July 27th 1975

“Went to see Earthquake with Lorna. Crap Film!”

My later side career as a movie reviewer obviously took root this day in 1975 with my succinct opinion of this 1974 box-office smash?!

Movie goers worldwide can blame the release of “Earthquake” on the previous huge successes of the movies “Airport” and  “The Poseidon Adventure” the first pair of big-budget disaster movies to gain massive popularity and box-office receipts.

Studios started tripping over themselves – and their expanding wallets – to release the “next big disaster movie”. Universal Studios found themselves in a race to the cinemas, rush-producing “Earthquake” so it could vie for those all-important eyeballs against 20th Century Fox/Warners’ “The Towering Inferno”.

The rush production certainly shows. Despite a strong script by (amongst others) Mario Puzo (of “Godfather” fame), and a cast including Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy and the beautiful Genevieve Bujold, the studio chopped the film to bits, saying that audiences would not want to sit through such a long story. In doing so they removed many plot lines that – when only loose ends were left behind – made no sense whatsoever.

Instead of opting for a strong plotline and decent characterisation – which highlighted their (much better) competition in “Towering Inferno” – the studio went for ‘hype’, quickly inventing and introducing a ‘cinema experience’ called “Sensurround” which required all theatres showing the film to have a massive amplifier and bass speakers capable of throwing low-frequency ‘sound waves’ at the audience when the film’s action demanded it.

I think it’s fair to say that cinema goers didn’t really want their seats rumbling whilst watching a movie and – unlike the current day fad for 3D – the “Sensurround” system survived for just 3 more films: 1976’s “Midway”, 1977’s “Rollercoaster” and 1978’s “Battlestar Gallactica”. (“Battlestar Gallactica”? Really??)

Despite all the negatives, “Earthquake” went on to gross over $80 million – not too a shabby an amount for the seventies, especially if we adjust that for the interim inflation and find ourselves with a take in excess of $350 million!

If the movie was indeed “crap” as I stated, I wonder if the “special effects” at least gave me the opportunity to ask Lorna, my date, if she felt the earth moved for her in any way?


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