Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Favorite Disaster Films ""

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Favorite Disaster Films

If you're like me you're an Irwin Allen apologist and completist. You'll watch anything he had his hand in. Even dull fare like HANGING BY A THREAD, CAVE-IN and THE NIGHT THE BRIDGE FELL DOWN have allure for you. You would really prefer to watch FIRE! and FLOOD! back to back if possible. You really just can't get enough. Something about disaster films just pulls you in. You are very familiar with the mugs of guys like Chuck Heston and George Kennedy, who pop up in so many disaster films. The inspiration to do this list came to me last night whilst rewatching 2012 with my wife and son. Yes, I watched it twice. I am a sucker for disaster movies! I appreciate a guy like Roland Emmerich if only for the fact that he continues to carry on the tradition of making them. Are they any good? Not really, but I'll still watch them. I get caught up in them. I think it's kind of like slasher films for me. Disaster films in general have a pretty repetitive structure and I like that. It makes even the lamest ones interesting to me for some reason. I remember seeing THE CORE in the theater with some friends when it came out and we had such a good time. THE CORE is a terribly silly film, but I find that a film like that can be even funnier than many comedies that come out these days.

Most of my favorite disaster films come from that golden era in the 1970s. This 3-D revival we're seeing now is great, but I would love to see a return to gimmicks like Sensurround. Two of my favorite disaster films were theatrically released in Sensurround and I know it would have been a hoot to see them in that format. I was lucky enough to catch a screening of EARTHQUAKE at UCLA some years back wherein they had a Sensurround decoder and ran the film that way. It was so much fun. I mean EARTHQUAKE(which was co-written by Mario Puzo by the way) is already such a nutty film that it was just this raucous comic experience to see it with a crowd. Add to that the bass vibration from the Sensurround and it was one of the best times I've had at the movies in the past 20 years. There's something so nostalgic for me about films like EARTHQUAKE and especially ROLLERCOASTER. I didn't see them at the time of their release, but they are of a time I remember. A time when there was no internet, cell phones and other modern conveniences. It was a time when people used to go amusement parks in droves. There really was less to do so amusement parks were a much bigger deal. Not that people don't still enjoy them today, but they have obviously died away considerably as compared to the 1970s. I love ROLLERCOASTER and have always meant to see THE DEATH OF OCEAN VIEW PARK because I hoped it would convey a similar feeling. Anyway, that sense of another period whether it be conveyed through clothing, set design or what have you, is really wonderful in the disaster films. Even something like MIRACLE MILE(my favorite) has a similar feeling of the 1980s. Sadly, you can't just drive over to Johnnies and grab a cup of coffee anymore. If that were the case I'd be in there all the time. I'd love to write an entry sometime about all the great films that featured Johnnies as a location, but I feel like someone has covered that somewhere. Anyway, enough of my yacking. The list:

1. Miracle Mile(1988; Steve De Jarnatt)
The Towering Inferno(1974; John Guillermin/Irwin Allen)
Rollercoaster(1977; James Goldstone)
Earthquake(1974; Mark Robson)
The Last Voyage(1960; Andrew L. Stone)
The Poseidon Adventure(1972; Ronald Neame)
Night of the Comet(1984; Thom Eberhardt)
The Swarm(1978; Irwin Allen)
Twister(1996; Jan de Bont)
Airport '77(1977; Jerry Jameson)
Airport 1975(1974; Jack Smight)
When Time Ran Out...(1980; James Goldstone)
Where Have All the People Gone(1974; John Llewellyn Moxey)
The Cassandra Crossing(1976; George P. Cosmatos)
Meteor(1979; Ronald Neame)
The Satan Bug(1965; John Sturges)
17. The Hindenburg(1975; Robert Wise)
Airport(1970; George Seaton)
The Concorde ... Aiport '79(1979; David Lowell Rich)
Avalanche(1978; Corey Allen)

(Next week: my favorite ANIMALS ATTACK films!)


btsjunkie said...

You are a list making machine!!! This is a great list. My heart soared at the sight of NIGHT OF THE COMET!!! Very interesting how the AIRPORT movies ranked here, too. Couple of these I need to see. You're an inspiration!

Rupert Pupkin said...

Gracias amigo, glad you liked it! I just can't stop making lists! Yeah NIGHT OF THE COMET is near and dear to me for sure. I am very excited to dvr it off MGMHD at near the end of this month. Great fun! The AIRPORT films are tough to rank and they shuffle a bit for me from time to time. Depends on which actors I feel like seeing on a particular day. AIRPORT '77 is my current favorite in part because of Jack Lemmon being in it. I don't think he did too many other disaster flicks. There's a great AIRPORT Terminal pack that you can buy for about $10 on amazon and it's well worth picking up if you're at all a fan. Nice post on BIRDEMIC! I'm jealous you got to see it!

HalfManHalfMovie said...

The Core was hilarious. Worth renting just to see the Shuttle crash land in an L.A. storm drain. The matte shots of the miniature are priceless.
The idea alone is so monumentally stupid it should have garnered some kind of Oscar.
Even better viewed if you've taken some kind of mind altering substance before hand.

I agree that this is where all the best comedy is being done these days :)
Flash Gordon being the pinnacle of craptop mountain.
In 1980, my parents came home to find me stoned, deliriously happy and cheering on the birdmen. They just thought I loved movies.

The interview on the special edition disc with the screenwriter is hoot. His memories of working with Dino are so fucking funny. Worth a Netflix rental for this alone.

The Earthquake Sensurround UCLA screening was great. My favorite moment was the audience laughter when Chuck Heston yawns after a workout and gratuitously pulls off his shirt to revealing his right wing, rifle-toting, manly chest. Quite a bit ape like, I thought.

Huge fan of Miracle Mile.

I ran into the actor who's eyes melt on the roof of the heliport (can't remember his name), in Starbucks and he was shocked that I recognized him.

"No-one has seen that movie," was his response. He was decent enough to chat for a few minutes and also felt it was a pity that Steve DeJarnatt hadn't gotten to direct any more features, though he's done a good bit of TV stuff.

When I first came out here, Johnnies was still open. I had a great afternoon visiting the George C Paige Museum (The Tar Pits) and stopping by the diner for a Gyro. No big clock outside.
I had the Tangerine Dream soundtrack on me. A total geekfest.

Speaking of soundtrack experiences - I also recommend riding the New York Subway with Barry DeVorzon's soundtrack to 'The Warriors" blasting from an iPod. The railway sleepers add an awesome backbeat to the music.

Lastly, I'm glad I live in a world where a film called "The Night The Bridge Fell Down" got financing.
How the hell did they pitch that and grab anybody? Maybe the highpoint of the pitch was naming the unstable bridge.

Rupe, we've gotta throw "Rollercoater" up on the big screen. Also wondering if we can get our hands on "The Park Is Mine"... not a disaster movie per se, but it does have a Tangerine Dream Score and the word "Park" in the title.

Good job man, a whole bunch more I'll have to see before I approach your greatness.

JC (The Irish Guy-Sings Chumbawumba:)

PS: Anyone I know here and is interested... I have a huge collection of Tangerine Dream scores including a pretty decent cut of "The Keep" that includes only music from the movie.

Rupert Pupkin said...

thanks bud! You know I love FLASH GORDON. I remember watching it on a top-loading vhs vcr back when it had first come out. Our friends had a nice top loader and we were jealous. We still had beta. I forgot you were there for the EARTHQUAKE screening. God bless Mick for inviting us to that one. We had so much fun!
Wish I could have done that MIRACLE MILE tour with you when Johnnies was still open. So cool!
We do indeed need to watch ROLLERCOASTER on the projector. Hopefully you'll dig it. And thanks for the rec on THE PARK IS MINE! I had only vaguely heard of this, but now must track it down. Also had heard of SKI LIFT TO DEATH, but that came up as a result of this list so I must find that as well. I love discovering new films through people's suggestions like this!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

RP, is Cave-In for real?! If not, that's a brilliant mock-up. If so, then I must see it!

Rupert Pupkin said...

Dennis, CAVE-IN is the real deal. It's not real good. The poster is a mockup a fan did. Found it online. Would have been great if that poster was plastered all over L.A. back in 1983 when CAVE-IN finally aired...

怎麼辦好累 said...


HalfManHalfMovie said...

Some days, I wish I spoke Korean...

HalfManHalfMovie said...

Seriously though... I gotta see "The Park Is Mine." and "Rollercoaster."We have to figure something out. And invite Mick over.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Would be great to involve Mick in a screening. I owe my love of disaster films partially to him and his love of them!

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Wow! I was poking around the Internet when I found my Cave In! pseudoposter here; now my head's so swollen I can't hold it upright.

However, I much prefer my pseudoposter for The Night the Bridge Fell Down. I wanted to do a John Berkey-style spectacular a la The Towering Inferno, with wild perspectives and explosions and whatnot. But lacking anything approaching the artistic talent required, I had to research the actual bridge used for the film, find a suitable photo, "nighttime" it as best I could, and try to make the colors and text--and the inevitable line of headshots that every disaster movie poster must have--compensate. (The headshots for this and Cave In! are from TV-broadcast-on-VHS rips before the DVDs were released. I really should redo 'em now.)

The basic poster layout and plot-descriptive taglines are swiped from Towering Inferno and the big tag at the top is of course a callback to The Poseidon Adventure.

Also, since Rupert's an Irwin Allen fan, here's a scan from the cover of the Japanese Laserdisc for Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, using MAD Magazine-style caricatures (another concept I was considering for my Bridge work).

Ed South said...

Rollercoaster is such a great film! The climax takes place/and was filmed at Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA. That was my "local" hometown park growing up and I've been there at least 20 times in my youth. It's so wonderful to have that late 70's portrait of the park captured on film. The park looks so great. A few of the things you see in the movie are still there including the Rebel Yell rollercoaster!

The Death of Ocean View Park is on YouTube in several parts.