Friday, March 18, 2016

The Poseidon Adventure

The Poseidon Adventure; disaster movie, USA, 1972; D: Ronald Neame, S: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson, Carol Lynley, Leslie Nielsen

The ocean liner SS Poseidon has recently passed the Gibraltar along its path from New York to Athens. However, on New Year's Eve, a sea quake near Crete causes a tidal wave which hits the ship - and turns it upside down. A small crew, led by cynical reverend Scott, consisting among other out of Detective Rogo and his wife Linda, decide to climb up, towards the "belly" of the ship, to avoid the water rising from below. In the process, several of the people die, including Scott - but the rest manage to get to the overturned bottom of the ship, where a rescue crew saves them by cutting out the metal.

One of the most notable contributions to the highly popular disaster movie genre of the 70s, a 'proto-"Titanic"', "The Poseidon Adventure" is a mixed bag: when it tries to be different from the genre, it works brilliantly, but when it yields to those rules in the second half, it gets overran by its cliches, especially melodramatic ones. The first half is excellent, and abounds with untypical characters, who in turn ignite several moments with refreshing daft humor - in the first scene where Gene Hackman's character is introduced, cynical reverend (!) Scott, he looks pass the camera and says: "Get on your knees and pray to God for help, and then maybe everything will work out fine... Garbage!"; the Rogo-Linda couple, where he is a former cop and she a former prostitute - which help elevate "Poseidon" from a mass of predictable, stale similar films, whereas even the concept is exciting and great - a sea quake causes the ship to turn upside down, in a remarkable sequence, and thus the characters have to "climb up", i.e. towards the former bottom of the ship to escape the rising water - but the second half abandons this method and instead just spends the last hour on the crew climbing and running away from water, without rising to the occasion, and thus turn standard, even equipped with two pathetic-melodramatic deaths near the end, which sadly "overturns" the high impression left on the viewers in the first act.


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