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November 19, 2005

Disaster! The Genre Returns

By Pepper of the Daily Pepper

In the 1970s, disaster movies were all the rage: Earthquake, Flood!, Airport, Airport 1975, Airport '77, The Concorde: Airport 1979, The Poseidon Adventure, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, and even Rollercoaster. That last one featured George Segal battling a terrorist who was targeting amusement parks. When the genre got too darn weird, Hollywood retired it for a little while. Disaster movies are great pop-culture entertainment in which audiences can enjoy overripe actors like Karen Black and George Kennedy rescuing the world. "If Karen Black can get that plane down on the ground," the ordinary viewer thinks, "by golly so can I!"

Disaster movies haven't exactly gone away, but the causes of the disasters were less likely (Armageddon, Deep Impact, Independence Day). Now they are back in full force with NBC's miniseries remake of The Poseidon Adventure, starring Steve Guttenberg, Rutger Hauer, and Adam Baldwin - who is apparently not one of the Baldwin brothers, but he'll have to do.

The new Poseidon script has a pertinent twist. This time, a terrorist blows up the luxury liner, as opposed to a tidal wave overtaking the original ship. This remake follows on the heels of another television disaster flick, Category 7: The End of the World with Randy Quaid and Shannen Doherty, and the sequel to 10.5, called 10.5: Apocalypse is in the works.

Movies based on 9/11 don't quite count as "disaster movies" for me because they are based on fact, whereas these movies take an incident that has happened and magnify that incident to a genuinely ludicrous level. Take "Category 7" - Gina Gershon as the head of FEMA? Ridiculous, but definitely awesome.

Why is it that the disastersploitation (one IMDB member called it "disaster porn") genre is making a comeback? We're at yet another bleak time in history, an era similar to the 1970s, in which disaster movies run amok, and it's somehow comforting to see bad situations that could happen, but somehow people manage to overcome them. After Hurricane Katrina, we all could have used a little George Kennedy. Heck, Gina Gershon probably could have done a better job with Katrina than Michael Brown did! But why do you think the B-level disaster flick is making a comeback?

As for me, I am all over that Poseidon remake tomorrow night - because, as I wrote about in the Pepper, the return of Steve Guttenberg is a welcome sight!

November 19, 2005 | Permalink


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Gina Gershon as the head of FEMA? Ridiculous, but definitely awesome.

No more ridiculous than reality, it seems.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 19, 2005 11:43:57 PM

What creeps me out is the plethora of mysterious, paranoid, alien invasion series of TV -- Surface, Invasion, Supernatural, Lost -- they are all swirling together in my subconscious

Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Nov 20, 2005 3:31:10 AM

Adam Baldwin - who is apparently not one of the Baldwin brothers
No, he's not. He's probably best known now as Jayne from Joss Whedon's Firefly & Serenity and was also the title character in My Bodyguard

Posted by: Lis Riba | Nov 20, 2005 1:30:35 PM

It's worth mentioning here, as in the comments thread back at your own home page, that Steve Guttenberg (a metaphor for disaster if I ever met one) appeared in Season 2 Episode 1 of Veronica Mars, and in the next scene a bus filled with high school kids rolled off the side of a cliff. He's running for mayor and he convinced vindicated former sheriff Keith Mars to run for sheriff again.

Posted by: diddy | Nov 20, 2005 3:37:33 PM

I think the difference is that the disaster films in the 70s were local, while we are starting to see 'global disaster' films, where whole cities are destroyed, and all of civilization is under threat.

I think there is some wish fulfillment implicit in these films, not for the destruction of civilization, but for a chance to start over, begin anew. Clean the slate.

Posted by: Misplaced Patriot | Nov 20, 2005 3:43:23 PM

For what it's worth, the only possible reason to watch this remake is to see them knock over the ship. For those of you on the west coast, that starts at 57 minutes in, or 1 hour in if all you want to see is the boat turn over.

Skip all the painful character development, and watch them spin the boat.

Posted by: Misplaced Patriot | Nov 20, 2005 9:01:00 PM

All these disaster porn movies are made for TV b.s. Whereas in the 70s it was all movies. Thats got to tell you something. I mean, do you guys really watch made for TV movies? I can't stand them.

Posted by: Adrock | Nov 21, 2005 12:37:00 PM

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