Gene Hackman
Ernest Borgnine
Red Buttons
Carol Lynley
Roddy McDowall
Stella Stevens
Shelley Winters
Jack Albertson
Pamela Sue Martin
Eric Shea

Ronald Neame


Time: 117 Minutes
Rating: PG
Genre: Action/Drama/Disaster

AWARDS: Won Academy Award for Best Song and a special acheivement award for visual effects. Nominations in 7 other categories including Best Supporting Actress (Winters)

Before TITANIC, there was another "ship in trouble" film produced by the legendary disaster flick impresario Irwin Allen. Even though I was only 4 when it was initially released, it became a favorite of mine growing up. It was on TV a LOT. Am not sure why this story appealed to me so much. It's certainly not a situation I want to encounter in real life and am sure repeated viewing have contributed to my fear of the ocean. It doesn't have a historical background, state-of-the-art special effects or a bittersweet love story, but it does have death and mayhem beneath the sea and that's all you need for a gripping tale of survival. It starts out like an episode of "The Love Boat" (another childhood fave), introducing the idiosyncracies of the different members of the little group that's actually smart enough to survive the initial ship trauma. How they got people like Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine to be in this overblown, hackneyed tripe is a mystery.

From there it's a race against time to get to the hull of the ship before they drown, get trapped by debris or the ship sinks. Hackman (playing a preacher) and Borgnine (playing a cop) battle for leadership as they drag everyone through fire, dead bodies and endless amounts of water. This had to be a nightmare to shoot. They, of course, lose some members along the way - it is a disaster after all - the most memorable being Shelley Winters, who pulls the heartstrings and makes the most of her life and death situations. The effects may have been great at the time, but pale by comparison to today's efforts and border on cheesy in some instances. The acting is also hit and miss (Pamela Sue Martin and Eric Shea are clearly meant for TV) and the dialogue sounds like it was written for a soap opera, but there's just something about the constantly rushing water and the fact that the ship IS sinking that makes this film a nail-biter. Hackman is the main standout as the preacher trying to keep his new flock alive. While he's onscreen the film has an undeniable energy the other actors just can't match. THE TOWERING INFERNO is a better example of the all-star case/big disaster genre, but this film will still get your heart pumping, even while you're trying not to laugh at the wackiness of the dialogue. Yet another reason to avoid cruise ships.




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