Earthquake – Nature Gone Wild! week

This is Nature Gone wild! week. Earthquake is currently available on instant Netflix.

Earthquake

PASS: Earthquake (1974) – Rated PG.

“Academy Award winners Charlton Heston and George Kennedy star in this 1974 box office blockbuster. When a massive earthquake hits Los Angeles, construction engineer Stewart Graff (Heston) must try to rescue his father-in-law boss, Sam Royce (Lorne Greene), who’s trapped in his own building. Meanwhile, tough cop Lew Slade (Kennedy) and motorcycle daredevil Miles Quade (Richard Roundtree) are fighting for their lives.”

“Earthquakes bring out the worst in some people.”

Earthquake is co-written by Mario Puzo. Puzo not only wrote The Godfather and Godfather II but also Superman and Superman II. While Mario Puzo is clearly capable of writing Oscar caliber scripts, this is not one of them. The individual stories are terribly written.

The main story involves a love triangle between Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and Genevieve Bujold. It is quite fun to see Ava Gardner hurling venom at Charlton Heston throughout the movie.

When I first saw Remy Royce-Graff (Ava Gardner, 52 in 1974) castigating her husband Stewart Graff (Heston, 51), I was a little relieved and surprised that Heston’s wife was about his age. Shortly after that Stewart goes to see Denise Marshall and sure enough she’s played by attractive 32 year old Genevieve Bujold.

George Kennedy apparently felt he wasn’t macho enough in the Airport series of movies so here he is a cop who *gasp* doesn’t play by the rules. When he parodies this character later in Police Squad, it isn’t much different. There is even a police car point of view chase early in the film eerily similar to Police Squad.

Richard Roundtree (Shaft can you dig it?) plays a heroic Evel Knievel-type character. Strangely they mention that he has a girlfriend who is never shown. My guess is they wanted to attract urban audiences of the time while at the same time playing it safe in the heartland.

I will say that all the unique 70s hair and clothing styles do tend to distract from the proceedings. Dallas fans will have a hard time recognizing Victoria Principal as a tight T-shirted poodle haired brunette.

Earthquake does not make the mistake that Killer Wave made. The Earthquake is front and center. There are minor tremors shown early on that cause a few strategic casualties. The big event hits about the halfway mark and is quite a showpiece. The Earthquake portions of the film are quite entertaining.

Earthquake won Oscars for Best Sound and Special Achievement Award for Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction – Set Decoration. Cinematography is hard to judge given the butchering of the film (see below).

I understand that Netflix can’t supply this movie in Sensurround! (the shake your seats audio provided in some theaters for this film and Midway) but it would have been nice to see this in its original aspect ratio (2.2:1). Netflix appears to have acquired a Pan and Scan/Full screen version.

The drama here is so overwrought as to be fun in a perverse way but I still can’t recommend watching this unless, like me, you automatically have to see any disaster movie.

People Watch: Walter Matthau (billed here as Walter Matuschanskayasky) is hilarious as a drunk. His outfit should have won an Academy Award by itself.