Friday, April 2, 2010

The Poseidon Adventure

Year 2, Day 91 - 4/1/10 - Movie #456

BEFORE: After all that stress with the sharks, this is just what I need - a film about a nice, relaxing cruise... I kid! April fool! Actually, the Brody family was seen celebrating Christmas and New Year's in last night's film, and tonight's disaster film ties in nicely, with a boat that overturns just after midnight on New Year's Eve.

I have seen bits of this film before, and read the parody in MAD magazine, but I don't think I've watched the film the entire way through...

THE PLOT: A group of passengers struggle to survive and escape, when their ocean liner completely capsizes at sea.

AFTER: Full disclosure - I've been on 2 Caribbean cruises thanks to the fine folks at Holland America - neither as dramatic as this one. One for our honeymoon, and another for our 5th Anniversary. On the second one, we did celebrate Thanksgiving on board, and I gained an entirely new perspective on the holiday - I learned that it does not have to involve football, a drive upstate, or dealing with my looney aunt. Who knew? I now have to say that you haven't truly experienced the American holiday of Thanksgiving until you've had it on a Dutch boat staffed by Canadians, eating a meal served by Filipinos...

And if you've been on a cruise, or any another boat for a long period of time, you get very accustomed to the rocking of the boat. After watching this movie, I felt the same way as if I'd spent a week at sea, and I had to get accustomed once again to sitting down on dry land and not feeling that phantom rocking motion.

I know, I've mentioned that I don't swim, and there's that agreement I have with the sharks to stay out of their territory. Well, I was talked into the first cruise, and both of them turned out to contain enormous amounts of fun and luxury. So I figured that was worth putting myself at risk to enjoy some quality vacation time. And I arrived back both times without falling off the boat or becoming fish food, so I win.

Though there was a lot of motion in the ocean on our second trip - but nothing compared to the wave that overturns the Poseidon. With the tsunamis and earthquakes in the news in recent years, I see this film just becoming more and more of a relevant piece of classic cinema.

It was weird to see Leslie Nielsen playing it completely straight as the ship's captain - I guess this was filmed a few years before "Airplane" turned him into a deadpan comic genius.

Taken on one level, it's the story of 10 cruise-ship passengers who band together and travel up into the lower part of the upside-down ship in hope of rescue. But I can't help feeling like this is an attempt at a metaphor for something greater. The sermon given by Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman) at the start of the film is on the topic of BEING a greater power, as opposed to relying on a greater power - praying to God, but suggesting that God would prefer that people believe in themselves, and help themselves and each other. Are we supposed to take the journey through the ship as a metaphor for the difficulties of life? Is the implication that we can only ascend to a higher plane if we are willing to struggle and improve our own situations?

Usually, I stop listening whenever someone starts to tell me what God wants, but I liked Rev. Scott's spin on things, it was very subversive, and I support that. For a Reverend, he sure seems to know a lot about practical things like breaking open hatches and making his way down corridors which are on fire - I would have liked a little more back-story - was he once a chaplain in the navy, or something?

The group of survivors is your basic Hollywood ragtag crew - the older Jewish couple (Jack Albertson + Shelley Winters), the older confirmed bachelor (Red Buttons), the NY cop (Ernest Borgnine) and his ex-prostitute wife (Stella Stevens), the hip mod singer (Carol Lynley) and the kids (Pamela Sue Martin, Eric Shea). Oh, and the British cruise-ship waiter (Roddy McDowall) - and of course there are conflicts between the different characters, and some bonding relationships, and...well I don't want to spoil all the details if you haven't seen it.

But if I were a casting director in the 1970's, I would have reunited them all on an episode of "Love Boat" just for the fun of it...

It's a true classic - probably deserving of a 7 but I feel I have to deduct for the low-rent special effects, some of which haven't held up over the decades.

RATING: 6 out of 10 party hats

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