The Poseidon Adventure

the-poseidon-adventure poster 2


20th Century Fox

Directed by Ronald Neame

Produced by Irwin Allen

Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant and Wendell Mayes

Based on the novel “The Poseidon Adventure” by Paul Gallico

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE didn’t create The Disaster Movie genre. If you go all the way back to 1937 you can find “The Hurricane” which I suppose could classify as a Disaster Movie since the climax involves the mother of all hurricanes devastating a South Seas island paradise.   But even though it may not have created the genre, over time it has emerged as the undisputed Champion of Disaster Movies. Yes, there have been Disaster Movies with far bigger budgets, more spectacular special effects, better received by critics and have grossed more at the box office. But I guarantee that if you ask anybody what their favorite Disaster Movie is, they’ll say THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. It’s the “Citizen Kane” “Gone With The Wind” and “Star Wars” of Disaster Movies.

The S.S. Poseidon is on her last voyage. This luxury liner, once the queen of the ocean has been retired and is scheduled to be scrapped. She’s heading from New York to Athens at full speed at the insistence of Mr. Linarcos (Fred Sadoff) who represents the ship’s new owners. The Poseidon’s captain (Leslie Nielson) warns that the ship is heading into rough weather and does not have enough ballast to ride out a severe storm.

During the New Year’s Eve celebration, The Poseidon is indeed hit by a tsunami that capsizes the ocean liner. Despite the insistence of the ship’s purser that help will be coming, a small group elects to undertake a perilous escape route through the now upside down vessel from the dining hall to the hull and hopefully they will be able to get out near the propeller shaft where the hull is the thinnest. Their decision proves to be the right one since it is quickly and horrifyingly apparent that The Poseidon is sinking. Slowly, yes, but still sinking.


The group is led by the charismatic yet heretical Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman). Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) is a tough, old school NYPD detective. His wife Linda (Stella Stevens) is an ex-prostitute he married to keep her off the streets. Susan Shelby (Pamela Sue Martin) and her little brother Robin (Eric Shea) are travelling by themselves, on their way to meet their parents. Manny and Belle Rosen (Jack Albertson and Shelley Winters) are a retired Jewish couple going to Israel to meet their two-year old grandson for the first time. James Martin (Red Buttons) is a lonely, shy man who seems like the last person in the world who would go on a trip like this. Nonnie Parry (Carol Lynley) was the lead singer of the band entertaining during the celebration. Acres (Roddy McDowell) is a waiter who’s knowledge of the ship is essential to the group’s survival. It’s a desperate race against time and it tests the group to the limits of their spiritual and physical strength. Some of them rise to the challenge. Some don’t. Some live and some die.


THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE is one of those movies that I simply will not hear a bad word against. I saw this in the theater way back in 1972 and I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. I watched it today on Turner Classic Movies for what must have been the twentieth time and I was still just as engrossed in the characters and the story as I was the first time.

The performances are absolutely first rate. You’ve got no less than five Academy Award winners in the cast and they all give it all they’ve got. And it’s the performances that sell the movie as everybody takes this material as serious as cancer. Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine are especially good fun to watch as they bark and bite at each other like junkyard dogs. Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson may come off at first as if they’re playing a stereotypical old married Jewish couple but they get in nice little bits of characterization that display a lot of understanding of this particular type of couple they’re playing.


And yes, this is the movie where Shelley Winters gets to play one of the greatest, most classic death scenes of all time. And the reason why it’s so great is that Shelley Winters knew what she was doing with Belle in each and every scene that leads up to the death scene. So by the time we get to it, it’s a real gut punch. Yeah, other people die in the movie but it’s the death of Belle Rosen that we actually feel.

But it’s Red Buttons that always stands out for me. I can’t say that I’ve ever been a fan of his comedic roles or his stand-up. But when he’s in a dramatic role I can’t take my eyes off him. His quiet little haberdasher character surprisingly turns out to be quite the man of action when he’s put to the test and I really like the scene where he’s the one who jumps in between Reverend Scott and Mike Rogo when they’re about to come to blows and makes them stop their squabbling. And when Mike Rogo has given up and Susan breaks down into hysterics, it’s James Martin who steps up to the plate and takes charge.


Technically you couldn’t ask for anything better. It must have been an absolute nightmare to have filmed on those upside down sets, many of them filled with fire or water or in some cases fire and water. And it’s obvious that the cast did a whole lot of their own stunts, especially Shelley Winters and Gene Hackman in those truly tense underwater scenes. And of course everybody knows the iconic theme song; “The Morning After” but did you know that the movie’s score was composed and conducted by a young up and coming composer named John Williams?

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE is one of those movies that I simply cannot imagine anybody who claims to love movies saying that they’ve never seen it. It’s got a preposterous premise that is given real life and real suspense by the superior performances of the cast and the technical expertise that totally convinces you of what you’re seeing on the screen. It’s quite simply one of the best movies of its kind ever made and there’s a good reason it enjoys the reputation it enjoys today.  It earned it.


117 Minutes

The Wild Bunch



Warner Bros-Seven Arts

Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Produced by Phil Feldman

Screenplay by Sam Peckinpah and Waylon Green

Based on a story by Waylon Green and Roy N. Sickner

THE WILD BUNCH represents a lot to me personally.  Besides being one of the greatest Western movies ever made.  THE WILD BUNCH was my first “grown-up” movie that my father took me to see.  Just the two of us went and we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner afterwards to talk about the movie.  It was a great day and there’s not many days from my childhood that remain as vivid as that particular day.  It also was the first Western I ever saw in a movie theater and so began my overwhelming love for the genre which is just as fierce today.

Sam Peckinpah may have had his faults but by God, could the man direct a movie.  And THE WILD BUNCH, along with “Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia” and “Ride The High Country” represents what I personally consider his holy trinity of Westerns.  And yes, even though “Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia” is set in modern times, it is a Western.


But in a way, THE WILD BUNCH is set in modern times as well.  The gang of aging outlaws we follow through the movie don’t carry the time-honored six-shooters we’re used to seeing in a Western.  No, these guys pack .45 automatics and pump shotguns.  That’s because the movie’s set in 1913.  Times are changing rapidly, thanks to technology, represented in the movie by the railroad, automatic weapons and automobiles.  Pike Bishop (William Holden) Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine) Lyle and Tector Gorch (Warren Oates and Ben Johnson) Angel (Jaime Sanchez) and Freddie Sykes (Edmund O’Brien) are The Wild Bunch and their latest job has gone totally bust.  They attempt to rob a Texas railroad office and end up being ambushed by a posse of bloodthirsty yet hopelessly incompetent bounty hunters (Peckinpah regulars L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin among them) led by Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) who once was Pike’s best friend and rode with The Wild Bunch.  He’s been released from Yuma with one mandate: hunt down and kill his old partners or get sent back to Yuma.  He really doesn’t want to go back to Yuma.

They end up with bags full of washers instead of gold.  The failure of this job brings the gang to a painful conclusion: times are changing and as Pike says; “We’ve got to start looking past our guns.” There’s no more wild west for these guys to roam and they’re getting too old for this line of work.

Pike and the others make a deal with the Mexican General Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) to rob an Army train transporting guns and ammo and turn it over to him.  Mapache’s willing to pay them enough to retire on but Angel’s not willing to steal guns for Mapache.  Mexican himself, Angel argues that Mapache’s nothing but a petty tyrant, setting himself up as general to exploit his own people.  Angel also doesn’t appreciate Mapache having stolen his woman.  But due to the presence of a German munitions expert/military advisor (Fernando Wagner) it’s pretty obvious to ex-military men like Pike and Dutch that Mapache’s ambitions are anything but petty.  Angel agrees to help rob the train if he can have some guns to give to his village.

And so The Wild Bunch goes off to pull what they hope will be their last job.  But it’s a job that will test their rough code of loyalty to each other.  A job that will end in bloody vengeance.


There’s really not much I can say about THE WILD BUNCH that you probably already haven’t read or heard about your own self.  It’s rightly earned its reputation as a masterpiece of filmmaking.  And more than 40 years after it was made it still is considered one of the most violent movies ever made.  In 1993, the movie was resubmitted to the MPAA ratings board for the movie’s theatrical re-release and the board slapped it with an NC-17.  Hard to argue with that one, considering the astronomical body count.  And especially that apocalyptic final shootout in which The Wild Bunch massacres an entire army in a suicidal orgy of gunfire that has to be seen to be believed.

But it isn’t just the violence that makes this movie so outstanding for me.  It’s the perfect cast that is nothing less than convincing in every shot.  The themes of trust and betrayal between men who try to be honorable in a world and profession that won’t let them.  The moody interludes between the characters.  Such as the quiet talk between Pike and Dutch as they lie beside a campfire.  Or the conversation with an old Mexican bandit.  Or the ending which carries the promise of a new Wild Bunch.

If you’ve seen THE WILD BUNCH then you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, I don’t know why you’ve waited this long.  It’s a masterpiece, plain and simple.  If you’ve never seen it, watch it at your earliest opportunity.  If you have, what the hell, see it again.


143 minutes

Rated: R