Upside Down

PODHORETZ, JOHN

Upside Down It's 'The Poseidon Adventure' without Shelley Winters. by JOHN PODHORETZ Of the thousands of films I've seen in my life, the one that had the greatest impact was, of all things, The...

...The Poseidon is a cruise ship that is hit by a tsunami on New Year's Eve...
...I was 11 years old when I first saw it during its initial release in 1972, and it haunted me for years...
...The wave literally upends the ship, and the "adventure" of the title is the journey taken by 10 survivors of the disaster, who figure out that the only way out is to climb...
...The Poseidon Adventure is no great shakes in the acting, characterization, or dialogue departments...
...Who are you...
...Nor was it the most celebrated, as Airport, which shared its origins with Hotel in the imagination of trash novelist Arthur Hailey, was nominated for 10 Oscars in 1970...
...I asked myself repeatedly...
...Still, we barely register that Kurt Russell's character is basically supposed to be Rudy Giuliani...
...Over the years, I've discovered that my Poseidon Adventure obsession wasn't unique...
...It turns out that there was something about the laborious setup of the first movie that helped make it memorable...
...And we can't make much sense out of the amazing heroics performed by a selfish professional gambler named Dylan (Josh Lucas...
...The reason The Poseidon Adventure had such resonance for me and many others wasn't that it was the first disaster movie...
...Dylan is clearly modeled on Rick from Casablanca, but because the movie dispenses with character details, he travels from selfish to self-sacrificing without ever passing Go and collecting $200...
...We watch them all die a few minutes later, after the hardy band of adventurers has begun their ascent to the surface...
...The survivors are all walking clichésa lovable pair of Brooklynites, a couple of annoying kids, a hip priest, and a retired cop...
...Over the course of the film, each of them is forced to face a terrible fear and perform feats of endurance that are seemingly beyond his capacity...
...I doubt any 11-year-old today will lose a moment's sleep thinking about Poseidon...
...The Poseidon Adventure was, of course, the most enduring entry in a peculiar sub-genre that became wildly popular in the 1970s: the disaster film...
...Would you keep your wits about you and survive, or would you panic and die...
...The characters may have been silly and their exchanges ludicrous, but at least to one 11-year-old, their plight was very vivid...
...The extras, by contrast, scream and cry and run around in abject terror...
...But that awkward, slow behemoth called The Poseidon Adventure, which was in many ways worse than its remake, remains the more memorable and formidable picture...
...a calamity that put you to the ultimate test...
...My guess is that director Wolfgang Petersen spent all kinds of time setting up the characters and the conflicts between them before the disaster strikes, and then just decided to cut all that in the editing room so he could get to the destruction as quickly as possible...
...As America seemed as though it was going down the tubes, American movie audiences thrilled to the spectacle of their countrymen desperately trying to find their way out of burning buildings, flee earthquakes, escape the impact of a meteor shower, and cope with hijackings that blew a hole in the plane, or ended with a 747 sinking to the ocean floor...
...To be fair, the movie's speed has great advantages...
...Poseidon is a zippy piece of work, only 99 minutes long, exciting and ghoulish...
...Since all disaster movies feature inadvertently hilarious dialogue, this one included, it makes sense to eliminate as much of the talk as possible to keep Poseidon from turning into camp...
...This week brings a remake of The Poseidon Adventure that is shorter, both in length and in title...
...Like lemmings, the extras follow the impotent counsel of the ship's captain, who tells them to stay where they are...
...It's a thrill ride of a movie, which is just fine...
...That would be Hotel, a 1967 film in which 12 people are stuck in an elevator that threatens to careen down a shaft and get smashed to bits...
...But there's one thing about its characters that sets them apart from the hundreds of extras who share the screen with them at the movie's beginning...
...No, The Poseidon Adventure grabbed hold of me because of the stark question it poses to its audience: How would you act if you were forced to confront John Podhoretz, a columnist for the New York Post, is THE WEEKLY STANDARD's movie critic and author of the forthcoming Can She Be Stopped...
...They are all resourceful, brave, and cool under pressure, despite the extreme danger and seeming hopelessness of their plight...
...by JOHN PODHORETZ Of the thousands of films I've seen in my life, the one that had the greatest impact was, of all things, The Poseidon Adventure...
...For American males around my age (I'm 45), the "survival of the bravest" theme seemed to hit home, as the existence of the popular Internet feature called the "Poseidon Adventure Personality Quiz" suggests...
...Since the ship is upside down, this means they must actually make their way upwards to the bottom of the ship, the only part of the Poseidon that is still above the water line...

Vol. 11 • May 2006 • No. 33


 
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