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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sensurround! How I do miss it! How this movie misses it! It was the best thing it had going for it when it was released in special theaters with sound equipment designed to vibrate your fanny as it sat snugly in those theater seats. Unfortunately, without the vibrations, Earthquake just ain't as much fun.
As disaster films go, Earthquake is certainly not the worst, but is far from the best. Charlton Heston, fresh from having saved a 747 from certain disaster in Airport 1975, now does his best to save the city of Los Angeles. To be fair though, we knew he wasn't going to stop the earthquake, leaving that for Christopher Reeve in Superman some years later. But we just knew that as Construction Engineer, Stewart Graff he'd do his best to save a lot of L.A. citizens stuck in precarious situations. Why else would he be here? And just for fun, he even brought George Kennedy over from Airport 1975 with him although he's a cop named Lew Slade now instead of tinkering around with jetliners. What a treat!
It seems that Lew Slade was chasing a bad guy who had been drunk driving and run down a kid. Unfortunately the bad guy crashes his vehicle right on the property of Zsa Zsa Gabor, which is out of Slade's jurisdiction. When another officer who is in the proper jurisdiction berates Slade for messing up Miss Gabor's shrubbery, Slade let's the young officer know how much he cares about plant life by landing a right cross. This lands him a suspension, and supposedly helps us get to know his character a little better while we pat our foot waiting for the big rumble to start. Did you really think they were going to open a disaster film with the actual disaster? There's a code in the screenwriter's handbook that says that's not allowed. At least that's what I'm told.
Meanwhile somewhere else in L.A., Stuart Graff is married to Remy Royce-Graff(Ava Gardner) who was fathered by Sam Royce(Lorne Greene) when he was seven I think. Sam is also Stuart's Boss. Stuart is having an affair with Denise Marshall(Genevieve Bujold) who happens to be the widow of a former co-worker of Stuart. We are not told whether Stuart had anything to do with the death of Denise's husband so he could put the moves on her but they could have added that to the plot too. Generally in these types of films they throw everything in but the kitchen sink anyway so why not?
Then on the other side of town we have motorcycle daredevil Miles Quade(Richard Roundtree) along with partner Sal Amici(Gabriel Dell) getting ready to put on the show of his life. His sister is Rosa Amici(Victoria Principal, before Dallas)who has about the funkiest curly hairdo I think I've ever seen on film. Think Shirley Temple with coal black hair. Then there's supermarket manager, weekend warrior, Jody(Marjoe Gortner)who happens to be a fanatic about women with curly coal black naturally curly hair as you'll soon discover. Now all this might sound interesting on paper, and might make a good soap-opera. In this film it's all useless information since this is a film about an earthquake and after it hits we could care less about what happens up to that point. Think of it as the filler before the thriller.
Even without the oscillating seats, the earthquake itself is still fun to watch. We get skyscrapers crashing to the ground, buildings falling on people, shards of glass piercing the good citizen's skins, people scalded by stoves, houses explode, freeways cave in, Stuart, Remy, and Sam get trapped in a high rise, a bar comes crashing down around Lew, Miles big motorcycle stunt comes crashing down, Rosa loses her popcorn in a movie theater, Denise's son takes a dive on his bike, and good boy Jody gets to put his uniform on and show us just how psychotic and messed up he really is. This is cool stuff folks even for 1974 type special effects. Unfortunately, the Earthquake momentarily subsides and we are left to deal with some of the silly plotting the film started out with. Guess you can't have everything.
If you can overlook the usual silliness and terrible dialog which seems to go with the territory in disaster films, you might be entertained by some close calls and daring rescues after the earthquake. You'll certainly get a few laughs out of Marjoe Gortner's cracked-up soldier performance. George Kennedy is pretty darn good as the cop. Heston is better than he was in that Airport thingy, and though his romance with Bujold is an obvious mismatch, it doesn't come near to equaling the absurdity of his relationship with Karen Black on that 747. Ava Gardner plays the bitchy Remy as if she were competing for the Shrew Olympics. Lorne Greene looks as if he wishes he was back on the Ponderosa with Hoss, Adam and Little Joe. Richard Roundtree is fun as the daredevil, but we see little of him after the earthquake. Tiger Williams as Denise's son Corry spends most of the film unconscious and we are grateful for that. Usually the kids in disaster films are scripted to be overly cute and annoying. I think there's a rule in the screenwriter's disaster film handbook about that too.
If I have one suggestion to make it would be avoid the version of this film with the added TV footage at all costs. For those of you familiar with Welcome Back Kotter, if you see any footage of Rosalie 'Hotzie' Totzie(Debralee Scott)riding an airplane, change the channel, remove the tape, just do what you have to do. Why this goofy footage was ever added is beyond me.
In it's original form my grade for Mark Robson wiping out L.A.: C- Hotzie Totzie gets an F and it's back to the sweat hogs for her.
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