1970s Disaster Movies
I’d imagine a fair percentage of Cats would be Baby Boomers and would probably recall the huge popularity in the 1970s with the disaster movies genre.
Invariably featuring a large cast of Hollywood stalwarts the plot device was mostly a natural disaster with the focus then on the numerous characters’ attempts to escape, cope or avert the disaster.
The genre was supposedly kicked-off with Airport released in 1970 but for me the genre came into prominence with the release in 1972 of The Poseidon Adventure.
As we all probably know this film dealt with an ageing luxury liner where on New Year’s Eve it is overturned by a tsunami with passengers and crew trapped inside, whilst a preacher (played by Gene Hackman) attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety.
The film epitomises the disaster film genre and made a huge impression on me as a young lad when I first saw it on release in early 1973 as it was the last film the family saw at the cinema before we emigrated from the UK to New Zealand . . . by ocean liner !
The genre reached its peak in 1974 with the release of The Towering Inferno and Earthquake.
The Towering Inferno featured a terrific cast in Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire and so on in which a huge fire engulfs the world’s tallest building during its opening night and the firefighters’ attempts at rescuing the occupants trapped in the top floors. Even today, the film stands as a terrific entertainment of the type that Hollywood no longer seems to make with any skill anymore. In addition, the practical effects are still outstanding and, for me, are still way preferable to the CGI effects we see so often today.
Earthquake depicted a massive earthquake which levels Los Angeles. It also boasted the gimmick of Sensurround where massive sub-woofer speakers were installed in theatres to recreate the vibrating sensation of an earthquake, which proved to be highly effective and quite unsettling.
The genre continued with another airport disaster film in Airport’75, a historical event in The Hindenburg, a mad bomber in Rollercoaster, an avalanche at a ski resort in Avalanche and so on.
Ultimately, the genre tended to burn out by the late 70s with such unforgettably bad films like The Swarm (featuring killer bees) and sequels like Beyond The Poseidon Adventure that eventually saw the genre peter out into self-parody which culminated in the riotous Airplane! released in 1980 which spoofed the entire genre.
What favourites and memories do others have ?