Saturday, July 18, 2009

Earthquake (1974)

My friend Pernilla (no, she wasn't really a friend. She was a bitch, already when she was nine years old), correction: classmate, stole her fathers tape of Earthquake that he recorded of the swedish public service television in the eighties. I payed fifty kronor for it. As a kid I was (and still is) a fan of disaster movies and I've heard of the spectacular Earthquake. So I just payed whatever she asked for and is happy that I did that.

Earthquake is camp of course. Mega-super-deluxe-fantastic-camp. But I've heard that gay men like camp so I just had to live up to that stereotype at least. There's few movies I've seen so many times over the years and still watching at least once a year just to be entertained to one hundred percent. The tape that I bought from Pernilla was missing the first couple of minutes, so it wasn't until the swedish DVD many, many years later that I actually could see how the movie started.

Even as a child I reacted to the characters played by Ava Gardner and Charlton Heston. There's nothing said about it, but I still get the impression that Remy (Avas depressed wife) is supposed to be a younger wife. I know that Stewart (aka Charlton) has the hots for an even younger chick, Denise (Geneviève Bujold), but there's something about how Remy is written that just can't keep me away from these thoughts. Ava was older than Charlton here, but gives a great performace and somehow makes her credible as the young daughter to the (in real life) five years older Lorne Greene! Charlton himself is not doing his best here, but it's still one of his more interesting performances.

Talking about acting. Sure, George Kennedy is almost TO good and honest for being a cop, but injects some humanity into the movie... but the star of them all is Marjoe Gortner as the raving mad Jody, bodybuilder (which is very hard to notice) and military freak. The scene where he gets even against his bullying neighbours is still one of the most creepy scenes I've seen in a seventies disaster movie. There's a lot of other characters running around getting killed. Richard Roundtree, the great Victoria Principal, Walter Matthau (as Walter Matuschanskayasky) and Pedro Armendáriz Jr.

But the magic comes with the first major Earthquake. This was the moment I always was waiting for as a kid, sitting in the sofa hiding behind a pillow and enjoying life. First you hear the birds, the barking dogs, church bells ringing and the car alarm goes of. The guy waving to Denise (I always wondered who that character was... something deleted from the much longer version?)... and then it hits! The disaster scenes is so great. I have no word for how much I like these scenes of destruction and mayhem. Some excellent miniature works (the road collapsing) and some bad ones (the church collapsing), but it's so violent! Houses ripped apart, people falling to their death, glass in the faces, people getting crushed under debris... and it's BIG and expensive! You can see every frigging penny on the screen! I just love that Rosa (Victoria Principal) is so bored watching High Plains Drifter, which is even better because it's one of the greatest western masterpieces out there. But not for Rosa of course.

A lot of people just say this is a bad movie. This isn't any bad movie. The Day after Tomorrow is a bad movie because it has the disaster first and then two hours of boring melodrama. Earthquake has not only one big earthquake-scene, but two... and in the final the Hollywood reservoir bursts and flushed most of the cast away in a scene that still looks amazing. And inbetween there's one intrigue to much, motocycle daredevils, a high speed car chase that ends in Zsa Zsa Gabors bush (you know what I mean!), the worlds silliest blood-splatter effect, Lorne Greene having a heartattach and a lot of bitching between Ava and Heston. It just can't any better.

At least for me.

For Earthquake has a lot of faults. But that's one of the reasons I love these movies. European exploitation has a lot of faults. They're are often not perfect, and I like those beauty spots. No, I don't like them. I love them. Earthquake is just like a big juicy exploitation movie with a cast of thousands and a million
dollar budget.

The dialogue is "colorful", the acting is hammy and the overall impression is a movie made just for the sake of it. People needs an Earthquake-movie after all these towering infernos, rollover boats and airplanes in need of landing. And maybe I'm wrong, but there's passion in Earthquake. There's some love. There's some sense of "Lets give the audience one hell of a ride that they can forget when they walk out of the cinema, let's give'em some blood, violence and shallow social commentary. Let's give'em hell. Entertainment-hell!"

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