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The Poseidon Adventure

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Poseidon Adventure

Starring: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine
Director: Ronald Neame
Rated: PG
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: December 1972
Genres: Action, Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Carol Lynley, Jack Albertson, Leslie Nielsen, Pamela Sue Martin

Review by Andrew Hicks
1½ stars out of 4

The crown jewel of 1970's Irwin Allen disaster movies, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE features an all-star cast including Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine spouting some of the most laughable dramatic dialogue in movie history while trapped on a cruise ship. The story begins on the U.S.S. Poseidon's big New Year's cruise, where we are introduced to the ensemble of people who will soon be the only passengers left alive.

Let's see, there's the New Age preacher (Hackman) who advises people to "pray to that part of God within yourself." There's the ex-cop (Borgnine) who busted a hooker (Stella Stevens) six times -- then married her. There's the hippie singer ("There's got to be a morning after...") who turns to the company of a lonely man (Red Buttons) once her brother is killed. And to round out the group: the elderly couple (Jack Albertson and Shelley Winters) who live aboard the ship, the beautiful teenage girl and her brother who are sailing alone and adventurous Scotsman Roddy McDowall.

We get to know these people a little too well in the first thirty minutes of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, before straight- faced ship captain Leslie Nielson looks in horror at the giant tidal wave headed right for the ship. Everyone's in the giant ballroom at the time, shortly past midnight of the new year, when the ship turns first on its side, then completely upside down. The second- in-command wants everyone to wait in the ballroom until help arrives, but rebel Hackman leads his small band of followers on a quest to the top of the ship.

In this case, because the ship is overturned, the top is the bottom. Or is the bottom the top? Either way, we get to see a lot of bottoms because the two beautiful women in the crew are both conveniently wearing hot pants during the scenes where the camera shoots upwards while they climb up ladders and -- in the ballroom scene -- Christmas trees. Thus begins an hour or more of hushed trips down long corridors, through burning rooms, etc. while the ship slowly fills with water behind them.

It's a race against the clock which is only mildly interesting. THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE works more as a Bad Movie To Laugh At, with all the melodrama that comes in-between the non-thrilling action scenes. The one note in Borgnine's one-note performance is to be a cranky old man that argues with Hackman every step of the way while Buttons and the hippie fall in love (although since there isn't a sex scene, we never find out if his buttons really are Red) and Albertson and Winters wonder if they'll live to see their grandson's birth.

Shelley Winters provides the most hilarious scene in the movie in a scene toward the end, where water has flooded the next two rooms of the ship and Hackman is preparing to dive under with a rope for the rest of them to pull along. Winters, who has been the whiny fat woman throughout the movie (Stevens even not-so- affectionately calls her "fatass" in one scene), finally finds her purpose. "I was the underwater swimming champ of New York three years running when I was seventeen," she brags, and before Hackman can even ask her how she could be seventeen for three years, she's swimming through the water, her skirt billowing up around her hips, showing off her cellulite (or do you call it Shellulite?) ridden thighs. It's not so much funny as innately disgusting, which pretty much sums up THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE as a whole.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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