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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Poseidon Adventure can be found here.
Just after midnight on New Year's Eve, the luxury liner SS Poseidon, while making her final voyage from New York City to Athens, is hit by a tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake. Most of the passengers are trapped and drowned when the ship overturns, but a small band of survivors, including detective lieutenant Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) and his ex-prostitute wife Linda (Stella Stevens), retired hardware store owner Manny Rosen (Jack Albertson) and his wife Belle (Shelley Winters), teenaged Susan Shelby (Pamela Sue Martin) and her precocious younger brother Robin (Eric Shea), floor show singer Nonnie Parry (Carol Lynley), haberdasher and health nut James Martin (Red Buttons), and dining room steward Acres (Roddy McDowall). Led by Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), they struggle to make their way to the propeller shafts in the hull before the ship sinks.
The movie is based on The Poseidon Adventure (1969), a novel by American writer Paul Gallico. The novel was adapted for the movie by American screenwriters Stirling Silliphant and Wendell Mayes. A sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure followed in 1979. There have also been two remakes of The Poseidon Adventure, The Poseidon Adventure (2005) (made for TV) and Poseidon (2006).
No. Author Paul Gallico based The Poseidon Adventure on a 1942 incident regarding the British ocean liner RMS Queen Mary, which almost capsized after being hit by a 90 foot rogue wave.
Poseidon is the Greek God of the Sea and, according to Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) also "god of storms, tempests, earthquakes and other miscellaneous natural disasters...quite an ill-tempered fellow."
Rogo leads Robin, Susan, Nonnie, Martin, and Rosen into the propeller shaft room but they can find no further means of escape. As Robin tries to explain that the hull in the propeller shaft is only one inch thick, Martin thinks he hears noise outside. Rogo and Martin pick up pieces of metal pipe and begin pounding on the hull until they begin to hear someone pounding back from the outside. The pounding is followed by the sparks of a welding torch as it cuts a hole through the hull big enough for them to crawl through. One of the rescuers asks whether there is only the six of them. Martin asks whether they were able to save anyone from the bow, but the answer is "No." In the final scene, the survivors wordlessly climb out onto the hull where they board a helicopter and are lifted to safety.
Of the ten main characters, six survive and four die. Acres drowns when an explosion rocks the ship and he falls off a ladder into the rising water inside an access tunnel. Belle suffers a heart attack after swimming though a submerged corridor and releasing the reverend, who has been trapped underwater when a heavy panel falls on him. When another explosion rocks the ship as they're climbing up the catwalk to the propeller room, Linda falls off into the raging fire below. Likewise, Reverend Scott falls into a vat of burning oil-covered water.
In order to shut off the hot steam pouring from the broken pipe and blocking their way into the propeller shaft room, Reverend Scott leaps from the catwalk to the steam valve, all the while denouncing God for His lack of help. Scott successfully shuts the value but, as he hangs from the wheel with his badly burned hands, he suddenly lets go and falls into a vat of fire-covered liquid. It's not quite clear in the movie whether he intentionally let go or simply could hold on no longer. The novel is much clearer about that point. Scott intentionally sacrifices himself in order to propitiate his God, in whom he has completely lost faith. In a monologue in the novel, Scott even compares the Christian God to Baal, remarking, "You're the same old god with the smell of blood in his nostrils". Little of that sentiment makes its way into the movie, so some viewers prefer to believe that he could hold onto the wheel no longer and didn't have the strength to swing himself back onto the catwalk.
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