R.I.P. Ernest Borgnine 1917-2012

Ernest Borgnine passed away Sunday at the age of 95. While that is a great age to live to, I thought I would take a moment to mourn his passing. While best known for his eponymous role on McHale’s Navy (or, for you young whippersnappers, the voice of Mermaid Man on Spongebob Squarepants), Borgnine has a vast filmography.

My favorite roles of his were Dutch in The Wild Bunch (1969), Ragnar in The Vikings (1958), Marty in Marty (1955) and the Sergeant in From Here to Eternity (1953). Sadly none of these are currently available on instant Netflix. There are a lot of Borgnine films available instantly but definitely not his best.

Run for Cover (1955) – Not rated

“Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Matt Dow (James Cagney) wins a pardon, but it’s not long before trouble finds him again. A local sheriff mistakes Dow and his young friend, Davey Bishop (John Derek), for outlaws, and shoots Bishop. Things begin to look up when Dow is appointed the new sheriff and strikes up a romance with Bishop’s caretaker (Viveca Lindfors). But Bishop’s troubled past threatens to drive the two men apart.”

Season of Passion (1959) – Not rated

“Ray Lawler’s hit play inspired this poignant drama about the need to accept middle age despite the longing for youthful passion. The ensemble cast includes Ernest Borgnine and John Mills as Roo and Barney, who get a dose of reality during a holiday. Roo and his longtime girlfriend, Olive (Anne Baxter), cope with changes in their relationship while Barney tries to adjust to new paramour Pearl (Angela Lansbury) after his girl marries another man.”

Bunny O’Hare (1971) – Not rated

“Bette Davis handles the title role in this highly offbeat crime comedy about two aging hippies who elect to rob a bank to restore Bunny O’Hare’s financial affairs after she’s been unjustly evicted and rendered homeless. When that heist ends up paying off, rather than take off for the border, Bunny opts for a life of crime with her new partner, Bill Green, played by fellow Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine.”

Borgnine also appeared in Deadly Blessing, High Risk, Carpool, BASEketball, Castle Rock, The Long Ride Home, The Trail to Hope Rose, and the television series AirWolf.

The Poseidon Adventure – Don’t Get on That Boat! week

This week is Don’t Get on That Boat! week. The Poseidon Adventure is currently available on instant Netflix.

WARNING: This movie is only available through January 31

The Poseidon Adventure

WATCH: The Poseidon Adventure (1972) – Rated PG.

“As the luxury liner Poseidon charts its course on New Year’s Eve, disaster strikes when an undersea earthquake causes a titanic tidal wave and capsizes the vessel, leaving just 10 survivors. Led by a no-nonsense reverend (Gene Hackman), the group must maneuver through airshafts, electrical cables and a burning engine room to the boat’s hull, which is their lone chance for escape. The film scored an Oscar for Best Song (“The Morning After”).”

“The Andrea Doria stayed afloat 10 hours before she sank.”

The granddaddy of the disaster genre, The Poseidon Adventure still holds up pretty well after 38 years. In spite of the above quote, the circumstances behind the disaster are clearly patterned on Titanic lore. The Captain is urged, cajoled, and threatened to move his ship at top speed in spite of his better judgment by the owners.

One of the perks of the disaster genre is the cornucopia of stars parading through the film. The real star here is Gene Hackman who appears to take the material entirely too seriously but is a treat nonetheless. While he could hold a film by himself, he does have ample support.

Shelley Winters takes her role very seriously as well. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her juicy role. Jack Albertson plays her loving husband.

Ernest Borgnine is Hackman’s counterpart, the opposite that a buddy cop movie would demand – in fact Borgnine plays a detective. Stella Stevens is his wife, a former prostitute.

Rounding out the cast are Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, Arthur O’Connell, Carol Lynley and a pre-Nancy Drew Pamela Sue Martin. Carol Lynley sings the Oscar-winning song, “The Morning After” somewhat ironically before disaster strikes.

Characters are well-established prior to the rogue wave. After that the film has a number of wonderful action setpieces as the survivors try to work their way through the ship. Director Ronald Neame and reportedly producer Irwin Allen make the epic trek very exciting. An Oscar Special Achievement award was given for visual effects.

In addition to the aforementioned Oscar nods, The Poseidon Adventure was nominated for many others. Best Art Direction – Set Decoration seems an obvious one for the wonderful upside-down sets. It was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Sound.

In the film our main group (headed for the engine room) briefly encounters a group led by the Doctor heading for the bow. Believe it or not a poorly-regarded sequel was made in 1979, “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure” starring Michael Caine. This film deals, at least partially, with that bow group that is only glimpsed in the original.

I highly recommend this journey into “Hell, Upside Down” (the film’s tag line) but Netflix has it listed as only available until 1/31.

Wolfgang Petersen remade the original as “Poseidon” in 2006 while a quickly-made TV movie “The Poseidon Adventure” premiered in 2005.

People Watch: Long before he spoofed himself in Airplane, Leslie Nielsen (Don’t call me Shirley!) played serious roles. Here he is the Captain of the doomed ship. Irwin Allen’s wife, Sheila, appears as a nurse.