I'm flirting with disaster. And so are you.
I know that sounds fatalistic. But it's the Irwin Allen truth. All you Pollyannas out there, wipe off those stupid June Cleaver smiles. Everything's not hunky-dory with the world. Doubt it? Then I suggest you do what I did watch a megamarathon of disaster movies.No, I'm not talking about those human-induced disasters like "Ishtar" or "Who's That Girl?" - those freaks of film nature could have easily been avoided. I'm talking about those wind-in-your-face, muck-up-to-your-nostrils, Shelley Winters doing an 8.9 swan dive to save a drowning Gene Hackman type of disaster flicks. The ones with the star-studded casts, the feeble soap-opera-ish scripts and George Kennedy. You know, like "Twister," which opened Friday. (Unfortunately, George doesn't appear.)
During my disaster weekend, I discovered something about my inner child - it's a squalling brat who's afraid of everything. High on my list of unreasonable fears is flying, because I could: a) wind up on a flight with Dean (hiccup) Martin as my pilot ("Airport"); b) have the queen of weird Karen Black using her cross-eyed powers to successfully land a jumbo jet ("Airport '75") or, c) sink to the bottom of the sea like one of Eddie Murphy's movies when my plane plunks into the ocean ("Airport '77").
Perhaps a vacation is really what I need. Wrong! If I went on a cruise, the liner would roll over and play dead, not to mention that I'd end up being stuck at a table - on New Year's Eve no less - with a sweaty and loud Ernest Borgnine ("The Poseidon Adventure"). Maybe a trip to a luxury resort on a tropical island would ease my frayed nerves. Then again, what about that inactive volcano that's starting to grumble ("When Time Ran Out") or that high-powered wind-blower heading to shore ("Hurricane")?
OK. I'm getting a little tense here. To avoid all this self-induced turmoil, I think I'll spend a nice quiet day with my wife at the park. Nothing could happen there. We could have a picnic. Unwind. Look at the clouds. What in the heck is that buzzing noise? I knew it. It's those scurrilous African bees just waiting to sink their lethal stingers into my arm.
Oh well, I guess the safest bet is for me to return home and work out all of my disaster angst. Wait a minute. Did I leave the iron on? ("The Towering Inferno.")
"AIRPORT" 3 stars: This grandiose version of Arthur Hailey's best seller is nothing more than a high-gloss soap opera at 8,000 feet. The impressive cast includes Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bisset and Helen Hayes, in her Oscar-winning role as a charming and scrappy stowaway. This jumbo-sized disaster flick is fun, even if it was hardly deserving of its best picture nomination in 1970. Spawned three sequels, none of which is worth renting. George Kennedy alert! (G: Tense situations.)
"AVALANCHE" No stars: Here's the first commandment of disaster moviemaking - don't put Mia Farrow in your movie. It'll tank. Here, she and an uncomfortable Rock Hudson weather an avalanche at a resort that Hudson built. It's difficult to say which is worse: the horrendous acting, the lousy special effects or the dialogue - "David, you're like the weather, you just happen." (Deep, eh?) A travesty all around. Best scene has a skier trying to outrace an avalanche. This is a "Mystery Science Theater" movie waiting to happen. Could have really benefited from a George Kennedy cameo. (PG: Brief nudity, violence.)
"EARTHQUAKE" 2 1/2 stars: The daddy of "The Godfather," Mario Puzo, co-wrote this jaw-dropping special effects-a-rama that was a huge success with audiences, but not with critics. Campy and cheesy particularly with a "Sunset Boulevard"-esque performance by Ava Gardner "Earthquake" is a disaster movie lover's delight. Some of the appealing ingredients include: L.A. being leveled (wishful thinking, huh?), a slew of unhappy marriages, and Victoria Principal sporting the most outrageous Afro you'll ever see. This movie's a howl. George Kennedy alert! (PG: Violence, Marjoe Gortner appearance.)
"HURRICANE" No stars: Mia's back to her old tricks. This time producer Dino de Laurentiis unloads her on Pago Pago with her racist dad (Jason Robards). After seeing a shirtless native boy (one-hit blunder Dayton Ka'ne), our virginal heroine kisses off her prim behavior and white clothes. Numerous shots of sandy beaches, sunsets and semi-clad natives can't take the place of a story. The hurricane doesn't even blow into town until the movie's nearly over. A little too late, folks. (PG: Brief nudity, extras being pitched into the ocean.)
"METEOR" No stars: A pet rock the size of Cuba hurls its way toward Earth. Rock expert Sean Connery joins forces with a Russian scientist (Brian Keith - what were they thinking?) to stop the stupid thing. Mind-numbingly dull flick rips off footage from "Avalanche" for one of its ho-hum disaster scenes. Natalie Wood spends the majority of her and our time translating into English everything Keith says in Russian. Henry Fonda has an uncredited cameo as - you guessed it - the president. (PG: Violence.)
"THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE" 3 stars: You want disaster? Then rent this classic of the genre. Shelley Winters was nominated for an Oscar for her campy performance as the kindly, motherly survivor with a heart of gold. Irwin Allen hit the bull's-eye with this one. Watch for Leslie Nielsen as the captain of the ill-fated Poseidon, the upside-down cruiser. Stella Stevens and that stud Ernie Borgnine co-star as the most obnoxious couple you hope you never meet on a cruise. All this and a hippie singer grinding out "The Morning After." (PG: Violence, language.)
"THE TOWERING INFERNO" 3 1/2 stars: Even though this Irwin Allen epic is bulky, it's the hallmark of the genre. A first-rate cast - Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain - have a lot of fires to put out when the sparks fly in a storage room of the world's tallest skyscraper. A little too preachy at times, "Inferno's" raging action sequences, which were directed by Allen himself, more than make up for the Smokey the Bear sermon. A long sequence involving an outdoor elevator that's dangling by a thread will have you biting your nails to the nubbies. Instead of George Kennedy, we get a weak O.J. Simpson as a security guard. A poor substitute. I want my George! (PG: Violence, language.)