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Mark Robson
Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Genevičve Bujold, Richard Roundtree
Writing Credits:
George Fox, Mario Puzo

When the big one finally hits L.A..

Charlton Heston leads an all-star cast in an epic film about ordinary citizens who must come together in the face of an unstoppable natural disaster! When the most catastrophic earthquake of all time rips through Southern California, it levels Los Angeles and sends shockwaves through the lives of all who live there. Now strangers must become heroes as the city struggles to get to its feet before the next terrifying aftershock hits! Also starring Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Victoria Principal, Genevieve Bujold and Richard Roundtree, Earthquake combines outstanding performances with Academy Award-winning sound and groundbreaking special effects.

Box Office:
$7 million.
Domestic Gross
$79.700 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Sensurround 3.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 5/9/2006

• None


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Earthquake (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 18, 2009)

When I wrote my recent review of The Towering Inferno, I reflected on the historical significance that film and the disaster movie genre as a whole held for me as a child. Man, was I nuts about those movies! Inferno was always number one, but I loved most of them and eagerly flocked to see them.

I remember viewing Earthquake especially vividly because of the amazing technological innovation that accompanied it: something called "Sensurround." While I now know it just uses a bunch of subwoofers spaced around the auditorium to achieve its "earthshaking" effect, I was seven when Earthquake arrived; I didn't know any of that techo-jumble, so it was just something new and amazingly cool.

I liked the movie, too. I'm not sure what this says about me, but I just couldn't get enough of mass destruction. Smashing, crashing, blowing up - you name it, I loved it!

I was somewhat afraid to rewatch Towering Inferno as an adult because I feared the movie would bite and my childhood memories would be shattered. However, I actually liked it quite a bit, and that enjoyment emboldened me to try out some other disaster classics on DVD.

First up is Earthquake. Would it pass muster as well? In a word - well, in two words: God, no! This movie is thoroughly terrible. I'd say that it really is totally horrible except that seems like an awfully strong statement; while I can't think of anything good about it, I don't want to go to extremes.

Despite its nearly three-hour length, Inferno managed to build a great sense of tension and suspense, largely because of the imminent menace; the fire just kept going and going. Since it offered a massive cast, its characters were sketchy at best, but they still evoked interest in the audience.

Neither factor is true for Earthquake. It follows the same disaster movie formula with its star-studded cast of thousands, but it's a much less interesting story. Interestingly, Earthquake uses much more time for exposition than did Inferno, despite the fact it boasts a smaller cast and runs 45 minutes shorter. The action heats up about 25 minutes into Inferno, but the quake doesn't hit here until the movie's nearly half-finished.

You'd think that scene would liven things up, but it's really pretty dull, too. It goes on for about ten minutes; there's lots of shaking and crashing, blah blah blah. The effects are decent, with only a few notable exceptions - at one point, blood is supposed to fly at the camera, but it's obviously been drawn in by hand and looks ridiculous - but the segment lacks any life or excitement.

The remainder of Earthquake shows the rescue efforts, and though these should be quite exciting as well, they're actually forgettable. The characters are simply so flat and cartoony that no interest is ever evoked. I don't care what happens to them, and the action tends to be so cheesy that it doesn't move me either. Earthquake occasionally provides some campy fun - dig Victoria Principal with that funky afro! - but that's about it. Overall, the movie's a silly stinker.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus F

Earthquake appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While often pretty attractive, the transfer was also somewhat erratic.

Sharpness presented some of the ups and downs. Much of the film looked pretty concise and well-defined, but more than a few soft spots also appeared. Edge enhancement created some of these, as the haloes led shots to appear softer than necessary. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but source flaws were a sporadic distraction. While many scenes came without defects, I noticed occasional instances of specks and marks through the movie. The flick also seemed a bit grainier than expected.

Colors usually worked fine. The hues could be a little heavy at times, but for the most part, I thought they were pretty full and rich. Blacks also came across as deep and tight, and shadows usually followed suit. Some low-light shots were a bit thick, and the “day for night” elements lacked detail, but those were exceptions. The DVD’s flaws were almost enough to make this a “C+” image, but I thought the strengths allowed it to sneak into “B-“ territory.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Earthquake, it worked well for its age. Until the first earthquake hit, the soundfield essentially remained monaural. Music showed good stereo imaging throughout the movie, but the effects concentrated on the front center until the earth started to move.

After that, the mix became more involving. The various effects cropped up from the sides and presented a lot of localized information, though the material tended to be too localized much of the time; the elements often seemed rather speaker-specific. Still, they added life to the package. Surround usage was less enthralling; the back speakers contributed some reinforcement of the forward channels, but I rarely noticed anything unique from the rears.

Audio quality was dated but fine. Speech tended to be a bit hollow, but the lines were intelligible and reasonably natural. Music sounded pretty good, as the score demonstrated nice range. Effects varied in terms of fidelity and could sound somewhat distant, but they usually worked well. The famous “Sensurround” rumble came out of the subwoofer in fine fashion; the earthquake scenes offered very good bass.

Speaking of which, the DVD also offered the original Sensurround 3.1 soundtrack. I sampled parts of it and thought it seemed inferior to the 5.1 remix. The track essentially sounded monaural much of the time, and the effects could be awfully distorted. Based on what I heard, I found no positives in the Sensurround track that didn’t also accompany the 5.1 remix. It provided the most satisfying audio for the film.

How did the picture and audio of this Universal DVD compare to those of the original 1998 DVD from Goodtimes? Unfortunately, I no longer own the old disc and I was unable to rent a copy of it for comparison. However, I feel very certain that the Universal DVD tops the old one. The 1998 disc was non-anamorphic and not particular impressive even by late 90s standards; I’d bet it’d look horrible nowadays. I also wasn’t impressed by the audio of the old disc, and I doubt it’s improved with age. My feeling is that the 2006 Universal release is the one to own.

As far as supplements go, we get none. There’s not even a trailer to be found here.

Ultimately, I can't recommend Earthquake. The movie never becomes dramatic or exciting; it’s more likely to produce unintentional laughs. The DVD provides decent to good picture and audio but it lacks any supplements. Fans will likely feel reasonably satisfied with this release, and at less than $15, the price is right. It’s a terrible movie, though, and the DVD doesn’t really impress.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.2222 Stars Number of Votes: 9
0 3:
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