A 3.7 rating (out of 10) on the IMDb and a 7% (out of 100%) audience score on Rotten Tomatoes might lead one to believe that a movie may be a turkey. Yet, there’s always that “may” and, besides, I’m a Rock Hudson fan and have a bit of a soft spot for disaster movies. Thus, I spent 91 minutes watching Avalanche so you wouldn’t have to.
Rock stars as David Shelby, a rugged developer who has risked his entire fortune on a newly-opened, sprawling snow resort (you know he’s rugged because he boldly wears a light-green plaid flannel shirt with a white turtleneck underneath). In addition to launching his new business, he’s dealing with a messy situation involving a crooked politician and trying to woo back his ex-wife Caroline (Mia Farrow). She catches the eye of rugged photographer Nick Thorne (you know he’s rugged because he lives in a cabin by himself on a snow-covered mountain).
Nick (Robert Forster) warns David of bad incoming weather and an unstable slope; there’s also mention of a deadly avalanche that occurred in the 1880s. (Such foreshadowing is often a standard element in disaster movies). No one seems concerned about the snowfall, though, including the two figure skaters, Shelby’s secretary, his mother (Jeanette Nolan), and a studly skier (“I ski like I breathe or talk…or make love”).
After an hour or so of tedious plot, the avalanche finally comes when an airplane collides with the top of the mountain. The big event consists of a lot of stock footage interspersed with what appears to be foam blocks rolling into people. When the moving mounds of snow stop, the big rescue begins.
Avalanche was produced by Roger Corman during the period in which his New World Pictures was trying to compete with the bigger studios. Even so, it’s borderline shocking to see the likes of Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow in a Corman picture. Unfortunately, I think most of the film’s budget went to their salaries. The best disaster movies (e.g., The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) benefit from the kind of well-known cast that Roger just couldn’t afford.
It still might have worked in the hands of a better writer and director. Corey Allen had a long successful career as a TV director and an actor before that (he was Buzz in Rebel Without a Cause). So, perhaps, he just had a bad experience making Avalanche–I don’t know how else to explain his shoddy work behind the camera and as co-writer. Robert Forster, who gives perhaps the best performance, inexplicably disappears for most of the film’s second half. In some sequences, Allen cuts back-and-forth between scenes so quickly that it’s dizzying. His characters are poorly-developed and uninteresting and there’s no logical narrative to the film. Heck, a few juicy subplots would have made a world of difference!
Still, I guess Avalanche must have affected me on some innate level for I found myself looking for another New World Pictures disaster film: Tidal Wave (1975). It starred Lorne Greene, though the disaster footage was lifted from a big-budgeted Japanese movie called The Submersion of Japan.
Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!