In the 70’s there was a new type of film genre to emerge, called the Disaster film or Survival film. The Poseidon Adventure was not the first, that being Airport, but it was, for many, the best. Irwin Allen gave audiences exactly what they were looking for with this fantastic thriller.
The actors performed all their stunts except for the very dangerous stunts and still there was more than 125 stunt performers on this film. The scene in which the character of “Terry” falls from a table and crashes into the ballroom skylight has since become an iconic cinematic shock moment. Actor Ernie Orsatti was asked by the filmmakers to perform the fall himself, and despite his reluctance, he went on to become a renowned stunt man.
One of the things that makes this film so indelible to many people who watch it is that the characters all take action in overwhelming odds to save themselves. In Airport, the passengers don’t do anything and in the Towering Inferno, all the people just wait for the firefighters to save them. Well, come to think of it, the few who did wander off to save themselves all ended up dying. But anyway, I think it really caught on with audiences because we see these characters really struggling to survive. I also think that’s why Titanic became the biggest blockbuster of all time, as this scenario is played out.
The Poseidon Adventure is directed by Ronald Neame and Irwin Allen for 20th Century Fox and stars Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Stella Stevens, Jack Albertson, Pamela Sue Martin, Roddy McDowell, Shelley Winters and Red Buttons.
Things to look up (go to IMDB ):
- Irwin Allen
- The Poseidon Adventure
- Ronald Neame
- Ernie Orsatti
Glossary of film terms as defined by the Wikipedia: The survival film is a film genre in which one or more characters make an effort at physical survival. It often overlaps with other film genres. It is a sub-genre of the adventure film, along with swashbuckler films, war films, and safari films. Survival films are darker than most other adventure films which usually star a single hero. The films tend to be “located primarily in a contemporary context” so film audiences are familiar with the setting, meaning the characters’ activities are less romanticized.
Thomas Sobchack compared the survival film to romance: “They both emphasize the heroic triumph over obstacles which threaten social order and the reaffirmation of predominant social values such as fair play and respect for merit and cooperation.” The author said survival films “identify and isolate a microcosm of society”, such as the surviving group from the plane crash in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) or those on the overturned ocean liner in The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Sobchack explained, “Most of the time in a survival film is spent depicting the process whereby the group, cut off from the securities and certainties of the ordinary support networks of civilized life, forms itself into a functioning, effective unit.” The group often varies in types of characters, sometimes to the point of caricature. While women have historically been stereotyped in such films, they “often play a decisive role in the success or failure of the group”.