My personal favorite “disaster film” is 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure. This ensemble drama whose cast includes Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall, Shelley Winters, and Stella Stevens (among many others), was adapted from Paul Gallico’s novel of the same name. Irwin Allen — the architect of the 1970s disaster movie revolution — and director Ronald Neame gave audiences a visual and emotional journey unlike anything previously seen in motion pictures with this tale of a luxury liner that capsizes on New Year’s Eve, and how the ship’s diverse (and problem-filled) passengers and crew struggled to survive in the aftermath of the accident.
A blockbuster success, The Poseidon Adventure also won a Special Achievement Academy Award for Special Effects…and set the bar impossibly high for subsequent disaster flicks. Even if you’ve seen the film hundreds of times, you may not realize the following bits of trivia:
1 – To add to the realism of the film, director Ronald Neame required the cast to do their own stunts whenever possible.
2 – Performed in the film by Reneé Armand, “The Morning After” (otherwise known as “The Song from The Poseidon Adventure”) won the Oscar for Best Original Song and later became a huge hit for singer Maureen McGovern. But legend has it that songwriters Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn were asked to write the song in one night…and promptly did so. Who would have guessed that a timeless standard took such a short period to compose?
3 – Paul Gallico’s original novel was much harsher, with extra violence and characters whose flaws would not translate well to the big screen.
4 – The design of the Poseidon was largely inspired by a real-life counterpart, the Queen Mary.
5 – In 1979, the ill-advised sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure hit theaters. The film followed scavengers, including Telly Savalas as their leader, on a mission to loot the ship for its valuables. Despite another all-star ensemble that included Sally Field, Michael Caine, and Peter Boyle, the film couldn’t recapture the magic of the original. Worse still was the 2006 remake, Poseidon, the less said about the better.
Previously on MovieFanFare:
’70s Flashback: “The Poseidon Adventure” Is Anything But a Disaster
This article originally ran last year and is being reprinted as this week’s Throwback Thursday post.