EARTHQUAKE (1974) 

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Charlton Heston
Ava Gardner
George Kennedy
Lorne Greene
Genevieve Bujold
Richard Roundtree
Marjoe Gortner
Victoria Principal
Barry Sullivan
Walter Matthau

Mark Robson



Time: 123 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Action/Drama

Won Academy Award for Best Sound. Nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.

Filmed at the height of the disaster flick craze, I had hopes this film would be as engaging and exciting as THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO, two of my tacky film favorites. Unlike those films, I had a hard time enduring the many horrors of this bloated and boring epic, which are almost too numerous to count. It begins with an overabundance of plotlines that could only have come out of the 70s. Then introduces us to a plethora of characters who are so annoying you can't wait for the Big One to hit just to put an end to their bitching. Having survived a major earthquake in Los Angeles – the film's setting – I found the total destruction of the city – and the way they shot it – laughable.

Granted the quake sequence is the only part of the film that's at all entertaining, however, how it won a special achievement Oscar for its' visual effects is a stumper. Except for Bujold almost getting run over by a house, the rest of the sequence is merely filled with a lot of shaking and falling debris killing people. What's innovative about that? That "techonology" was used to better effect in the 1936 film SAN FRANCISCO. Their nomination for Film Editing is equally astounding because as far as I could see the film needs to be about one and a half hours shorter. That wouldn't leave much of a plot, but believe me you wouldn't miss it. Besides, once the quake is over, the film plods along as the various characters try to pull their lives back together.

Knowing the best this film has to offer is over, really takes the wind out of the story's sails. Mostly because we're not given a good reason to care about any of these people. One of the film's more amusing aspects is the casting of Lorne Greene as Ava Gardner's father. It's understandable that even in the decline of her career that she'd still want to be the leading lady, but she looks more like his wife than his child. Which is not hard to imagine since he's only 7 years older than her. Heston, who plays her husband, is only 2 years younger than Gardner, but he looks great for his age, making his defection into the arms of Bujold no big surprise. Plus, Gardner's alcoholic, harpy ways don't give him much reason to stick around.

"The governor and I aren't even in the same party. If this turns out to be a false alarm, he'll make me out to be the biggest fool west of the Mississippi."

This love triangle is supposed to be the core of the film, but I found myself uninterested and disgusted to have to root for an adulterer as my hero. I'm no prude, but that's just hard to swallow. Granted he gets what's coming to him in the end, but that's actually less satisfying than one would think. Mostly because his is the only well-developed character. Matthau is the only actor to come out of this dreck with his pride in tact. He plays a man so drunk, he's unaware of the danger he's in. He provides the film with it's only memorable moments. EARTHQUAKE is a film only diehard disaster afficionadoes will enjoy. If you're desperate for a dose of mayhem check out POSEIDON or INFERNO. At least they deliver the goods – intense acting, exciting special effects and a story you care to follow.

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