12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An epic, moving story of disaster and the human spirit,
This review is from: The Poseidon Adventure  [DVD] (DVD)
I will resist the urge to compare this 1972 classic disaster movie to James Cameron's Titanic because The Poseidon Adventure tells a very different kind of story. The first thing you notice about this film is its truly remarkable cast; there are no less than 15 Academy Award winners showcased in this epic film. While the special effects are very good for the most part, this film deals much more with the personal stories of the would-be survivors than it does the actual disaster. The Poseidon is carrying hundreds of passengers to Greece on its final voyage; the representative of the owner orders the captain to proceed at full speed, despite the captain's (Leslie Nielsen) concern about insufficient ballast after weathering a fierce storm at sea. As the passengers celebrate the New Year at midnight, the ship is hit with a 90-foot tidal wave caused by an underwater earthquake and turns completely over in the water.
Gene Hackman plays a maverick preacher named Scott who leads a group of survivors in a bid to save themselves, but only a select number of people follow him because the ship's purser insists everyone should stay where they are. Reverend Scott's followers include a man and wife (Jack Albertson and Shelley Winters) who were on their way to see their grandson for the first time, a young lady (the exceedingly cute, pre-Dynasty Pamela Sue Martin) and her annoying but generally helpful little brother (Eric Shea), an incredibly loud and obnoxious former cop (Ernest Borgnine) and his equally annoying former prostitute wife (Stella Stevens), a hardworking and all-around nice fellow (Red Buttons), a singer (Carol Lynley), and a shipmate (Roddy McDowell). Their journey "up" through the bowels of the ship in search of salvation is an arduous one that some individuals will not live to complete. The journey will be one of self-discovery and emotional trauma for all involved, though. Shelley Winters is absolutely wonderful in her role, although I myself found some of the comments by her and others about her weight being a burden to the group quite troubling. Red Buttons is also terrific, outshining all others in his humanity. Naturally, though, Reverend Scott is the most fascinating character of them all, and Hackman gives one of his finest performances ever in this role. His unorthodox religious views and behavior are brought into sharp focus at the end, as his character comes to take on a strange martyrdom both similar and wholly dissimilar to that of Christ himself.
The Poseidon Adventure clearly ranks among the best disaster films ever made. This is a very human drama, with some characters sacrificing their very lives for others, others complaining and rebelling at every turn, and the most vulnerable souls clinging to the hope of survival and placing all of their faith in a man who promises them safety and salvation. Allegorical questions such as why God allows the kind of human disaster that takes place on the Poseidon are fairly obvious, making this a motion picture that will stay with you long after the story is concluded.