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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.78%
Average: 4.35%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 34 user ratings

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Poseidon Adventure, The (1972)
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by Scott Weinberg

"Corny, crazy, capsized classic"
5 stars

When I was a kid, my sister and I had a bunch of "stay up late movies" -- flicks that our mom would always allow us to skip our bedtime for. Some of them were pretty obvious choices: Willy Wonka, The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, etc. But she also thought flicks like The Poseidon Adventure, Silver Streak, and The Frisco Kid were special enough to warrant a late-night bedtime and an extra bowl of popcorn.

Back in those days, movies like The Poseidon Adventure were the most dazzling treats imaginable ... and with TV commercials they seemed to run about five hours apiece.

My affection for these films has remained strong over the years, so when I learned that an all-new Special Edition of The Poseidon Adventure (AND The Towering Inferno!) were on their way, the semi-dormant nine-year-old who resides inside my brain, well, he woke up and took notice. "We'll stay up late and watch the lovely new transfer and ALL the extras!" is specifically what he said, if you must know.

To my now-sadly-old eyeballs, The Poseidon Adventure holds up just as well today as it did 20-cough years ago. Even as a kid, I knew a lot of it was trite and obvious and a little corny -- but even MORE of it was packed with colorful characters, crazy escapes, creepy occurrences, and a half-dozen truly dazzling death scenes. (Oh, come off it. The death scenes are the icing on the Disaster Movie Cake!)

The U.S.S. Poseidon is enjoying its very last New Year's cruise when an underground earthquake yields a shockingly massive tidal wave ... and flips the giant ship on its head. Inside said ship, nearly everyone dies save for a collection of ten plucky survivors who must now travel up to the bottom of the ship if they hope to earn any sort of rescue.

And it truly is one hazardous adventure.

Along for the water-logged trek are a bossy preacher (Gene Hackman), a gruff policeman (Ernest Borgnine), a former hooker (Stella Stevens), a sweet-natured bachelor (Red Buttons), a shell-shocked singer (Carol Lynley), an efficient waiter (Roddy McDowall), a lovable old married couple (Jack Albertson & Shelley Winters) and a pair of plucky kids (Eric Shea & Pamela Sue Martin). Their goal is to beat the invading waters, circumnavigate an upside-down hell-hole, and avoid the various traps that are created when a giant ocean liner ends up in such an unnatural position.

Obviously, not all of 'em make it to safety.

I think it's the "nasty streak" of Irwin Allen's best adventures that keep them so darn watchable. Every time something gets too sweet or treacly, a character we like is subjected to a particularly nasty demise, and all of a sudden we're glued to the proceedings -- hoping the rest of the gang find a sanctuary, but giddily anticipating the next batch of wet, screaming death.

In order for this to work, you need to have some characters worth caring about. And since Stirling Sillphant's screenplay doles out only the most cursory character developments, it's a good thing we have pros like Hackman, Borgnine, Winters, and McDowall to keep the viewers interested. Spectacle can only go so far before a viewer becomes overwhelmed and/or bored, so it's the human connection that keeps Poseidon afloat between the rather intense action bits.

Despite its smoothly-balanced nasty streak, The Poseidon Adventure is pure big-movie escapism of the most engaging variety. The very concept -- escape from a capsized ocean liner -- is enough to keep a movie-watcher interested, but uber-producer Irwin Allen (and director Ronald Neame) are sure to balance the adventure with equal parts wit and broad-yet-likeable humanity. Irwin Allen may have run his formula into the ground before the 70s were through, but his first two tries still stand up surprisingly well today, and if we're making picks for the most entertaining disaster flicks ever made -- my enthusiastic vote goes to The Poseidon Adventure. Easily.

(Three things to focus on during your next trip on the Poseidon: 1. The giant Christmas tree really smooshes a pair of screaming escapees, which is an awesome special effect. 2. Leslie Nielsen plays the ill-fated (and very straight-faced) ship's captain. I kept waiting for him to trip over something or make a goofy face. 3. Gene Hackman sure does scream a lot in this movie.)

(© Review reprinted from DVDTalk, with permission from the author (me) and the DVDT management. For the full DVD specs on this particular movie, please visit and get friendly with the search bar.)

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originally posted: 05/22/06 16:37:18
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User Comments

2/25/13 action movie fan one of the best ship disaster movies 5 stars
8/20/11 Todd Leafgreen The all time greatest disaster movie...never gets old.... 5 stars
11/09/09 Danny I'd like a dollar for every time Stella Stevens says, "Shut Up!" 5 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Great story! 5 stars
8/30/08 jackhammer3000 in reply to Elvisfan:I'd like a dollar for every time eric shea says sis! 5 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White great disaster film 5 stars
8/06/07 Vincent Ebriega It's splendid entertainment. 4.5/5. 5 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega One of the best diasters ever. 4 stars
1/13/07 Jeff Anderson While not an absolute classic, it's entertaining & WAY superior to the lousy 2006 remake. 4 stars
1/03/07 Matt Good cast (gotta love Stella!), good effects for its time. 5 stars
12/29/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 5 stars
9/03/06 Dragon The Artist A good ol' fashioned ownable classic!! 4 stars
1/29/05 Darryl Great film! Only complaint is that the annoying brat should've STAYED in the restroom! 5 stars
11/21/04 Pinkline Jones Diabolical, hysterical script, Nielsen the Captain LOL!!!! 4 stars
11/17/04 John Bale Cast overacts in shouting. Seems sillier now then when first released 3 stars
6/16/04 Douglas Cast is very believable, despite the cheesy dialogue. Real star is the ship/effects. 5 stars
3/29/04 JimmyC Gotta love the Rosens 5 stars
1/09/04 John the best of all desaster movies 5 stars
9/07/03 Kyle Excellent cast! Excellent action! Melodramatic at times, but who cares? Awsome. 5 stars
9/01/03 Kitty B. gene hackman resembles bill murray in this watertight flick 5 stars
2/03/03 scott A GREAT FILM 5 stars
12/07/02 Carl Cunard It becomes a part of you! 5 stars
12/05/02 Roddy fangirl Loved Roddy's performance, however short. Sad to see him go, he was cute. ;) 5 stars
8/25/02 movie guy great 5 stars
7/19/02 Charles Tatum Big Stars! Big Action! Big Fun! 4 stars
11/27/01 The $1.98 Pyramid A ship upside down: Awsome idea. Bleak caracters: less enjoyable. 4 stars
8/24/01 Michael Flynn Chug every time Ernest Borgnine acts cranky. 5 stars
6/20/01 Elvisfan I'd like a dollar for every time Roddy McDowall says the word 'SIR' 3 stars
3/30/01 Andrew Carden I was surprised to enjoy it. Shelly Winters does great! 4 stars
2/06/01 Doug Terrific! Shelley Winters is superb and it is sad when she dies 5 stars
1/25/01 R.W. Welch Maybe the best of the improbable disaster flicks, great camera work. 4 stars
12/26/00 Tom Fischer Great movie 5 stars
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  12-Dec-1972 (PG)
  DVD: 09-May-2006



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