Monday, November 15, 2010

Old-School Forgotten Sequels: Beyond the Posiedon Adventure

Hey, do you remember disaster films?  Much like Westerns, this sub-genre continues to come back every few years to see if they can be revived.  Examples over the last ten years or so include Dante's Peak, The Day After Tomorrow and Poseidon.  It's funny that I mention this convenient fact because that last film is a remake of Irwin Allen's original film.  After a series of hit films by Allen- including The Towering Inferno- he made a sequel.  Sadly, this film was not a hit and helped spell the end of the disaster genre.  Well, that the film that you'll see tomorrow.  How can one film set up a genre for long-term success and another signal it's demise?  That's Hollywood for you!  For the uninitiated, the Disaster film is a movie about some sort of major, traumatic event that always includes a giant ensemble of actors.  In this film, you get Michael Caine, Karl Malden, Sally Field, Peter Boyle, Jack Warden, Shirley Jones, Slim Pickens and Telly Savalas.  Is that enough for you?  The film is also a direct sequel to the original film, but this brings with it some certain problems.  Get out your deadly stock footage for my review of...
The film begins with a small boat going through a storm in possibly one of the least convincing effects shots in human history.  Basically, the trio of Caine, Field and Malden are on a boat model that shakes back and forth in front of a screen as hoses randomly spray water at them.  Yeah, it doesn't fool anyone.  They loose their cargo in the storm that night and, in the morning, Malden explains how he picked up Field in a bar & offered to let her go with them.  They see a French rescue helicopter fly past them and infer that a salvage job must be near.  Just to note: that helicopter is supposed to be the rescue one from the ending of the original film and carrying the survivors.  Of course, that film was made in 1972 and this one was made in 1979.  Slowest rescue ever!  They show up & are joined by Telly Savalas and his crew of doctors.  Wow, what a convenient arrival!  They both go inside via the hole that the original survivors escaped through & quickly meet up with some survivors.  At this point, the group splits up.  Gee, why would Savalas want to be alone in the ship with just his flunkies?  Odd.
Rather than a plot, I'd rather give you a rundown of the characters, since the film is mostly about them...
* Peter Boyle is a protective father who is bossy and looking for his daughter.  He eventually finds her, along with...
* A young Mark Harmon playing a farmer stud from Iowa.  He's a romantic item for her and surprisingly-good with a machine gun later.
* Shirley Jones plays a Nurse.  She does nurse stuff, but mostly just reacts to the events.
* Slim Pickens plays a rich Texan who is called, you guessed it, Tex.  That's creative.
* Jack Warden plays a blind man who is taken to the rescue point alongside his doting, but strong wife.
* Karl Malden's assistant character has a secret: he's dying of a disease that they never bother to name.
The group wanders around the ship, but eventually learns that Savalas has a secret.  You'd never have guessed, but he's a bad guy!
After a shoot-out between our heroes and Savalas' crew, we learn the truth.  The Poseidon was carrying a whole cache of weapons and even some nuclear material!  Considering that this was a cruise ship, why did it have all of that?  On top of that little fact, the ship was also carrying a safe full of gold and bort (aka unrefined diamonds)!  WHY?!?  A couple people get picked off in the fight and the ensuing escape from the ship, including Boyle and Warden's wife.  Must resist urge to make 'he didn't see that coming' joke.  They escape through a hidden door and dive out of a hole in the side of the ship.  Keep an eye out for everyone's stunt doubles doing all the diving, especially Pickens and Warden.  Before the finale escape, we learn that Pickens was lying about being rich.  You know what that means, right?  Yeah, he dies.  The remaining group manages to swim over to Caine's ship and drive away.  Moments later, more stock footage explosions go off and the Poseidon is completely destroyed.  What a way to die, huh Telly?  Caine is depressed that they lost all of the gold, but Field reveals that she hid a piece of bort in her blouse.  This leads to...the pair kissing.  Dude, you're 13 years her senior!  The End.
This movie is not that good.  It doesn't really suck, to be honest, but it's definitely not a classic.  It's a pretty formulaic plot.  In fact, it's mostly the same plot as the original, only with the terrorist element thrown in and the group going down the ship, as opposed to up it. Of course, they end up going back up nearly the same path, so that's kind of a moot point.  The real star here is the elaborate set design and the shaky, destructive nature of it.  Watch a film like this and then check out a movie like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Spot the difference?  These movies are mostly just an excuse to throw as many stars as humanly possible into one film and see what sticks.  Most of the characters are fairly one-note, although some actors involved make it feel like more.  As much as I love Michael Caine, his character's sudden shift is not exactly explained and really feels forced.  The movie really works in the more subtle moments like those involving Malden.  Ironically, Caine would star in this and the other film synonymous with the Disaster Film's demise- The Swarm.  Note to self: don't cast Michael Caine in my film about a tornado that causes a flash flood to strike a Pre-Natal Ward for Cancer patients and Burn Victims!  There's a reason that this movie is not as well-regarded as other films from the genre: it's just alright- nothing more.
Next up, another '70s sequel to a disaster film comes our way.  This one has a cast that includes legendary French actors, genre staples and the partner from Naked Gun.  Stay tuned...

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