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One of the most gripping films of all time follows ten survivors as they struggle to escape from an ocean liner capsized by a tidal wave. Suspenseful terror, combined with the victims' intimate and personal stories, results in compelling and heart-stopping drama.

Ronald Neame, Irwin Allen
Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters
Writing Credits:
Wendell Mayes, Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Paul Gallico

Hell, Upside Down
Box Office:
Rated PG.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Song-"The Morning After."
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress-Shelley Winters, Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Sound; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing; Best Score-John Williams.

Widescreen 2.35:1
English Digital Mono
French Digital Mono
English, Spanish

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 3/9/1999

• Trailer
• Cast Biographies

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 26, 2003)

We can’t regard 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure as the grand-daddy of the disaster flicks. 1970’s Airport preceded it, and we’d already seen a few Titanic-related films prior to that era. However, Poseidon clearly helped kick-start the genre and led to later hits like The Towering Inferno and Earthquake.

Poseidon offers one of the better entries in the field, though it merits that status mostly because so many of the others stink. Inferno probably remains the gold standard in the genre, whereas Poseidon comes up short of its level. The movie follows the final journey of the aging SS Poseidon, on its way from New York to Athens. Linarcos (Fred Sadoff) represents the owners, and he pushes Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) to go faster to meet the schedule. He resists, especially since the owners just plan to scrap the ship when it arrives.

During this New Year’s voyage, we get to know some of the passengers. New York cop Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) and wife Linda (Stella Stevens) squabble at times. She used to work as a hooker, and she feels the others look down on her. After they arrive in Greece, Manny and Belle Rosen (Jack Albertson and Shelley Winters) plan to get to Israel to see their young grandson. Health-obsessed bachelor James Martin (Red Buttons) attracts Belle’s attention, and Mrs. Rosen seems desperate to set him up with a woman.

Young and vibrant Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman) lost his faith, so the church sends him to Africa as punishment. However, he looks forward to this since he thinks he can do some rebellious good there. Nonnie (Carol Lynley) sings on the ship in a band with her drummer brother Teddy (Stuart Perry). Waiter Acres (Roddy McDowall) feels infatuated with Nonnie. Boat-obsessed Robin Shelby (Eric Shea) and his teen sister Susan (Pamela Sue Martin) head to see their parents, and we learn that she has the hots for Reverend Scott.

After all this exposition, disaster strikes. Due to a sub-sea earthquake, a huge wave capsizes the Poseidon. This sets the survivors on a quest to survive, and the film concentrates on the characters described previously.

That last factor causes a big problem with Poseidon. Since the film doesn’t bother to tell us much about the other passengers or crew, we already have a pretty good idea who will survive and who won’t. Granted, part of the allure of the disaster genre is to see who makes it within that subgroup. I won’t reveal who kicks along the way, but not every member of our little troupe will live to see the end credits. Nonetheless, the expository moments telegraph the pool of survivors too clearly.

The film also offers far too many useful coincidences to help our heroes. It sure benefits them to have Robin’s in-depth knowledge of the ship, and Belle’s teenage success as an underwater swimmer manages to bail them out of a tough spot. These instances stretch credulity and make the film somewhat difficult to swallow at times.

An awkwardly constructed flick, Poseidon suffers from a number of pacing flaws. Whenever it feels the need for a sappy character moment, the story stops dead in its track. If it wants to focus on the melodrama between the Rosens or between Nonnie and Martin, it comes to a complete halt to explore those issues. Hello, people – you’re trying to escape a sinking boat! There’ll be time for sentimentality later.

Though Poseidon includes an amazing five Oscar-winning actors – Hackman, Winters, Albertson Buttons and Borgnine – the movie suffers from generally hammy performances. I wouldn’t say that the cast lower themselves for the material, but none of them seem to take it terribly seriously. Instead, they tend to emote awfully heavily, and that doesn’t help make the story any more believable. In addition, we get too much forced humor that relates to Winters’ weight.

Despite all of these problems, I must admit I possess an affection for Poseidon. I remember it fondly from childhood, back when I loved all the disaster flicks. Even with these various concerns, it still manages to execute some good action scenes. It maintains a nice level of tension and pulls off the segments of mayhem concisely and vividly.

Too bad we need to sit through all of the exposition and cheesy character moments. The Poseidon Adventure remains superior to most disaster flicks, but it doesn’t offer much to make it a general success. I liked it partially out of nostalgia, but I can’t say too much for it beyond that.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio D+ / Bonus D-

The Poseidon Adventure appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. With a new anamorphic transfer, Poseidon would look great, but this DVD seemed merely good.

For the most part, sharpness came across well. Some wide shots appeared a little soft, but those concerns arose fairly infrequently. The movie usually looked pretty crisp and distinct. Unfortunately, mostly due to the lack of an anamorphic presentation, I thought the film showed a few more concerns related to jagged edges and moiré effects than I’d like, and I also noticed occasional examples of edge enhancement. On the positive side, despite the age of the film, Poseidon displayed very few source flaws. I saw a few specks as well as the occasional hair or mark, but the flick generally seemed very clean.

With one notable exception, colors came across nicely. I felt skin tones appeared a tad orange, but otherwise, the hues looked solid. The movie boasted a clear and tight palette, and the tones were pretty vivid and vibrant across the board. Black levels appeared quite deep and rich, while shadow detail worked well. For example, low-light shots on the bridge showed fine definition. While The Poseidon Adventure clearly could use a new anamorphic transfer, this one seemed positive nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the monaural soundtrack of The Poseidon Adventure didn’t fare as well. Audio quality seemed pretty weak. Speech came across as hollow much of the time, and the lines also demonstrated definite edgy tendencies. Dialogue tended to appear flat and lifeless in general. Music seemed bland and displayed little dynamic range. Effects were fairly harsh and rough, and they sounded somewhat shrill and distorted much of the time. The movie featured decent bass response during louder scenes, but the low-end seemed fairly loose and boomy. Even when I considered the age of the film, the audio of The Poseidon Adventure sounded fairly poor.

Though not totally devoid of extras, The Poseidon Adventure contains little of use. We find the film’s trailer - presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with monaural sound – plus a section called The Cast. This includes listings for actors Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, and Stella Stevens. For the most part, these consist of annotated filmographies, but we do find a few decent tidbits, such as the fact that Winters gained 35 pounds for the movie.

As a child of the Seventies, I got a kick out of The Poseidon Adventure. However, beyond nostalgia and some good action scenes, the movie doesn’t offer much to a modern audience. It suffers from many inane elements and a generally poor sense of pacing and storytelling. The DVD provides fairly solid picture quality along with poor sound and an insubstantial roster of supplements. As Poseidon lists for a mere less $10, fans should definitely grab a copy, but otherwise, I can’t endorse the flick for anyone without a hankering for some campy Seventies cheese.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3421 Stars Number of Votes: 76
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