» » Earthquake (1974)

Short summary

Construction Engineer Stuart Graff is estranged from his jealously possessive wife, Remy, and has an affair with Denise Marshall, the widow of a co-worker. Meanwhile, Remy tries to persuade her father, Sam Royce, who is Stuart's employer, to use his influence to stop Stuart from seeing Denise. Rogue policeman Lew Slade is suspended from the L.A.P.D. for having punched an obtuse officer from another jurisdiction. Embittered, Slade contemplates quitting the police force. Jody, a perverted grocery store manager, lusts after Rosa Amici, sister of Sal, the assistant to Miles Quade, an aspiring daredevil motor cyclist. The lives of all these people are devastated when a major earthquake rips through Los Angeles and reduces the city to ruins.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Samardenob
    Earthquake is directed by Mark Robson and written by Mario Puzo and George Fox. It stars Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Ava Gardner, Geneviève Bujold, Lorne Greene, Richard Roundtree & Marjoe Gortner.

    A catastrophic earthquake hits Southern California and begins to level Los Angeles...

    "It's not a negative to have heart in the disaster genre of film"

    Take yourself to 1974, are you there? Good, now maybe you can appreciate this film a little more? Maybe? Earthquake does suffer from old age, it's a statement we see and hear a lot, but it's a fact that some film's stand the test of time whilst others do not. In this desensitised computer age, it is easy to forget that not all the tools available in film making today were available back when film's like this were being made. So as is my want, I firmly judge this as a 1974 offering, to which it delivers enough entertainment to fully satisfy my genre leanings and entertainment persuasions.

    The main complaint of many is the long build up of the characters, cries of boring can be read across internet forums and critics blogs. I just don't see it that way, yes we want the quake and the mayhem destruction that will follow it; because really this is a disaster film after all, but is it so bad that the film has heart to go with the crash bang wallop? After the build up of characters, where relationships and character traits are formed, the disaster strikes; and it doesn't disappoint, utter destruction as effects and noise fill the eyes and ears, those with a good home cinema system finding it literally does rock the house. We are then treated to a series of sequences that hold and engage our attention, upsetting passages of human sadness, punctured by heroic surges as Heston and the fabulous Kennedy set about saving life, hell! saving the town even. Then it's the film's fitting finale, where there are no cop outs, the makers choosing to go out with a darker edge than its detractors give credit for.

    Some can scoff at a blood splat effect, or rant about some of the acting on show, but Earthquake achieves two important things. One is that it entertains as a visual experience, the other is that it doesn't soft soap the devastating effects of an earthquake. As the camera pulls away from a ravaged L.A. the impact is sombre, reflection is needed and surely gotten. 7/10
  • comment
    • Author: Whitestone
    I saw this movie on the big-screen when it was released and I actually found the Sensurround (R) to be annoying, but the film isn't as bad as critics made it out to be. I agree, the casting could have been better (the Ava Gardner/Loorne Green argument is a good one), but this is a special effects movie, and the special effects were pretty good by 1974 standards. Besides, how can a movie about the destruction of LA be so bad?
  • comment
    • Author: Ubranzac
    "Sometimes, earthquakes bring out the worst in people."

    Thus is a line spoken by Sgt. Lew Slade in the last reel of the film "Earthquake." The earthquake(s) in this film are not so much metaphysical, as they might appear to be, but rather in the mind of the average human being in society as we know it today. The human mind is a fragile, and intricate creation, and we as a society must do our best to bring the human living standards to punctilious means.

    L.A.: A high place for society and people of all types, and a place for the danger! The story begins with a high profile roster, starting with Stuart Graff(Charlton Heston) who is a top-of-the-food-chain executive in engineering and constructing "monstrosities" in Los Angeles. He is in a desolate marriage to Remy Royce- Graff(Ava Gardner.) He is carrying a friendship-and nothing more-with beautiful actress Denise Marshall(Genevieve Bujold), who lives near Sgt. Lew Slade(George Kennedy) who is being hassled by work and former charges Miles Quade(Richard Roundtree) and Sal Amici(Gabriel Dell) and his sister, Rosa(Victoria Principal.) All people are living frivolous, and in some ways, inspiring lives, of daredevil antics and blithe lifestyles. Then, as the title so perceptively puts it, an earthquake hits L.A. causing reckless mayhem to the buildings and petrifying danger to city inhabitants. But the story doesn't stop there. There are many quakes, and plenty of danger to go around, and that is where the story takes flight. The focus of this film is not the quake itself, but how it affects the people of L.A.

    The film, being extremely Hollywood driven(note: the all-star cast; menacing "sensurround" effect) might appear to be presented as a top of the league disaster film of the trend which was popular at the time, and special effects driven, and it might have been, but there are also many artistic qualities to be found here. One has to examine it first. The scariest thing about this film is that it is plausible, though not probable. The other disaster films at the time were all man made disasters(boats upside-downing; Fire spreading through out a sky- scraper) but "Earthquake" was the first disaster film to show a disaster that might actually happen, and present characters that people can relate to, in such a treacherous situation. These are real people, and most of them are affected in ways beyond psychological apprehension. But director Robson still manages to make it a fun and enjoyable film without making the situations seem too grim.

    The characters could all be discussed in a psychology class, to be analyzed even, as each one has his/her own story to tell. However, one of the main characters, the "quake" itself gets credit too. As there are two jolts, the big quake, and then an unexpected aftershock to boot, there is more than enough rumble to go around. The "rumble" though, is lasting through out the characters minds, as each one goes a little crazy after the shake, be it irrational, or rational, as there are many different types of people in society. There is parallel destruction going on as well. As the city is torn apart, so are these people and the way they view life, as one character loses it and blows away some fellow roommates who have mistreated him, while others are healed, as a Sgt. who is a drunk and louse, who shapes up and becomes really responsible after the quake. These specifications may or may not be apprehensive to the average audience, and true, opinion is opinion, but "Earthquake" is a good film that demonstrates how we as a society have allowed for far too long the deterioration of our world and all that affects it. This world is not a toy, it needs to be taken care of, and when we as a society are mean to it(and each other for that matter) mother nature strikes back at us.

    Be it a big Hollywood Blockbuster, or social commentary, which ever you choose, this film is a great, and overlooked gem in Hollywood history, and an interesting one to read up on(the special effects were outstanding and won a well deserved Oscar) and study in film classes. Great performances by all as well. Mario Puzo wrote the precursor to the "Superman" earthquake with this one, and Mark Robson has a guilty pleasure tone to his directing.

    Great fun.
  • comment
    • Author: Hugighma
    Earthquake almost realistically shows us the devastating effects of such "an event" on a large modern day city. Since movie studios didn't have the resources in 1974 to add expensive computerized effects, miniatures, camera trickery and a few large-scale destructions were used to simulate the quake. However even by today's standards, most (but not all) effects work pretty well. Many of the buildings we see crumbling to the ground are actual locals in Los Angeles and anyone who ever lived is this area (myself included) would still find watching this film chilling to say the least. The sets are very impressive - they made one helluva mess of Universal Studios making this film. The acting is so-so and the ending is disappointing and leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions: what ever happened to Miles and Rosa's brother anyway? And the scenes with Jody the weirdo are just plain uncomfortable. But as far as pure "end of the world" disaster entertainment goes, this film has it all.
  • comment
    • Author: Jugami
    Co-written by Mario Puzo, the man who re-defined the gangster genre, `Earthquake' is the quintessential disaster movie. The elements are all there: the large, all-star cast, the pathos, the massive devastation, the many intertwined subplots, the Wagnerian heroes and the ultimate banality. For those who find nothing to enjoy in soap operas, trashy romance novels, or depictions of mass destruction on the scale of a `Gojira' film, there is nothing here. But for the rest of us…pure artistry.

    `Earthquake' was the `Independence Day' of its time. I remember kids talking about how thrilling it was to be `allowed' to see this very frightening PG film (I was very young when it first was released). I remember the hype about `Sensurround' and the sensations that this new sound system was meant to induce. The 70's were an age of Disaster films, perhaps a Return of the Repressed fears that decades of the Cold War had inspired. Certainly the scale of destruction depicted in `Earthquake' is of an apocalyptic scale. Larger quakes have since hit the West Coast several times, and it is now difficult to believe that anyone ever thought a 7.0 quake could devastate LA so completely. What is shown is not the real effects of a massive quake, but the Hand of God reaching down and destroying the impure – and testing the strong.

    Our heroes are heroic on a grand scale, and Charlton Heston is king of the heroes in `Earthquake.' Again and again he sacrifices and risks himself to help or rescue others, but he is not alone in his altruism. Lorne Greene, George Kennedy (and what is a disaster movie without George Kennedy?) and Fred Williamson all do their part, some sacrificing their lives for others in the process. Unfortunately, `Earthquake' suffers from a lack of interesting villains for these heroes to offset themselves against (aside, of course, from relentless Nature herself), although Marjoe Gortner's nasally National Guardsman does give George Kennedy a chance to note that `Earthquakes bring out the worst in some people.'

    Those who have celebrated the everyday selflessness of rescue workers in the 9/11 tragedy will find the depictions of lazy and selfish rescuers a bit surprising here, although, again, this was a comment on perceptions of the times. The 1970's was a time of renewed selfishness in American culture, with former Hippies turning away from love and LSD, and towards profit and cocaine. By the 1980's, Americans had become comfortable with the new `Me Generation,' but there was still lingering guilt to work out when `Earthquake' was released. Perhaps this is why Charlton Heston, portraying a successful engineer, must repudiate his trade, saying `I'm ashamed of my profession,' and why businessmen and CEOs must die in their towers of glass and steel. Secretaries, suspended cops and unsuccessful actresses are saved, and the meek inherit the Earth.
  • comment
    • Author: Macage
    Ludicrous disaster epic about the razing of LA, with Chuck a top brass engineer who's marriage to bibulously bloated bosses' daughter Gardner drives him to make expressively "angry" love to starlet Bujold, until Earth's Final Fury steps in to sort out his conjugal priorities. Chuck's got his shades though, so he's ready for anything. Elsewhere, put-upon cop Kennedy is having a bad day because he's mown down Zsa Zsa Gabor's hedge, and a pre-Dallas Principal has the unfortunate crosses to bear of a 2-storey afro (the only structure undisturbed by the quake) and the unwanted attentions of crackpot SAS commander Gortner.

    Par for the genre's course, death-defying rescues amidst the sawdust and tinsel is very much the order of the day, but here connected by much bizarrely incongruous throwaway padding involving everyone castwise from Kennedy downwards. There are faint intimations that this could be self-reflexive parody, but given that facetious rock bottom is hit with an unintelligible Walter Matthau's "cameo" as an inebriated barfly (who's decision to go incommunicado under his real Panavision-necessitating surname must surely have come about after seeing the finished product), I very much doubt it.

    Save for Kennedy's derisory aside "Earthquakes bring out the worst in people", the film has absolutely nothing to say about the psychology of societal collapse; or why, post 9/11, we continue to enjoy watching tall things falling down with people still in them. But any movie in which a pantomime Gardner's first line is "Goddammit!" can't be a total lost cause. And after her and Chuck's opening domestic tussle, which would come pretty close to John Waters, had he yet gained mainstream acceptance and managed to persuade Liz Taylor to star for him - "Of course i'll induce vomiting, I know the rules by now!" - the film finally delivers 2 hours of not-so-solid (like it's "40-storey monstrosities") entertainment value. Even if after all is said and done with the laugh-a-minute dialogue, the Incredible Upside Down Cows, the cartoon blood in the liftshaft, Gardner playing Lorne Greene's DAUGHTER which meant he would have had her at 7 years old etc etc etc, the movie ends up nothing but its own 'Airplane!'.

    Sole aesthetic virtue is its naturalistic sound editing (which understandably won that year's Oscar) and subterranean bass pitch which, combined with the short-lived cinematic 'wonder' of Sensurround - ie earthquake-simulating theaters - meant that certain moviegoers got to join in the vicarious fun of mass panic and devastation.

    If like me, you like this film for precisely the wrong reasons, you will want to seek out its Japanese rival 'Jishin Retto' (1980) for no doubt 'hours' of endlessly fascinating film-studyish comparison...
  • comment
    • Author: Water
    What can I say about "Earthquake" that hasn't already been said before? A cast that includes Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene, Genevieve Bujold, George Kennedy, and Victoria Principal, head this great story of Los Angeles and the lives that are affected by those who live their after a tremor registers at 7,1! The lives and lifestyles of these people, some pleasant, and some not, are put to the test as they are forced to deal with the cause and effect of having a thriving city on tectonic plates, that are rapidly moving. A gem of a film, ridiculed to no end because of varying opinions that should not matter to one of those inquiring minds! Ugh! And they say smoking is bad for you. People need to open their minds, and see. See that this film is not half as bad as most say it is. True, this film is a big Hollywood monopoly fest, and their are no unknowns to be seen, as you have Charlton Heston(Ben-Hur); Ava Gardner(MGM actress); Genevieve Bujold(Anne of a Thousand Days); among others, and even co-stars as Richard Roundtree(Shaft) and Victoria Principal(Dallas.) The cast works really well together, and the print shines.

    There are a lot of facts explored here, such as animals crying out or running away moments before the quakes, that really give chills out of the reality of it. These are the really great things that happen, and give excitement, not artificial scares made up for the ongoing monopoly that this film has such a reputation for, but rather realistic knowledge that shows what might happen would such a quake strike the earth at such force. Also of note are the scenes with the dam, and the water rising after each "pre-shock" while a man falls out of an elevator full of water, drowned from it.

    Great sets as well. Many sets are being torn apart in the quake scenes, while maintaining the reality of sets the tone.

    The effects, which won a very deserved Oscar, are what really opens the audience's eyes. We see the valley, we see Capital Records, we see Wilshire, and even Zsa Zsa Gabor's bushes get totally eschewed during the disaster. What is really amazing, is that such matting and blue screen was put to use, that to this day, I still scratch my head on how it was all done. It would really be nice to see a featurette on how they did it all. Those scenes, in which there is an after shock, show millions of people running from a huge building that is literally falling to pieces before our very eyes! Amazing stuff. There is truly beauty in this film when looked for. An event... as the tagline reads is right. Every one knows earthquakes cause damage, but how much damage is seen? It was amazing to see Los Angeles fall to pieces, and show the rest of the world what it would be like were a 7.1 ricter scale.

    Equally great is the Mario Puzo script. The first thing that drew me to this film was how well it pulls the audience into the drama between the characters. Think, in recent films, "Magnolia" meets "Volcano." The relationship between Heston and Gardner, while, can be laughable due to the nature of two divas facing off, is still capable of being appreciated. George Kennedy as a worn out cop plays strictly for drama, and even though he is inter cut with Walter Matthau as a sleazy barman cameo, he gets some seriousness for himself in the end. The structure of the film, from the setting up of the characters some fun(like Principal as Rosa Amici with her friend Roundtree as a daredevil) or characters that you can relate to(Bujold is great as aspiring actress.) As for the development of the disaster itself, the way the tremors start as small, and then the big shake, and then the after shock, builds really well, and the characters, with their emotional baggage and structured emotions deep, intertwine and create a great story that is fun for all.

    Sensurround was a fast growing mechanism used in films and was fully extent in this one. Many people see this technique as the only reason this film was made, and yes, this was a big Hollywood picture made for monopoly purposes, but there was art in it from the artists who those big wigs hired.

    There is a really good film here, and it still stands to this day. Great score by John Williams and there is a website you can go to to further understand the film as it is.

    In the end, even though the reviews have not given this film the justice it deserved, the loyal filmmakers that appreciate art and the joy of dedication and film-making have kept this film where it belongs, with the reputation it deserves.
  • comment
    • Author: Domarivip
    In 1974 I was 29 years old when I first saw this movie. At the time I didn't question the suitability of the lead stars as I had grown up with them appearing in other films. Considering all the various genre of films I had seen up to that time, I must confess that it didn't seem a bad effort at that point in time. I grew up with various westerns and others and one film in particular I remember well is the classic "King Kong".

    Critics who knock this film must remember that 1974 was a transitional period where techniques were still being learned. Without the benefit of computers, I might add. When you have grown up with computer wizardry, that is, since the start of the seventies, it it far easier to find fault than to see the merit in what these people achieved.

    However, with the passage of time, one realizes the major fault with this film was the poor casting. This should not detract from the efforts of the special effects people. They have led the way and shown the young people coming along what can be done with skill and imagination. 3/10 for casting, 6/10 for special effects.
  • comment
    • Author: deadly claw
    Sensurround! How I do miss it! How this movie misses it! It was the best thing it had going for it when it was released in special theaters with sound equipment designed to vibrate your fanny as it sat snugly in those theater seats. Unfortunately, without the vibrations, Earthquake just ain't as much fun.

    As disaster films go, Earthquake is certainly not the worst, but is far from the best. Charlton Heston, fresh from having saved a 747 from certain disaster in Airport 1975, now does his best to save the city of Los Angeles. To be fair though, we knew he wasn't going to stop the earthquake, leaving that for Christopher Reeve in Superman some years later. But we just knew that as Construction Engineer, Stewart Graff he'd do his best to save a lot of L.A. citizens stuck in precarious situations. Why else would he be here? And just for fun, he even brought George Kennedy over from Airport 1975 with him although he's a cop named Lew Slade now instead of tinkering around with jetliners. What a treat!

    It seems that Lew Slade was chasing a bad guy who had been drunk driving and run down a kid. Unfortunately the bad guy crashes his vehicle right on the property of Zsa Zsa Gabor, which is out of Slade's jurisdiction. When another officer who is in the proper jurisdiction berates Slade for messing up Miss Gabor's shrubbery, Slade let's the young officer know how much he cares about plant life by landing a right cross. This lands him a suspension, and supposedly helps us get to know his character a little better while we pat our foot waiting for the big rumble to start. Did you really think they were going to open a disaster film with the actual disaster? There's a code in the screenwriter's handbook that says that's not allowed. At least that's what I'm told.

    Meanwhile somewhere else in L.A., Stuart Graff is married to Remy Royce-Graff(Ava Gardner) who was fathered by Sam Royce(Lorne Greene) when he was seven I think. Sam is also Stuart's Boss. Stuart is having an affair with Denise Marshall(Genevieve Bujold) who happens to be the widow of a former co-worker of Stuart. We are not told whether Stuart had anything to do with the death of Denise's husband so he could put the moves on her but they could have added that to the plot too. Generally in these types of films they throw everything in but the kitchen sink anyway so why not?

    Then on the other side of town we have motorcycle daredevil Miles Quade(Richard Roundtree) along with partner Sal Amici(Gabriel Dell) getting ready to put on the show of his life. His sister is Rosa Amici(Victoria Principal, before Dallas)who has about the funkiest curly hairdo I think I've ever seen on film. Think Shirley Temple with coal black hair. Then there's supermarket manager, weekend warrior, Jody(Marjoe Gortner)who happens to be a fanatic about women with curly coal black naturally curly hair as you'll soon discover. Now all this might sound interesting on paper, and might make a good soap-opera. In this film it's all useless information since this is a film about an earthquake and after it hits we could care less about what happens up to that point. Think of it as the filler before the thriller.

    Even without the oscillating seats, the earthquake itself is still fun to watch. We get skyscrapers crashing to the ground, buildings falling on people, shards of glass piercing the good citizen's skins, people scalded by stoves, houses explode, freeways cave in, Stuart, Remy, and Sam get trapped in a high rise, a bar comes crashing down around Lew, Miles big motorcycle stunt comes crashing down, Rosa loses her popcorn in a movie theater, Denise's son takes a dive on his bike, and good boy Jody gets to put his uniform on and show us just how psychotic and messed up he really is. This is cool stuff folks even for 1974 type special effects. Unfortunately, the Earthquake momentarily subsides and we are left to deal with some of the silly plotting the film started out with. Guess you can't have everything.

    If you can overlook the usual silliness and terrible dialog which seems to go with the territory in disaster films, you might be entertained by some close calls and daring rescues after the earthquake. You'll certainly get a few laughs out of Marjoe Gortner's cracked-up soldier performance. George Kennedy is pretty darn good as the cop. Heston is better than he was in that Airport thingy, and though his romance with Bujold is an obvious mismatch, it doesn't come near to equaling the absurdity of his relationship with Karen Black on that 747. Ava Gardner plays the bitchy Remy as if she were competing for the Shrew Olympics. Lorne Greene looks as if he wishes he was back on the Ponderosa with Hoss, Adam and Little Joe. Richard Roundtree is fun as the daredevil, but we see little of him after the earthquake. Tiger Williams as Denise's son Corry spends most of the film unconscious and we are grateful for that. Usually the kids in disaster films are scripted to be overly cute and annoying. I think there's a rule in the screenwriter's disaster film handbook about that too.

    If I have one suggestion to make it would be avoid the version of this film with the added TV footage at all costs. For those of you familiar with Welcome Back Kotter, if you see any footage of Rosalie 'Hotzie' Totzie(Debralee Scott)riding an airplane, change the channel, remove the tape, just do what you have to do. Why this goofy footage was ever added is beyond me.

    In it's original form my grade for Mark Robson wiping out L.A.: C- Hotzie Totzie gets an F and it's back to the sweat hogs for her.
  • comment
    • Author: Jube
    This movie shows that not having million dollar electronic special effects can still make a disaster movie a classic. All special effects were human made meaning no use of electronic gizmos short of the famous blue screen. As a lucky observer on set of Earthquake I can attest to the fantastic special effects this movie has. And the fantastic cast of Hollywod alumni adds tops off this classic piece of work. There is no better disaster then EARTHQUAKE. Add to the movie Sensurround (don't know if you get it on the VHS or DVD. If not turn up your bass on your speaker'll see). Classic all the way. Heston, Kennedy, Eva Gardner, Lloyd Nolan, Victoria Principal (a virtual unknown at the time) Lorne Greene, Marjoe Gortner, TIGER WILLIAMS, Kip Niven and many more. You will enjoy it. Its a 10.0 on this Richter Scale.
  • comment
    • Author: Ffleg
    Ah yes, watching this movie is a real nostalgic trip back to the mid-Seventies...when disaster movies were all the rage (making money no matter how badly slopped-together the result); "spot-the-star" epics answered questions of whatever happened to old actors ("Did you see Gloria Swanson in Airport 1975? Why, I thought she'd been dead for YEARS!"); Sensurround was new and fun (except if you happened to own the business right next to the neighborhood theater); loud plaid slacks and sport coats were fashionable (so were neckties 2 feet wide); and Shirley Temple mop-tops were "in" (even for guys).

    Seems to me Earthquake garnered quite a few Oscars in it's day, as well. Let's see, there was "Most Ludicrous Casting in Movie History" (an old, haggard Ava Gardener playing Lorne Greene's DAUGHTER...guess he fathered her while still in diapers); "Most Painful Performance by a Major Star in a Cameo Role" (Walter Matthau's "hilarious" turn as a dancing wino who entertains the poor survivors in a parking garage); "Most Excruciating Rescue Scene" (getting a hundred people down a broken stairwell, ONE AT A TIME, using an office chair and a fire hose); and "Most Boring Screen Couple of All-Time" (the newlyweds on the incoming jumbo jet)....oh, wait, that last one was an Emmy-winner, since it was not included in the original theatrical release, but tacked on for the network premier. Gee but AM I GLAD somebody thought of including 45 minutes on this subplot -- the movie might have actually been boring without the inclusion of these fascinating rejects from a deodorant commercial.

    Let's see what else Earthquake has to offer. Oh, yes there's small-time operator Richard Roundtree's "thrilling" death ride on a motorcycle (He jumps thru a ring of fire. WHOA! Move over, Evel Knievel). And Marjoe Gortner's wide-eyed lunatic Guardsman with the hots for afro-wearing Victoria Principal (upholding his honor by shooting two dudes who insinuated he was gay). Then there's some riveting scenes between bored-looking Charlton Heston and drunkard wife Ava Gardner (I recall the biggest laughs in the theater occurring when he forsakes cute Genevieve Bujold for shrewish Ava, heroically plunging down a raging storm drain to his death in a vain attempt to save her). George Kennedy virtually reprising his character from TV's "The Blue Knight" (wait a minute, wasn't he supposed to appear as Joe Petroni in the jumbo jet subplot? Somebody goofed). Oh yes, the gripping rescue of Genevieve's kid in an open storm drain from (gasp!) a power line AND onrushing water! (The brat is unconscious thru this whole ordeal, mercifully for him and the audience). Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this. Earthquake definitely constitutes "must see" TV!
  • comment
    • Author: one life
    I saw Earthquake on the big screen, complete with the giant "Sensurround" sub-woofer installation. Everyone went, to see the spectacle and feel Sensurround, but the only good thing about the movie was that it sold lots of tickets. Walking in, we wondered how cool Sensurround would be. Half way through, we wondered when something interesting would happen. Walking out, we wondered if it was bad enough to kill the disaster genre entirely.

    The Sensurround didn't feel like an earthquake (as anyone who has experienced a real one would know), it felt like a giant sub-woofer. Worse, it could rumble at only one tone and loudness -- it was either on or off. Even though I was a kid, I wondered why the Sensurround speakers couldn't make us feel the difference between the little "warning" earthquake, the Big One, and the aftershocks. The only difference between the quakes was how long they lasted. What does it say about the movie when kids in the audience are thinking about the deficiencies of the movie's big gimmick, rather than caring about what was happening in the movie?

    On the small screen, without even the gimmick attraction of the flawed Sensurround, I can't imagine this movie being entertaining, except as an object of audience mockery. Unless you're in the mood to laugh at bad movie-making, see The Poseidon Adventure instead.
  • comment
    • Author: Anayalore
    I first saw "Earthquake" in a small-town theater newly equipped with Sensurround, and it was a pretty fun experience, at age 14.

    I might be able to clarify an issue or two for people who may have only seen the movie recently and who may be confused. At this time, most are probably seeing "Earthquake" on AMC. This is a bloated version that one of the networks (NBC?) cobbled together in the mid-70s when it first showed "Earthquake" on TV. My recollection (from almost 30 years ago, mind you) is that the network added a lot of poorly-done footage, specifically the entire subplot with the interminable scenes of the newlywed couple on the airplane!. It wanted to broadcast the movie as a big, two-night ratings extravaganza, but messed it up by adding airplane! scenes that were boring, cheap and cheesy. Not that the movie is all that great in any version, but in its original form it was tighter and had better production values.

    Watching the AMC (NBC?) version recently, I am reminded that the network did a horrible editing job. Early on, the airplane! is passing over a smoggy and uninspiring Grand Canyon, en route to LA, with an ETA of, what, 45 or 50 minutes? Cut back to the original LA scenes, where Charlton Heston goes through enough experiences involving his career and love life to occupy several ordinary days, and is leaving the office when the earthquake starts. Sometime later, we cut back to the airplane!, which is just landing in LA at this point. The airplane! scenes look as though they were filmed for about $500, with talent that should have stuck with doing deodorant ads. The rest of the movie isn't too bad, although as '70s disaster movies go, I much prefer "The Poseidon Adventure."
  • comment
    • Author: Pruster
    "The Towering Inferno" may be considered to be the great disaster movie epic; "The Poseidon Adventure" may be the ultimate escape film; but in my book, "Earthquake" is the king of all disaster films!

    While "Inferno" and "Poseidon" have the Irwin Allen stamp, "Earthquake" is the crown jewel of the 1970's disaster film genre. True, at times, the dialogue is inane, and the many characters can be a little taxing, but the suspense that builds up to the massive earthquake that levels Los Angeles makes for an entertaining film!

    With an all-star cast from film and television at the helm, the true star (much like the fire in "The Towering Inferno," as Paul Newman put it), are the special effects. For those of us in Los Angeles who are familiar with the freeway overpasses, the malls, and downtown Hollywood depicted in the film, witnessing their destruction delivers an eerie punch that non-Angelenos can't truly appreciate (and, in fact, when the film is broadcast over local television stations after a quake of a significant magnitude in the Los Angeles area, the teaser commercials frequently read: "We all felt it... now let's see if Hollywood got it right...") They most certainly did in this spectacular film.

    "Earthquake" truly is "An Event."
  • comment
    • Author: White gold
    I really enjoyed the practical effects before CGI took over the film industry. This is the time when making disaster films was a huge challenge. This is decent film making at its best. The visual effects are incredible and is still good by today's standard. This must have been amazing at the time of release. Charlton Heston is a likable hero as usual. I enjoyed how the characters interacted with one another and how their characters developed during and after the disaster. The film did end rather abruptly, but it was an enjoyable action drama.
  • comment
    • Author: Risa
    With the success of Irwin Allen's "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno" for Fox and Warner Brothers, every other major studio was clamoring to jump on the "disaster bandwagon." "Earthquake" was Universal's contribution to the genre and while it sports some impressive special effects, it also has one of the best examples of poor casting on film.

    Genevieve Bujold looks too young and demure for "old man" Chuck Heston. He, on the other hand, is perfect as the husband of a very, haggard-looking Ava Gardner, who should have been cast as the sister of Lorne Greene, as opposed to being his daughter. Marjoe Gortner is forced to wear, aside from Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction," one of the worst hairpieces in film history.

    And, thankfully, for Victoria Principal, a little show named "Dallas" came along a few years later, to help viewers forget how badly she acted in "Earthquake."

    Richard Rountree was on hand, solely to provide some "color"; thus, his role could have been called "heroic Negro on motorcycle". A poor letdown for such an actor that had flaunted his African-American masculinity so well in the series of "Shaft" films.

    Obviously, Walter Matthau was smart enough to have his contribution to this turkey uncredited.

    Even John Williams' score seems to be recycled from his composition for both of Allen's films.
  • comment
    • Author: Xava
    Earthquake 1974 is a classic film with outstanding film actors who will never be forgotten. Charlton Heston (Steward Graff)("Ben Hur" '59); Ava Gardner (Remy Royce Graff)("Barefoot Contessa'54 starring with Humphrey Bogart); George Kennedy,(Sgt. Lew Slade)("Blue Knight TV series and "Cool Hand Luke" '67); Lorne Greene(Sam Royce)("Bonanza "'59); Barry Sullivan ( Dr. Willis Stockle)("Harlow" 65); Lloyd Nolan ( Dr. James Vance)("A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" '45) and last but not least, Walter Matthau (A DRUNK in a bar)("Sunshine Boys'75) All these actors made this film a great classic, not the special effects, lets remember, this film was made in 1974 not in year 2000. There will never be another Earthquake Film with such great actors giving their complete support to make this an enjoyable entertainment for generations in the future to admire and respect. This is not a film to be critical about, all actors have to make a living, whether they are old or young!!!
  • comment
    • Author: Liarienen
    To give credit where credit is due - those special effects people managed to put together a pretty good depiction of this massive earthquake that strikes Los Angeles. And it goes on and on for quite a long time. And buildings collapse and houses explode as gas lines break and a massive dam is threatened and people are buried in the debris, and they tumble to their deaths or the elevator that they're on crashes down, and ... and ... and ... By the standards of 1970's special effects that was really well done. Unfortunately, you also have to sit through the rest of the movie, which ... well ... ain't so well done!

    We get almost an hour of soap-ish type filler before the actual earthquake hits. Yes, I know that's mandatory in these kinds of films. It's as if somebody in the 1970's decided that adding all these personal subplots about the characters would make viewers more interested; maybe we'd get to know the characters and their lives better and we'd care more. Uh. No. I just really wanted to get to the earthquake and its aftermath. I didn't really care who was having an affair with who, or any of the other numerous subplots that got going in that first hour - although it was rather fun to watch one cop punch out another in an apparent dispute over jurisdiction and - believe it or not - Zsa Zsa Gabor's hedge (not that she makes an appearance.) Basically, I spent almost an hour thinking, "can't we just get to the earthquake. Please. PLEASE!" And then it comes - and it's great, and it lasts for a few minutes - and then it's over, and we get back into many of those soap-ish subplots, through which we see the aftermath of the earthquake. This was perhaps a little more interesting than the lead-up. For example, although it wasn't graphically depicted, I was a bit surprised to see a movie from this era depict a soldier apparently trying to rape a young woman. But really - the movie had telegraphed for a long time that the real suspense was going to eventually come from the dam bursting and how many were going to be saved and who was going to die as a result. So in that second part of the movie, we waited for that to happen. There was a lot of waiting for things to happen in this movie.

    This had a decent cast. These 70's disaster movies always seemed to be able to attract well known names, and even a few truly big stars. Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner are in this, for example. There were secondary movie stars like George Kennedy and Walter Matthau (in an inexplicably and totally unnecessary role as a drunk at a bar who basically just wants another drink no matter what's happening around him.) There was Lorne Greene (much better known for his TV work as Ben Cartwright in "Bonanza.") And there was Victoria Principal (still a few years away from TV stardom as Pam Ewing on "Dallas") as the almost rape victim - who I didn't even recognize, as she was made up in this really far- out curly sort of hairstyle. (I had seen her name in the credits and was actually looking for her and didn't recognize her until the closing credits revealed which character she was. I had to go back and look. Now - knowing her character - I could recognize her.)

    Some of those 1970's disaster type movies are a lot of fun, and pretty well done. I'd say this one doesn't exactly rank at the top (or even near the top) of that list. But the actual earthquake is fun. No doubt about that. (3/10)
  • comment
    • Author: Puchock
    Remy (Ava Gardner) and Stuart Graff (Charlton Heston)'s marriage is falling apart. She ODs once again after another fight. During a small earthquake, she jumps up and reveals that she's faking. He's a construction engineer working for his father-in-law Sam Royce (Lorne Greene). He starts an affair with the widow of his friend and single mom Denise Marshall (Geneviève Bujold). There is a mysterious drowning at a local dam and other disturbing signs. LAPD cop Lou Slade (George Kennedy) gets suspended for punching a clueless county cop. Miles (Richard Roundtree) is a motorcycle rider perfecting a new stunt. Grad student Russell predicts the big one in 48 hours.

    Walter Matthau's getup is hilarious. That bar is a weird place and that T-shirt is super fine. I like that group of characters. They're a little off-beat and slightly fun. I care a lot less about the affair and the jealousy within the Graff marriage. They could drop into the earth for all I care. The earthquake action is as much as can be expected with shaking cameras, miniatures, falling styrofoam and other stuntwork. This is good special effects for its times and satisfies the need for destruction. It's nowhere near as visually compelling as CGI but it feeds the same animal instincts. There is a good 15 minutes of continuous destruction. The aftermath is a mix of good rescue scenarios and bad melodrama.
  • comment
    • Author: Steamy Ibis

    Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)

    Sound format: 6-track magnetic stereo (Sensurround encoding)

    (35mm and 70mm release prints)

    Several disparate characters are drawn together in the aftermath of an earthquake which devastates Los Angeles.

    Soapy addition to the 1970's disaster cycle, featuring an all-star cast going through the dreary motions (who CARES if Charlton Heston is threatening to leave wife Ava Gardner for younger woman Geneviève Bujold?) until their problems are resolved - one way or another - by an earth-shattering catastrophe. The earthquake itself is impressive in some places (collapsing miniatures, burning buildings, expansive matte paintings, etc.) and dreadful in others ('shaky-cam' inserts, animated 'blood splatter', optical distortions which LOOK like optical distortions, etc.), though some moviegoers were lucky enough to view the film theatrically in Sensurround, an ultra-deep bass enhancement which caused structural damage in a number of theaters! Directed by industry veteran Mark Robson (BEDLAM, ISLE OF THE DEAD) and produced by Universal at a time when most of their output looked like big screen TV features, the movie was intended to give THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) a run for its money and came off looking pretty ropey in comparison, though it DOES have a strong cast (including George Kennedy, giving the film's best performance as a disillusioned cop whose faith is restored in the aftermath of the quake). The moralistic ending is particularly hard to swallow.
  • comment
    • Author: Llallayue
    Lorne Green as Ava Gardner's father? Did I get that right? Worth watching too see Pam Ewing aka Victoria Principal. She showed more acting ability though then she ever did on Dallas

    The effects were bad...Hey Man! I want more camera shake!

    Marjoe Gortner? When did he work last?

    Lots of sterotyping going on. George Kennedy is always a cop. Good period piece though to see what people were wearing.

    Really though as far as disaster movies go this wasn't much of a disaster. Unless you consider cramming a movie lot with lots of styrofoam bricks and concrete.
  • comment
    • Author: Whitescar
    As being fascinated by 70s disaster movies I kept scores on the ratings of films such as Airport, Towering Inferno, Poseidon adventure and ...Earth Quake. I heard negative things about the latter one, and the scores on IMDb indicate likewise. When I by chance found a DVD-copy of this film in a bargain bin for a very low price, I reasoned that the price was affordable enough given its bad repute. Therefore, I was surprised to be quite bitten by the movie almost instantly after the initial credits were rolling. In terms of production values, I judge Earthquake at least as professional and detailed as Towering inferno, if not even more realistic. Those who actually live in L.A. perhaps now how they faked the geography, etc, but the film does manage to draw the spectator in the scenery and create a certain realistic presence. The effects of the Towering Inferno were actually cheesier, this goes especially for the skyscrapers scenes, which are definitely more convincing here than in Towering. Maybe the extras used for the hospital scenes are a bit too rehearsed for the next "surpise" after shelve, but this is also the case in most other disaster flicks.

    Plot wise then, and in narration, it has perhaps some shortcomings, there is not a definite apocalyptic climax, and the end may to certain spectators appear to be somewhat sudden, although I actually felt that it offered some moral logic. Because, as is the case for all true big Hollywood disaster flicks from the era, the story is actually a pretext for supplying old-fashioned morality lessons in an era that had already ceded to sins and secularity. All sinners get theirs here, but I noted that the film spares no-one, the extremist weapons fetishist as well as the middle class adulterer will meet their horrific destiny. One may almost call this cynicism, because the inner moral voice of this film does not appear to have taken a rightist or leftist side. It is rather resigned and world-weary. Once again an interesting comparison to Towering can be made, since Towering on the surface takes on a more middle-class leftist approach, where Paul Newman as center of moral gravity, the angry and aware intellectual. Here, the corresponding character is perhaps George Kennedy's antihero, the tired copper who does not carry moral cookies in his pockets, but on the other hand acts humanly to those in need. The same moody resignation you will find in the way the marriage between Ava and Charlton is presented, a sad failure, they don't hate it each other, he just cannot find any ounce of feeling for his alcoholic, middle aged wife. So, when it comes to characterization, I would definitely give Earthquake a higher score than both Towering and Airport, which are dominated by more shallowly drawn characters.

    Speaking about score finally, the lovers of John Williams will be satisfied; his strings are used effectively here. As always, I have many more things to say, requiring many thousands of words more, but I stop here to not get tedious.
  • comment
    • Author: Valawye
    A great and wild ride with Charleton Heston needing some acting lessons and some makeup....others in need of a take or two 'hit the mark'. Walter Matheau is very funny. George Kennedy is wild and himself, but the hottest property is a Very Young and VERY hot Victoria Principle as a young biker cheerleader who rocks in a t-shirt and leather pants!! The clothing and hairdo's are very much the period, so take some time and ride the 'EARTHQUAKE'. As my sister and I remembered when we saw it in the Theatre as young ones....the sound and the chairs MOVED each time the 'Earth' quaked on the screen.
  • comment
    • Author: MrDog
    I love this movie!! There is something wonderfully cathartic about watching an entire city be destroyed by nature (while knowing it's only a movie). And the film-makers were very thorough... offices, highways, universities, police stations... you name it, it gets flattened. And the film is appropriately somber (not like the silly "up-beat" disaster films they make nowadays). Forget "Armageddon" and "Volcano"... this is a REAL disaster flick!

    All that and a very young Victoria Principal!
  • comment
    • Author: IGOT
    Earthquake was one of the few good disaster movies of the seventies, along with The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Although it takes a little under an hour to get to the big event (most similar movies only take about twenty), it doesn't seem like this: director Mark Robson and screenwriters Mario "The Godfather" Puzo and George Fox (actually, Fox was brought in to simplify Puzo's original screenplay because it was too complicated to film) skillfuly weave to storylines together to form a cohesive cast that is now cliched, simply because it was one of the movies that set the trend. Anyway, the actual earthquake itself is SPECTACULAR. Without the use of todays computer wizardry the effects are chilling (excpet the bit with the blood flying at the camera). It utilises both live action (in camera) effects, models and a combination of both. In the process of leveling Los Angeles, the crew managed to all but destroy the Universal Back lot where much of the exterior's were filmed. A multi-million dollar model of LA was destroyred convincingly and now stands in the pre-ride experience at the film's ride in Universal Escape, Florida. The initial aftermath is convinving; Albert Whitlock (one of the most respected VFX people in the industry) created countless matte paintings of destoryed LA that when combined with the live action shots and fires look stunning. SPOILER!!!! LOOK AWAY IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING!!!!! The scene with survivors sheltering in the basement shopping levels of the "supposedly earthquake proof Wilson Plaza" being buried alive in an aftershock is... WOW! It uses a complicated combination of live action stunts, pre-shot sections of the mall collapsing around our ears then matted in and blue screen shots of people falling from height to create the illusion of the huge mall collpasing, along with a stampede of people running from the buildings as it collapses. The finale of the collapse of the Hollywood Reservoir Dam is one of the best sequences in movie history; ir is also one of the strangest in such event movies. Charlton Heston didn't like the ending he was given and asked for it to be changed. Much to Robson's protests, Heston had script approval and so, when his bitchy wife (Ava gardner) gets swept away by flood waters he chooses to rescue her and in the process the two of them die, leaving the sexy Genevieve Bujold, who played Hestons mistress, alone. A very downbeat ending which even John Williams end titles expresses, with none of the triumphant music he used in the endings of The Poseidon Advenutre and The Towering Inferno which he also scored. Indeed, the last line in the film is, "This used to be a hell of a town officer." All in all this is a superb movie that still looks good along with The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Charlton Heston Charlton Heston - Graff
    Ava Gardner Ava Gardner - Remy
    George Kennedy George Kennedy - Slade
    Lorne Greene Lorne Greene - Royce
    Geneviève Bujold Geneviève Bujold - Denise (as Genevieve Bujold)
    Richard Roundtree Richard Roundtree - Miles
    Marjoe Gortner Marjoe Gortner - Jody
    Barry Sullivan Barry Sullivan - Stockle
    Lloyd Nolan Lloyd Nolan - Dr. Vance
    Victoria Principal Victoria Principal - Rosa
    Walter Matthau Walter Matthau - Drunk (as Walter Matuschanskayasky)
    Monica Lewis Monica Lewis - Barbara
    Gabriel Dell Gabriel Dell - Sal
    Pedro Armendáriz Jr. Pedro Armendáriz Jr. - Chavez (as Pedro Armendariz Jr.)
    Lloyd Gough Lloyd Gough - Cameron
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