_1

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