The 'Poseidon' Effect: Hollywood's Greatest Disasters


The Sensurround technology was achieved by installing high-powered bass amplifiers on the theater floor, and the sensation was so strong when the movie premiered at Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theatre that it caused plaster to fall from the ceiling as it was being tested.

Thank goodness the script for "Earthquake 2" was never produced. In it, stars from the first movie -- including George Kennedy, Victoria Principal and Richard Roundtree -- were supposed to move to San Francisco to recover from their seismic trauma. Heston -- who was uneasy about having to appear in the embarrassing sequel "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" -- actually insisted that his "Earthquake" character be killed off.

Los Angeles again faced destruction in 1997's "Volcano" and would have been buried in molten lava if not for Tommy Lee Jones and a brainy Anne Heche.

"Airport" (1970) -- While Kennedy didn't star in "Earthquake 2," he had the distinction of being the only star to appear in all four "Airport" movies, helping to explore nearly every calamity an air traveler could endure, including a hijacking (the original), a midair collision ("Airport 1975"), a nose dive into the ocean ("Airport '77"), and dodging nuclear missiles at supersonic speed ("The Concorde: Airport '79").

While the series didn't actually do much to inspire air safety innovations, surely it inspired the great spoof "Airplane" (and, as Leslie Nielsen would say, don't call me Shirley.)

"Twister" (1996) -- Before Bill Paxton became TV's most famous polygamist on HBO's "Big Love," he was a weatherman trying to get his storm-chaser wife to sign divorce papers so he could run off with his girlfriend. Soon, the three get caught up in the "suck zone" as it's called, and old passions are stirred up.

Paxton could have forecast an advancing front of weather-related disaster films. In the years to come, we'd find George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg as fishermen swallowed by a killer hurricane in "The Perfect Storm" (2000) and Dennis Quaid as a heroic climatologist in "The Day After Tomorrow."

"Deep Impact" (1998) -- Disaster films are usually a race against time. In this case, it was a race between two asteroid-hitting-Earth movies, both premiering in 1998. "Deep Impact" won the foot race, hitting theaters on May 8, two months ahead of "Armageddon." "Armageddon" won the more important battle by outgrossing its rival internationally by about $200 million.

Perhaps moviegoers just went with the more lighthearted film, and that tone was clear in the movies' tag lines. "Deep Impact": " Heaven and Earth are about to collide." "Armageddon": "Earth. It Was Fun While It Lasted."

It also might have come down to this: Whom do you want to save the planet? Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck, or Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni and Elijah Wood?

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...