Before Titanic (1997), there was Shelley Winters, who was the largest of the notable names on the manifest of the luxury liner Poseidon that is capsized by a freak tidal wave caused by an undersea earthquake in this surprisingly well-directed disaster flick.
Nearly all of the passengers whooping it up in the ship’s dining room on New Year’s Eve are killed, but ten survivors journey through the ship to escape; worthwhile simply to see Winters squeezing through air shafts, and the toppling Christmas tree.
Led by two-fisted liberal priest Gene Hackman, they thread their way through the upside-down world of the liner – from top to bottom – in search of a way out.
The intriguing inverted sets designed by William Creber camouflage most of the movie’s dramatic implausibilities, while the steadily-rising water injects a healthy measure of tension.
The sets were mounted on slanted tracks which were gradually lowered into water tanks while Ms Winters, Red Buttons and Ernest Borgnine emoted furiously.
Produced by legendary producer Irwin Allen, The Poseidon Adventure was the first major “disaster movie” success putting a weird conglomeration of humanity at peril.
It spawned a terrible sequel, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), and the genre soon gathered momentum with basically the same story taking place on crashing planes, in burning skyscrapers and during major earthquakes.
Reverend Frank Scott
Pamela Sue Martin