lördag, november 24, 2007

Let's talk about disaster-movies, baby!


“Let’s talk about disaster-movies baby, let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about the good thing and the bad things…” - Salt-N-Pepa 1990

I think it’s because the miniatures. I just love miniatures. I’m not one of those nerdy creatures sitting and building the shit in my room late at night, but I just love watching them being crushed, stomped, burned and shaked into pieces in monster-movies. Especially Kaiju-movies. So it was natural to go from Godzilla to Earthquake, and that last movie opened a new world for me. I was maybe eight years old, had saved fifty swedish kronor and bought a VHS-tape that a classmate of mine stole from her father. It was a TV-recording of Mark Robsons Earthquake. It blew my mind.

Huge citys crumbling and falling, thousands of extras being killed by falling debris, Charlton Heston looking sweaty and Ava Gardner pretending to take suicide. The first two things attracted my violent, macho side, and the two last things attracted my then slumbering gay-side. There’s nothing more interested than to see soap-storys combined with huge distaster-setpieces. Well, maybe a big monster destroying buildings for hunky japanese actors in sixties-style glasses (the actors had glasses, not the monster). But that’s another story.

I still consider Earthquake a personal favorite. A true classic of maybe not to original scriptwriting, but the perfect entertainment a Sunday afternoon. So what else was there for a boy like me? Soon after this my dear mother rented Towering Inferno and I got my big share of celebrites being trapped in this lovely deathtrap of a skyscraper. People burning, falling from great heights and stubborn people thinking that taking the elevator is a good idea (the same thing in Earthquake to, if you remember, but with very cheesy animated blood splattering the camera). The first scene when someone is on fire is still one scene that I remember so clear that it could have been something from my own life. Or something. Okey, let’s take more celebrities and stick them into a small space. The Poseidon Adventure. Great movie, but the problem with me is that I never find airplanes, submarines and boat really interesting. I want huge distaster. Buildings falling and so on. But TPA was a nice movie with good actors, the sequence when the boat is turned around is lovely.

This reminds me of Grey Lady Down, a submarine-movie with… Charlton Heston. I remember it to be quite boring, but the scene where David Carradine sacrifices himself to save his shipmates was a trauma for me. I still have problem with small spaces and lots of water.

One of the first movies I ever bough on VHS was When Time Ran Out…. I know I lot of people dosen’t like it, but for a kid it was greeeeeat! Except for the insomniac-performance of Paul Newman it’s a fairly spectacular volcano-movie with some earthquakes, tidal waves and other cool stuff. A great cast to: Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, Edward Albert, Red Buttons, Barbara Carrera, Alex Karras, Burgess Meredith, Ernest Borgnine, Pat Morita and the man of my dreams when I was around ten years old, James Franciscus. There’s absolutly nothing original with this movie. The characters has been in all other disaster-movies from the seventies and the storyline is so basic that it could easily be a parody in a Simpsons-episode. But it has some good effects (and some very bad ones to), a high bodycount and people falling into lava. Always good.

High bodycount? This takes us to one of my big guilty pleasures: The Swarm. Probably the most stupid and idiot disaster/killer-animal-movie ever. But it’s so filled with disasters, action and actors sleeping thru their parts that it’s really good entertainment. It seems like Irwin Allen wanted to do the ultimate disaster-movie that would crush all competition. There’s nuclear-disasters, train-accidents, citys on fire, a flower-festival being attacked by millions of bees… you got it all Irwin. And of course a great cast of Michael Caine, Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Richard Chamberlain and the rest of the gang of actors that usually showed up in these kinda movies. I’ve heard it lost an absurd amount of money, but for me, it’s always one of the best.

Wait here… train-accidents and Citys of fire? This takes us to lesser known, but okey movies. First of all we have one of these terrorist-disaster-movies, The Cassandra Crossing directed by the almighty George P. Cosmatos. Sophia Lorén, Richard Harris and a bunch of eurocult-actors on a train on it’s way to disaster. The terrorists are swedish by the way, which makes me proud. It’s a good adventure-thriller, and it ends with a great train-accident, some nice bodycount and overall a greatlooking movie. And then we have City on fire, Ava Gardner – Leslie Nielsen – Barry Newman – Henry Fonda - James Franciscus (yeah!) and of course, the bisarre Shelley Winters. A city on fire. That’s the story and it’s actually quite good. Nice fire-scenes, burning people and lot’s of dangerous situations. A little unknown, but still very good.

But even Sean Connery had it hard once and at that time even he took a role in a disaster-movie, the quite ordinary Meteor. Not bad at all, but a bit slow and some of the effects are really weak. I love the tidal wave flushing Singapore down the toilet and the avalanche-scenes (but those where stockfootage from a superior movie), but it felt very uninspired and just a bit flat. Yeah, those Avalanche-scenes where stockfootage from Avalanche, a very good movie with Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow. Very standard, but nice scenerys, some good lowbudget-effects and the actors are above average. Produced by Roger Corman of course, who else.

Talking about Meteor, another really good movie on that theme was made-for-TV A Fire In The Sky. I don’t remember much, but it was big, long and some great scenes of Phoenix being smashed to pieces by a comet! Richard Crenna is in it, and that’s a good thing!

Yeah by the way, talking about terrorist-disaster-movies. Rollercoaster is a great one. Two Minute Warning is maybe not a disaster-movie, but it has the feeling of one and is quite good (haven’t seen Black Sunday though) and even The Hindenburg falls into that area, but I found it a bit boring. I’ve been staying away from all these airplane-movies because I just find them boring – though The Concorde - Airport '79 is quite fun.

Of course there’s much more. A lot made for television during this area and of course helluva lot of more movies made in other countries than the US. I’m a big fan of Submersion of Japan for example, but the americans has always been good at making these big, shallow, spectacular disaster-movies.

So, any more disasters you want to recommend? Not only from the seventies or from the US of course. Let the good tidal waves roll!