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Construction Engineer Stuart Graff is estranged from his jealously possessive wife, Remy, and has an affair with Denise Marshall, the widow of a co-worker. Meanwhile, Remy tries to persuade her father, Sam Royce, who is Stuart's employer, to use his influence to stop Stuart from seeing Denise. Rogue policeman Lew Slade is suspended from the L.A.P.D. for having punched an obtuse officer from another jurisdiction. Embittered, Slade contemplates quitting the police force. Jody, a perverted grocery store manager, lusts after Rosa Amici, sister of Sal, the assistant to Miles Quade, an aspiring daredevil motor cyclist. The lives of all these people are devastated when a major earthquake rips through Los Angeles and reduces the city to ruins. Written by
Kevin McCorry <email@example.com>
Ludicrous disaster epic about the razing of LA, with Chuck a top brass engineer who's marriage to bibulously bloated bosses' daughter Gardner drives him to make expressively "angry" love to starlet Bujold, until Earth's Final Fury steps in to sort out his conjugal priorities. Chuck's got his shades though, so he's ready for anything. Elsewhere, put-upon cop Kennedy is having a bad day because he's mown down Zsa Zsa Gabor's hedge, and a pre-Dallas Principal has the unfortunate crosses to bear of a 2-storey afro (the only structure undisturbed by the quake) and the unwanted attentions of crackpot SAS commander Gortner.
Par for the genre's course, death-defying rescues amidst the sawdust and tinsel is very much the order of the day, but here connected by much bizarrely incongruous throwaway padding involving everyone castwise from Kennedy downwards. There are faint intimations that this could be self-reflexive parody, but given that facetious rock bottom is hit with an unintelligible Walter Matthau's "cameo" as an inebriated barfly (who's decision to go incommunicado under his real Panavision-necessitating surname must surely have come about after seeing the finished product), I very much doubt it.
Save for Kennedy's derisory aside "Earthquakes bring out the worst in people", the film has absolutely nothing to say about the psychology of societal collapse; or why, post 9/11, we continue to enjoy watching tall things falling down with people still in them. But any movie in which a pantomime Gardner's first line is "Goddammit!" can't be a total lost cause. And after her and Chuck's opening domestic tussle, which would come pretty close to John Waters, had he yet gained mainstream acceptance and managed to persuade Liz Taylor to star for him - "Of course i'll induce vomiting, I know the rules by now!" - the film finally delivers 2 hours of not-so-solid (like it's "40-storey monstrosities") entertainment value. Even if after all is said and done with the laugh-a-minute dialogue, the Incredible Upside Down Cows, the cartoon blood in the liftshaft, Gardner playing Lorne Greene's DAUGHTER which meant he would have had her at 7 years old etc etc etc, the movie ends up nothing but its own 'Airplane!'.
Sole aesthetic virtue is its naturalistic sound editing (which understandably won that year's Oscar) and subterranean bass pitch which, combined with the short-lived cinematic 'wonder' of Sensurround
ie earthquake-simulating theaters - meant that certain moviegoers got
to join in the vicarious fun of mass panic and devastation.
If like me, you like this film for precisely the wrong reasons, you will want to seek out its Japanese rival 'Jishin Retto' (1980) for no doubt 'hours' of endlessly fascinating film-studyish comparison...
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