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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>
"Sometimes, earthquakes bring out the worst in people."
Thus is a line spoken by Sgt. Lew Slade in the last reel of the film "Earthquake." The earthquake(s) in this film are not so much metaphysical, as they might appear to be, but rather in the mind of the average human being in society as we know it today. The human mind is a fragile, and intricate creation, and we as a society must do our best to bring the human living standards to punctilious means.
L.A.: A high place for society and people of all types, and a place for the danger! The story begins with a high profile roster, starting with Stuart Graff(Charlton Heston) who is a top-of-the-food-chain executive in engineering and constructing "monstrosities" in Los Angeles. He is in a desolate marriage to Remy Royce- Graff(Ava Gardner.) He is carrying a friendship-and nothing more-with beautiful actress Denise Marshall(Genevieve Bujold), who lives near Sgt. Lew Slade(George Kennedy) who is being hassled by work and former charges Miles Quade(Richard Roundtree) and Sal Amici(Gabriel Dell) and his sister, Rosa(Victoria Principal.) All people are living frivolous, and in some ways, inspiring lives, of daredevil antics and blithe lifestyles. Then, as the title so perceptively puts it, an earthquake hits L.A. causing reckless mayhem to the buildings and petrifying danger to city inhabitants. But the story doesn't stop there. There are many quakes, and plenty of danger to go around, and that is where the story takes flight. The focus of this film is not the quake itself, but how it affects the people of L.A.
The film, being extremely Hollywood driven(note: the all-star cast; menacing "sensurround" effect) might appear to be presented as a top of the league disaster film of the trend which was popular at the time, and special effects driven, and it might have been, but there are also many artistic qualities to be found here. One has to examine it first. The scariest thing about this film is that it is plausible, though not probable. The other disaster films at the time were all man made disasters(boats upside-downing; Fire spreading through out a sky- scraper) but "Earthquake" was the first disaster film to show a disaster that might actually happen, and present characters that people can relate to, in such a treacherous situation. These are real people, and most of them are affected in ways beyond psychological apprehension. But director Robson still manages to make it a fun and enjoyable film without making the situations seem too grim.
The characters could all be discussed in a psychology class, to be analyzed even, as each one has his/her own story to tell. However, one of the main characters, the "quake" itself gets credit too. As there are two jolts, the big quake, and then an unexpected aftershock to boot, there is more than enough rumble to go around. The "rumble" though, is lasting through out the characters minds, as each one goes a little crazy after the shake, be it irrational, or rational, as there are many different types of people in society. There is parallel destruction going on as well. As the city is torn apart, so are these people and the way they view life, as one character loses it and blows away some fellow roommates who have mistreated him, while others are healed, as a Sgt. who is a drunk and louse, who shapes up and becomes really responsible after the quake. These specifications may or may not be apprehensive to the average audience, and true, opinion is opinion, but "Earthquake" is a good film that demonstrates how we as a society have allowed for far too long the deterioration of our world and all that affects it. This world is not a toy, it needs to be taken care of, and when we as a society are mean to it(and each other for that matter) mother nature strikes back at us.
Be it a big Hollywood Blockbuster, or social commentary, which ever you choose, this film is a great, and overlooked gem in Hollywood history, and an interesting one to read up on(the special effects were outstanding and won a well deserved Oscar) and study in film classes. Great performances by all as well. Mario Puzo wrote the precursor to the "Superman" earthquake with this one, and Mark Robson has a guilty pleasure tone to his directing.
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