Tonight it was Heston's turn, starring in the 1974 Irwin Allen flick EARTHQUAKE. Other than Heston, this film is really, really bad; at times the sheer awfulness provides amusement, while at other times it's yawn-inducing.
How bad is it? Let me count the ways...
...A haggard Ava Gardner is supposed to be Lorne Greene's daughter. In real life he was just seven years her senior, and at this stage of her film career, Gardner looks older than Greene. A nutty scene where a foreshock interrupts her faking a drug overdose sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
...The editing at times is nothing short of bizarre. One moment Genevieve Bujold is talking to Heston; the next minute, without a fadeout or any other logical transition, we're suddenly watching a completely different scene and the characters have just made love. There is no logic to some of the film's cuts whatsoever, leading to a jumpy, confusing story.
...Victoria Principal, a few years before DALLAS, inexplicably sports a huge Afro-style hairdo; it's so big several birds could build a nest in it.
...Walter Matthau has a strange multi-scene cameo as a drunk. Apparently he didn't want much credit, as his billing is under the name Walter Matuschanskayasky.
...Even in 1974, surely Southern Californians knew not to crowd into an elevator after a massive earthquake which is in the process of destroying buildings? The in-your-face gore which accompanies this scene clearly served no purpose other than shock value.
...Marjoe Gortner plays a National Guardsman who's a psycho who thinks nothing of machine-gunning three people to death. In fact, not many of the police or military are admirable in this film. Curiously, the most heroic policeman is a rebel who's been suspended from the force! He's played by George Kennedy, who, like Heston, was imported from the AIRPORT movies.
...After all the stress, the film has a pretty crummy ending with the pointless death of a principal actor.
On the plus side, there's Heston, Kennedy, the always-dependable Lloyd Nolan, and a cute little dog.
The cast also includes Barry Sullivan, Richard Roundtree, Monica Lewis, Kip Niven, John Randolph, and Pedro Armendariz Jr., who recently passed away.
EARTHQUAKE may be worth sitting through once if one enjoys cheesy disaster films, but all in all this was a low point in the careers of all involved. It's not really even successful as a "good bad movie"!
EARTHQUAKE was directed by Mark Robson. Robson's earlier credits included directing Dana Andrews in MY FOOLISH HEART (1949) and I WANT YOU (1951).
John Williams composed the score, but it's unmemorable. The next year he would hit it big with JAWS (1975).
The running time was 123 minutes.
EARTHQUAKE has had multiple DVD releases as well as a VHS edition. A DVD can be rented from Netflix. It's also available for streaming from Amazon Instant Video.
Previous New Year's Eve films: CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965) with Dana Andrews, THE CROWDED SKY (1960) with Dana Andrews, ZERO HOUR! (1957) with Dana Andrews, SKYJACKED (1972) with Charlton Heston, and TWISTER (1996).