Monday, April 5, 2010


Year 2, Day 94 - 4/4/10 - Movie #459

BEFORE: Speaking of special effects of the 1970's, I'm taking another look back there tonight with this action/disaster movie starring Charlton Heston.

THE PLOT: Various stories of various people as an earthquake of great magnitude hits Los Angeles.

AFTER: Yeah, the FX here are pretty terrible, at least by today's standards, but they were (sort of) top of the line for 1974 - which means the film features a combination of miniature sets, shaking cameras (cheaper than shaking the set...) and prop-men who are probably just out of camera range throwing debris at the actors.

The film focuses on a group of interacting L.A. residents - and the ones who aren't connected to each other are about to be thrown together by the looming disaster. For an updated and better version of this storyline, check out "Short Cuts".

Like in "Twister", there's a marital drama played out during the disaster, so one wonders if the earthquake is a metaphor for something else. Charlton Heston's character has to decide between his shrill, annoying, pill-popping wife (Ava Gardner) and his young actress wanna-be mistress (Genevieve Bujold). The decision is made more complicated by the fact that he works for his father-in-law (Lorne Greene).

Once we know all the players, from the cop to the motorcycle stuntman, the dam inspector, the navy guy and the Indian chief, the quake manages to hit while they're all in the worst possible spots - like riding a bike across a bridge, or finishing a still-life painting, or putting the final touch on a house of cards... Then it's time for the rescues, the looting, wildfires and martial law (good times, good times...)

This is the film that introduced the concept of Sensurround (shaking theater seats) and was also one of the first films to add extra footage later, since it aired over the course of 2 nights on network TV in the 1970's, and needed to be stretched out.

Also starring a pre-"Airport" George Kennedy, a pre-"Dallas" Victoria Principal, Richard Roundtree and Marjoe Gortner. Plus, a cameo by Walter Matthau as a barfly (credited under his real name, Walter Manuschanskayasky)

RATING: 5 out of 10 aftershocks

UPDATE: I learned today that Los Angeles did have a 7.2 earthquake late Sunday night, possibly while I was watching this film. I usually enjoy when my film choices coincide with the day's events, but this is not what I intended. My film selection was part of a chain I designed weeks ago.

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