The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
June 17, 2022 8:47 PM - Subscribe

En route from New York City to Greece on New Year's Eve, majestic passenger ship the S.S. Poseidon is overtaken by a tidal wave. With the captain (Leslie Nielsen) dead, surviving passengers, including the passionate Rev. Scott (Gene Hackman), band together in the ship's ballroom. The group struggles to avert fires, flooding, structural instability and mechanical malfunctions as they make their way through a maze of ladders and tunnels in their desperate attempt to escape a watery grave. The ensemble includes Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, and Roddy McDowall.

Rated 80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning that 20% of the critics checking in can go choke.

Currently streaming in the US on The Criterion Channel and available for digital rental on multiple outlets.
posted by DirtyOldTown (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
standout of the 70s disaster film genre. heros, cowards, assholes, martyrs - character out the ass. you should watch it just so you can say about [insert fucked up challenge] : at least it's easier the climbing out of an upsidedown cruise ship.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:03 PM on June 17 [6 favorites]


I remember seeing this at the drive-in with my parents and my "girlfriend" when I was eight in the summer of '73. My one clear memory is of Shelley Winters falling through the skylight in the upside-down ballroom. It was her, right? I also vaguely recall a small group of people trapped in a partially submerged corridor and them arguing about who was going to do what. Or something. It was 50 years ago and I was eight. 🤷

(The other memory I have is that my "girlfriend" fell asleep during the movie and then did this weird talking-in-her-sleep thing that freaked me the hell out.)

I well remember those 70s disaster films. I especially remember Earthquake and its "Sensaround" rumbling seats.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:17 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Ooos, it's Sensurround.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:19 PM on June 17


The famous stained glass fall was a guy in a tuxedo (future stunt coordinator Ernie Orsatti, who had never done a fall before that day).

The 'arguing in a corridor' scene (of several, but the memorable one) is where Shelly Winters did her own underwater stunts, saving Gene Hackman and everyone else's characters and getting an Oscar nom.
posted by bartleby at 10:42 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Ivan, Shelley Winters isn't the one who falls through the skylight. It's been a few years so unfortunately I don't fully recall the scene, but the woman who falls through the skylight when the ship capsizes is just one of the many New Year's revelers, I think. Shelley survives long enough to swim heroically and then die dramatically later on in the movie. I absolutely loved her character and was so sad she died.

Like Pamela Sue Martin, I too had a crush on sexy swingin' Rev. Scott. I was obsessed with this movie when it was out. I just loved it. "There's got to be a morning aaaaafter..."
posted by kitten kaboodle at 10:44 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I saw this with my dad when it came out. I think it was one of the few father-son things we did together. We both enjoyed the hell out of it.

I haven’t seen the movie in ages, but my faulty memory leads me to think that it was a pretty good production, sets-and-effects-wise, with good, atmospheric lighting and photography. Big movies of that era quite often look cheap-ish and thin, like they’re pumped-up tv productions. I seem to recall this one looking big and solid and believable.

This was the first of the big disaster movies of that era, wasn’t it? Probably the best of the lot, imho.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:22 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the corrections! It's really interesting to fact-check very, very old (timeworn) memories.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:32 AM on June 18


Ooos, it's Sensurround.

Sensurround was impressive, but was not used at theatrical screenings of The Poseidon Adventure.
posted by fairmettle at 7:35 AM on June 18


Surprised that no one's mentioned the theme song, "The Morning After"; I have not seen the movie, but I heard the song, many, many times. The perfect song for pulling an all-nighter in college.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:48 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Thing to watch for: When the ship flips over, in the restaurant room the chairs and tables stay attached to the floor even upside down. Why are the chairs nailed to the floor?
posted by dnash at 8:34 AM on June 18


Why are the chairs nailed to the floor?

Pretty sure the chairs did fall (as seen here) it was just the tables (and maybe some banquettes) that stayed up. I can buy that as a low tech solution to prevent furniture from sliding around during turbulence.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:53 AM on June 18


This was the first of the big disaster movies of that era, wasn’t it? Probably the best of the lot, imho.

The Towering Inferno, also from producer Irwin Allen, gave it a run for the money.
posted by fairmettle at 9:54 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


In all honesty, it's the MAD Magazine parody that I remember most vividly.
posted by acrasis at 10:01 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]




One of many grand Saturday afternoon films from my middle or maybe high school years.
posted by Glinn at 10:39 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Some great scene-chewing performances in this one. As young'un, the "tidal wave" and subsequent overturning of the boat was amazing and scary to watch. There was a remake featuring Kurt Russell (2006) that correctly refers to a "rogue wave." Have not watched that one yet.
posted by davidmsc at 11:30 AM on June 18


Ooohhh yeah, it was a guy who fell through the glass! Wow, I think that's a sign I should watch it again.

Surprised that no one's mentioned the theme song, "The Morning After" ;

I did! I can still sing every line of it, I listened to it that much.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:38 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


In all honesty, it's the MAD Magazine parody that I remember most vividly.

As soon as I saw this title, the phrase THE POOP-SIDE-DOWN ADVENTURE floated up out of my memory.

My parents had the novelization of this movie, and I read it a ton when I was a kid. I didn't see the actual film itself until later. I don't remember it all that well.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:05 PM on June 18


Roger Ebert was not a fan...

Though he did like it more than the 2006 remake, which he suggested should have been done as a sequel in which another wave flips the ship back upright, and they have to retrace their steps back up to the top.
posted by Naberius at 4:40 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


The Towering Inferno, also from producer Irwin Allen, gave it a run for the money.

My dad was a firefighter. Hated that movie. Mostly for what it got wrong about firefighting.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:02 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


My dad was a firefighter. Hated that movie. Mostly for what it got wrong about firefighting.

They did, however, get a lot right about shitty construction practices. (Gives Citicorp tower side-eye)

And did no-one else have trouble rewatching this because the Captain of the Poseidon was none other than LESLIE FREAKING NEILSEN and every time he reads a captain's line seriously, you have trouble not interpreting it as a Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker film.
posted by mikelieman at 6:15 AM on June 19 [3 favorites]


I saw this movie so many times as a child. it 100% made me the disaster movie fan that I am. few films in the genre surpass it.
posted by supermedusa at 8:36 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


My parents had the novelization of this movie

I don't know if there was also a later novelization (= adaptation of the script), but the movie was based on an earlier novel of the same name.
posted by The Tensor at 1:28 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I just watched this about two weeks ago! It's big dumb fun. Some stray thoughts…

• Bummer that every woman in this film is a screeching, fearful liability.
• They should have included a moment showing what happens when you flip a boat's head upsidedown.
• I get that they did this for cinematics, but the final scene in the engine room shows hanging walkways everywhere, which don't hold up(side-down).
posted by iamkimiam at 1:49 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


I saw this at the Castro Theatre in SF on New Years Eve 15-20 years ago, and it was pretty great. There was a pre-show with a film society person doing a Q&A with Stella Stevens and Carol Lynley, then they called Maureen McGovern on the phone over the house sound system and had a little reminiscence before the host absolutely GOADED her into singing a piece of the song. He asked like 4 or 5 times! Afterwards there was an autograph table with Stevens and Lynley, which my brother took advantage of because he likes an obscure Lynley movie. The movie was of course amazing and I think it was actually the first time I saw it, so all in all it was a maximum experience.
posted by rhizome at 5:24 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


There was a remake featuring Kurt Russell (2006) that correctly refers to a "rogue wave." Have not watched that one yet.

This type of cheesy disaster movie fun had gone out of fashion by the time Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One) directed the 2006 remake, but it is very much in the same spirit of over the top action thrill ride, with a soupçon of intentional humor to leaven the body count. Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfus are just the kind of actors who can carry this sort of film. Here's a contemporary review. I can't recommend it highly enough if you're in the mood for an exhilarating b-movie.
posted by fairmettle at 12:06 AM on June 20


The remake with Kurt Russell is good! Not sure why it got such bad reviews. Wolfgang Peterson puts out solid movies, imho. I do remember the remake having a cruel streak: characters are mostly mean and at each other's throats, which is a bit unpleasant. But the production is quite well done.
posted by zardoz at 8:20 PM on June 20


I sat down and watched this entirely on the basis of the enthusiasm I was seeing in this thread, which is why I'm sad to report that I thought this movie stunk. Aside from Shelly Winters (because Shelly Winters) I had a lot of trouble rooting for any of these characters. Who's my hero here? Is it the shouty, controlling cop who abused his position to hit on his now wife? The preacher with a beef with god who is unaccountably interested in making sure every young woman takes off her skirt? The awkward haberdasher creeping on the shell-shocked young woman half his age? The kid from-- sorry, I know it's unfair, but-- the kid from Airplane? Did they just flat out murder Linda at the end because it was important to someone that the ex-prostitute didn't live? And what the hell did Shelly Winters die of, anyway? A sudden attack of drama?

What kept me most from just accepting this as cheeseball fun, though, were the fat jokes. It's insanely jarring. They're constant. You can't go five minutes without someone talking about how fat Mrs. Rosen is. What the fuck is wrong with you, 1972?
posted by phooky at 6:09 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


• Bummer that every woman in this film is a screeching, fearful liability.

Hey now, Shelley Winters's character dies saving the day.

And what the hell did Shelly Winters die of, anyway? A sudden attack of drama?

She dies of a heart attack, not particularly surprisingly for an older person who has suddenly exerted herself under extreme stress??

I mean, whatever, I don't care if people don't like this movie but there's no cause to slander Shelley Winters about it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:53 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


No slight of Shelly Winters intended; I really didn't understand what happened to her. Initially I thought she'd gored herself on a sharp piece of debris while trying to get out of the water or something. Unless I missed a clue, there's nothing about that sequence that says "heart attack"; no theatrical clutching at the chest or complaining of pain. She just sort of rolls up her eyes and Gene Hackman is implicitly like "oh, you're dying for a very obvious reason now."

This has got to be a 70's thing. I don't think people just implicitly keel over from heart attacks with no foreshadowing or explanation in modern media.
posted by phooky at 3:08 PM on June 21


Saw it when it came out. Of course, my little brother did, too. He was just a kid at the time and he loved all those disaster films. (Years later we would visit the Queen Mary in Long Beach and he pointed out places where various scenes were shot.) Because of him (and his love for this movie) I'm aware of the sequel (which he had to see). What happened, when they went back?

Spoiler Alert!

They find more people in there, still alive. Including Slim Pickens.
posted by Rash at 10:12 AM on June 23


In many ways, this is a deeply corny picture, and easy to see how these disaster movies could be such fodder for parody. Something about the grandiose nature of the disaster, the collection of improbable and flawed personalities played by an array of very well known stars, along with a willingness to portray death without much mercy, creates a very specific feel for a 70s era disaster movie.

As much as there is to goof on, it's crafted well enough to draw the viewer in and hold the attention. The Poseidon Adventure is probably among the best of the genre.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:37 PM on June 24


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