Psychotronic Ketchup: Building Disasters Upon Disasters

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure
Dir: Irwin Allen // 1979 [DVD]

Cinema 4 Rating: 4


I will leave it to a true fashion expert to take a gander at disaster-meister Irwin Allen's last feature-film directorial effort and tell me if the characters in this film would be wearing those clothes if they indeed had shown up the next day after the events which unfolded in the famous first Oscar-winning Poseidon film, made a full seven years earlier than this one. Yeah, I lived through that time, but I was too busy as a youth in that span trying to see people without clothes on to really pay attention to what they were wearing the rest of the time. I remember my brothers had some Garanimals clothing and I had some truly atrocious attire. That's about it.

Telly Savalas is in this one, and if you don't have him sized up as the heavy after the first scene in which he appears, then you have not been paying attention. Sure, he comes on all semi-nice to salvage tug captain Michael Caine (doing what he does best: acting great in horrible films; say what you will, the man is a trouper when it comes to a paycheck), but you should know right away that he's up to no good on the capsized ocean liner simply by recognition of the fact that he is Telly Savalas in a movie. (The guy played both Blofeld and Pontius Pilate... once you go up against James Bond and Jesus? That's it... you are a movie bad guy. Not even playing Kojak for half a jillion years can save you from that fate.)

It's one of those situations that Jen often yells about. Had she seen this film, she would go crazy trying to figure out why Caine and Karl Malden and Sally Field can't seem to realize that Savalas is an evil fucker from the get-go. It's an amusing variant on a game the two of us play when watching old movies and television ("Of course he betrayed them, Hon. He's Ricardo Montalban!"), but this fact only exists in the real world; in the movie, the characters usually remain oblivious of movie rules. That's why there are movies: for people to make mistakes and then correct them by the rousing finale, or at least die trying to correct them.

However, for those of you who haven't seen the movie, and who might be inclined to be mad at me for revealing this point, I have no sympathy. You should know the movie rules by this point, and if you don't see this plot turn comin' down the pike with bells and whistles and neon lights flashing out in squiggly writing, "Look! Here's the Freakin' Villain!", and all within five minutes of laying eyes on Mr. Savalas, then you have no business making babies or driving a car in this society.

Allen takes the tack of decorating this crapfest by scattering a dockcrane full of "name" thespians around the ship, and then has Caine, Malden and Field discover these new survivors as they make their way through the bowels of the ship. There is a slight sense of emotional resonance leftover from the first film when the salvage crew finds the hole where the survivors escaped and upon entering it, they pass the spot where Hackman fell down into the flames.
I think it was emotional resonance, but it might have been gas. Peter Boyle acts like Peter Boyle playing a part written for Peter Boyle as a too-doting dad and ineffectual ex-sergeant. Jack Warden shows up (yay!), but he has Shirley Knight in tow, so thanks, but no thanks. Apparently the Poseidon series has a lock on Shirleys that annoy the fuck out of me; but that Knight bites it under a deluge of water also points to a trend, and evens the horror out. They also right the ship, so to speak, by throwing in a Shirley I adore: Ms. Jones, who does a very quiet but solid turn as the ship's steadfast nurse.

There is some OK acting here from some parties, but most definitely not from Mark Harmon and Veronica Hamel, future TV stars who would eventually do some good work, but who are only distinguised here by Hamel showing up in a slinky evening dress. And then there is Sally. Ms. Field probably seemed to be acting badly when this came out, but then she won the Oscar for Norma Rae (released roughly around the same time), so in retrospect, she must have actually been terrific in this, too. Nah... she's cute, but terribly annoying here, and the script doesn't help her for a second, saddling her with both the romantic lead and the comic relief role. At least, until Slim Pickens shows up. Yes, I said Slim Pickens. He hugs an expensive bottle of wine in this flick he way he rode a bomb in Strangelove. Wait a minute, maybe he actually is riding a bomb here, too.

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