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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
It's New Year's Eve and the luxury ocean liner Poseidon is on a magnificent voyage from New York to Athens. Unfortunately, disaster befalls passengers and crew when the cruise ship is capsized by a huge tidal wave brought on by a submarine-induced earthquake. Though the casualties are many, 10 passengers survive to make a harrowing journey up to the overturned ship's bottom where they try and escape to safety.

Director:
Ronald Neame, Irwin Allen
Cast:
Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters
Writing Credits:
Wendell Mayes, Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Paul Gallico

Tagline:
Hell, Upside Down


MPAA:
Rated PG.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Song - "The Morning After."
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress-Shelley Winters, Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Sound; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing; Best Score-John Williams.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/9/2006

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Ronald Neame
• Audio Commentary with Actors Pamela Sue Martin, Carol Lynley and Stella Stevens
• “Follow the Escape” Interactive Feature
Disc Two
• “AMC Backstory: The Poseidon Adventure” Documentary
• Six New Featurettes
• “Conversations with Ronald Neame” Featurettes
• Original 1972 Featurette
• Trailers
• “American Cinematographer” Article
• Three Galleries
• Storyboard Comparisons


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Poseidon Adventure: Special Edition (1972)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 1, 2006)

We can’t regard 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure as the granddaddy of the disaster flicks. 1970’s Airport preceded it, and we’d already seen a few Titanic-related films prior to that era. However, Poseidon clearly helped kick-start the genre and led to later hits like The Towering Inferno and Earthquake.

Poseidon offers one of the better entries in the field, though it merits that status mostly because so many of the others stink. Inferno probably remains the gold standard in the genre, whereas Poseidon comes up short of its level. The movie follows the final journey of the aging SS Poseidon, on its way from New York to Athens. Linarcos (Fred Sadoff) represents the owners, and he pushes Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) to go faster to meet the schedule. He resists, especially since the owners just plan to scrap the ship when it arrives.

During this New Year’s voyage, we get to know some of the passengers. New York cop Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) and wife Linda (Stella Stevens) squabble a lot. She used to work as a hooker, and she worries she might run into an old customer on the ship. After they arrive in Greece, Manny and Belle Rosen (Jack Albertson and Shelley Winters) plan to get to Israel to see their young grandson. Health-obsessed bachelor James Martin (Red Buttons) attracts Belle’s attention, and Mrs. Rosen seems desperate to set him up with a woman.

Young and vibrant Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman) lost his faith, so the church sends him to Africa as punishment. However, he looks forward to this since he thinks he can do some rebellious good there. Nonnie (Carol Lynley) sings on the ship in a band with her drummer brother Teddy (Stuart Perry). Waiter Acres (Roddy McDowall) feels infatuated with Nonnie. Boat-obsessed Robin Shelby (Eric Shea) and his teen sister Susan (Pamela Sue Martin) head to see their parents, and we learn that she has the hots for Reverend Scott.

After all this exposition, disaster strikes. Due to a sub-sea earthquake, a huge wave capsizes the Poseidon. This sets the survivors on a quest to survive, and the film concentrates on the characters described previously.

That last factor causes a big problem with Poseidon. Since the film doesn’t bother to tell us much about the other passengers or crew, we already have a pretty good idea who will survive and who won’t. Granted, part of the allure of the disaster genre is to see who makes it within that subgroup. I won’t reveal who kicks along the way, but not every member of our little troupe will live to see the end credits. Nonetheless, the expository moments telegraph the pool of survivors too clearly.

The film also offers far too many useful coincidences to help our heroes. It sure benefits them to have Robin’s in-depth knowledge of the ship, and Belle’s teenage success as an underwater swimmer manages to bail them out of a tough spot. These instances stretch credulity and make the film somewhat difficult to swallow at times.

An awkwardly constructed flick, Poseidon suffers from a number of pacing flaws. Whenever it feels the need for a sappy character moment, the story stops dead in its track. If it wants to focus on the melodrama between the Rosens or between Nonnie and Martin, it comes to a complete halt to explore those issues. Hello, people – you’re trying to escape a sinking boat! There’ll be time for sentimentality later.

Though Poseidon includes an amazing five Oscar-winning actors – Hackman, Winters, Albertson Buttons and Borgnine – the movie suffers from generally hammy performances. I wouldn’t say that the cast lower themselves for the material, but none of them seem to take it terribly seriously. Instead, they tend to emote awfully heavily, and that doesn’t help make the story any more believable. In addition, we get too much forced humor that relates to Winters’ weight.

Despite all of these problems, I must admit I possess an affection for Poseidon. I remember it fondly from childhood, back when I loved all the disaster flicks. Even with these various concerns, it still manages to execute some good action scenes. It maintains a nice level of tension and pulls off the segments of mayhem concisely and vividly.

Too bad we need to sit through all of the exposition and cheesy character moments. The Poseidon Adventure remains superior to most disaster flicks, but it doesn’t offer much to make it a general success. I liked it partially out of nostalgia, but I can’t say too much for it beyond that.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

The Poseidon Adventure appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Very few problems emerged during this satisfying transfer.

For the most part, sharpness came across well. Some wide shots appeared a little soft, but those concerns arose infrequently. The movie almost always looked pretty crisp and distinct. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. Source flaws also failed to appear. From start to finish, this was a wonderfully clean and fresh presentation, as I noticed absolutely no blemishes.

Colors came across nicely. Skin tones appeared natural and all the other hues looked solid. The movie boasted a clear and tight palette, and the tones were vivid and vibrant across the board. Black levels appeared quite deep and rich, while shadow detail worked well. For example, low-light shots on the bridge showed fine definition. Fans have waited seven years for a new anamorphic transfer of Poseidon, and this image was worth it.

While not as strong as the visuals, the Dolby Stereo soundtrack of The Poseidon Adventure seemed generally good. The imaging was quite nice for the most part. Directional speech cropped up on occasion. Those lines weren’t always concisely located – they bled a little bit – but they opened up matters in a decent manner.

Effects also blossomed to the sides in a fairly nice way, though the stereo presentation of the music was the most satisfying aspect of the soundfield. The score boasted good separation and delineation through much of the movie. I worried that Fox would saddle Poseidon with one of their often abysmal stereo remixes, but that wasn’t the case. This appeared to be the original stereo track that came with the movie in 1972.

Audio quality generally was good, but those elements could show their age. Speech had some of the rougher moments. Although the lines usually demonstrated acceptably natural qualities, they also suffered from bouts of edginess. The dialogue was erratic but stayed reliably intelligible.

Effects also had their ups and downs. I noticed occasional instances of distortion, as sometimes these elements became a bit shrill. However, they mostly seemed reasonably concise, and a few scenes boasted more than decent low-end. The score was the most successful aspect of the track. While not tremendously robust, the music demonstrated good range and definition. The quality of the audio kept the track from a “B+”, but it remained pretty positive given its age.

How did the picture and audio of this new 2006 special edition compare to those of the original 1999 DVD? Both areas demonstrated considerable improvements in the new set. The 2006 transfer was cleaner, tighter and better defined than the old non-anamorphic version. The stereo audio demonstrated breadth absent in the prior mono mix, and the sound showed greater clarity and accuracy. On all accounts, the 2006 Poseidon easily bettered its predecessor.

Another area of improvement related to the DVD’s extras. While the old disc included only minor supplements, this set includes a much more substantial roster. On DVD One, we open with two audio commentaries. The first comes from director Ronald Neame, as he offers a running, screen-specific piece. I’ve enjoyed the chats with Neame that accompanied The Horse’s Mouth and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and the director offers another high-quality discussion here.

Neame gets into his role on the set, working with the actors and various related elements, pacing the movie and keeping the audience interested during the non-action segments. From there he discusses shooting on the Queen Mary and visual effects, cinematography and editing, stunts and logistical challenges, the script, budgetary issues, and a few other notes from the shoot.

Throughout the track, Neame proves nicely candid. He reveals that he didn’t think the movie would be a success, and he also relates a number of mistakes he feels he made. I like that tone, as too many directors do little more than praise their work; Neame stays away from generic happy talk. He even reveals that both he and Gene Hackman thought they were “slumming” with this flick. (Apparently Hackman still feels that way since he seems reluctant to acknowledge it as part of his filmography; the actor doesn’t show up anywhere in this DVD’s modern interviews.) Despite a few dead spots, the director remains consistently lively and informative in this very good commentary. It’s hard to believe he’s well into his nineties.

For the second track, we hear from actors Pamela Sue Martin, Carol Lynley and Stella Stevens. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. I like that fact but can’t claim this ever becomes a particularly strong commentary.

The actors discuss their casting, impressions of the other actors, working with Neame and producer Irwin Allen, and general aspects of the shoot such as dealing with all the technical issues and challenges. They also discuss what they like and dislike about the movie as well as speculate about the 2006 remake. A reasonable number of nice observations appear, and it’s definitely fun to get the three women together again after all these years. However, the track sags more than a couple of times, and the piece lacks a wealth of strong information. This is an entertaining listen but not a great one.

Finally Disc One includes an interesting element called Follow the Escape. This interactive feature prompts you to press “enter” whenever the upside-down ship icon appears during the movie. If you do so, you’ll see diagrams and symbols that allow you to track the progress of the characters as they try to get out of the boat. We can see where they are as well as a ship overview and indications who’s died. It’s a little mean to make the Belle Rosen icon fatter than the rest, but this is a neat little addition to the package.

Moving to DVD Two, we begin with a 25-minute and eight-second episode of AMC Backstory. It provides the standard mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Neame, Stevens, costume designer Paul Zastupnevich, actress/Irwin Allen’s wife Sheila Matthews Allen, production designer William Creber, Irwin Allen’s assistant Al Gail, and actors Roddy McDowall, Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons.

The show looks at producer Irwin Allen and his struggle to bring Poseidon to the big screen. We learn about the film’s adaptation, casting and choosing a director, problems with financing and studio opposition, shooting complications and stunt sequences, and set design and effects. We also hear about challenges that faced the actors, the film’s reception, and its legacy for those involved.

No one will mistake this show for a complete examination of the production, but “Backstory” gives us a decent overview. It touches into a number of issues not discussed in the commentaries, and it lets us see the various issues that confronted the shoot. I like the archival materials and think we get a nice glimpse of Poseidon here.

Six new featurettes follow. The Cast Looks Back runs five minutes, 42 seconds, and includes notes from Sheila Allen, Buttons, Stevens, Lynley, Martin, and McDowall. We hear some impressions of Irwin Allen, Neame and the various cast members as well as thoughts about the rigors of the shoot and the flick’s legacy. We’ve heard a fair amount of this information elsewhere, but a reasonable amount of new information appears here. The featurette ends up as a decent synopsis of some different issues.

In the four-minute and nine-second Falling Up with Ernie, we hear from actor Ernie Orsatti as he discusses his small role and his big stunt. This short piece offers a fun look at one of the movie’s most memorable sequences.

Information about The Writer: Stirling Silliphant fills nine minutes, 15 seconds. We get notes from Stevens, former agent Don Kopaloff, author David Morrell, author/story consultant Christopher Vogler, Towering Inferno production illustrators Nikita Knatz and Joseph Musso, Poseidon Adventure production illustrator Dan Goozee, and filmmaker Charles Matthau.

The program gets into Silliphant’s hyperactive work schedule as well as highlights of his career, his relationship with Irwin Allen and his adaptations, and his general demeanor and personality. While not a true overview, “Writer” touches on enough elements of Silliphant’s career to be valuable. I especially liked the look at Steve McQueen’s rewrite demands.

During the nine-minute and 52-second The Heroes of the Poseidon, we get remarks from Vogler, Morrell, Stevens, and professor of religion Christopher Heard. The program looks at the film’s connection to other literary works and its themes, metaphors and allusions. These examine the flick’s situations and characters. Frankly, it seems like a bit of a stretch to see so much meaning in this popcorn flick, as you can find this sort of material in virtually anything if you try hard enough. Still, I don’t doubt that some of this was intentional, and “Heroes” provides some interesting interpretation.

Notes about the movie’s hit song appear in The Morning After Story. This eight-minute and 59-second piece presents Lynley, songwriter Al Kasha, singer (single version) Maureen McGovern and singer (film version) Renee Armand. We learn about the composition of “The Morning After”, the tune’s theme and its integration into the film, its recording and success. The show includes nice information about the tune along with some facts that surprised me; I never knew that McGovern didn’t do the take in the flick. I also like the parts that tell us how they tried to match the singing with Lynley’s speaking voice. This is a good little piece.

For the final featurette, we get the six-minute and 27-second RMS Queen Mary. As implied by the title, the show examines the boat used in the film. We learn how author Paul Gallico’s trip on the Queen Mary influenced his writing of Poseidon as well as various aspects of the boat and how the production adapted it for the film’s sets. “Mary” never becomes deep, but it presents a decent look at the ship and its impact on the production.

A section called Conversations with Ronald Neame presents three short clips. These run between two minutes, 26 seconds and three minutes, 20 seconds for a total of nine minutes, three seconds of footage. In them, Neame discusses secrets of some stunt shots, the movie’s continued appeal to fans, and the scene in which the boat capsizes. Neame manages not to repeat information from his commentary as he offers a few fun tidbits.

An Original 1972 Featurette lasts 10 minutes. It includes statements from Neame, Creber, Lynley, and actors Gene Hackman, Leslie Nielsen, and Shelly Winters. The program touts the bigness of the production as an antidote to all the era’s little flicks. The featurette takes a superficial look at various aspects of the movie, but it exists mainly to promote the film. Still, it adds some decent shots from the set, especially when we take a peak at the production meetings. We also get the DVD’s only comments from Hackman and Nielsen; they don’t say much of use, but at least they’re here! (The same clip of Winters also appears in the “Backstory”.)

Three Trailers appear. We get both the teaser and trailer for Poseidon as well as an ad for The Towering Inferno. None of them seem particularly strong, I must admit.

Next we find an American Cinematographer Article. Published in the September 1972 issue, this text by John Campbell fills 43 screens. It discusses sets and photography and also includes an interview with director of photography Harold Stine. As one might expect, the text mostly sticks with technical issues. Nonetheless, it provides a good read, especially due to the insights provided by Stine. A mix of nice production photos round out the article in a positive way.

Three Galleries appear. We get “Marketing” (21 images), “Publicity” (63), and “Behind the Scenes” (35). Some decent materials pop up here, with the best elements in the “Behind the Scenes” area. Don’t expect a treasure trove, though; the stills on the Towering Inferno DVD proved much more valuable.

Lastly, we get three Storyboard Comparisons. These come for “Shop Capsizes” (two minutes, 43 seconds), “The Vertical Shaft” (2:20) and “Saving Reverend Scott” (2:04). Rather than use the standard split-screen technique, this area shows movie scenes and alternates them with drawings. This method doesn’t work very well. I like the material we see but don’t care for the form of presentation very much.

As a child of the Seventies, I got a kick out of The Poseidon Adventure. However, beyond nostalgia and some good action scenes, the movie doesn’t offer much to a modern audience. It suffers from many inane elements and a generally poor sense of pacing and storytelling. The DVD provides very good picture and supplements as well as erratic but more than satisfactory audio.

I don’t like Poseidon enough to recommend it to neophytes, but already-established fans will get a big kick from this solid DVD. That goes for all the folks who already own the old “movie-only” release. This set improves on that one in every possible way and is a very worthwhile upgrade.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main