[box cover]

Poseidon: Special Edition

Not so long ago, The New York Times informed us that the granddaddy of disaster flicks, 1972's The Poseidon Adventure, enjoys "serious 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'-type devotion" — Web sites, fan conventions, homemade action figures, and all sorts of tongue-in-cheek obsession. It's not hard to see. The Poseidon Adventure, along with Airport (1970), launched a disaster-movie craze that shoveled an alarming amount of junk into theaters (including 1980's When Time Ran Out, the most hilariously awful movie starring Paul Newman and a volcano that anyone could possibly imagine). But unlike so many of its descendants, The Poseidon Adventure actually holds up. There's the '70s-kitsch factor, of course. As a raging priest (Gene Hackman) leads a ham-and-cheese cast (including Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Jack Albertson, Roddy McDowall and Stella Stevens) through the bowels of an ocean liner flipped upside-down by a rogue wave, there are smaller disasters afoot — including Borgnine's pink tuxedo shirt and that horrible, Oscar-winning song "The Morning After." But the movie's also, in its cheesy way, a film of ideas. The surreal upside-down sets, the legendary shot of a stuntman falling "upward" into a skylight, the long death march to the ship's bottom (now its top), and the constant infighting all reinforce a provocative theme — the violent rejection of conventional thinking. The movie climaxes with this nutty, operatic bit where Hackman's hanging from some pipes crucifixion-style, sacrificing himself for his frenemies and yelling at God. It's shocking — and it has a bite The Swarm could never muster. Unfortunately, Wolfgang Petersen's Poseidon (2006) remake couldn't muster it, either. It's spectacularly noisy, uninteresting, and character-free. It replaces the original's mix of vivid old B-actors with bland purty people — including two interchangeable hunks with crisis-management skills (Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas) and three interchangeable brunettes (Jacinda Barrett, Emmy Rossum and Mía Maestro) who look so much alike that we actually aren't sure at one point which one of them just died. The wave hits about 15 minutes in, so we never get to know anyone — robbing a couple of admittedly impressive set pieces of any real suspense. Combine this with the computer-generated effects, and you have a movie that feels like a video game. After disappointing box-office results, Warner Home Video hopes to recoup some of the film's notable expenses on DVD — the two-disc Poseidon: Special Edition with an excellent anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and room-filling Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Disc One includes the featurette "Poseidon: A Ship on a Soundstage" (22 min.) and the film's theatrical trailer, while Disc Two includes three more extras, "Poseidon: Upside Down" (10 min.), "A Shipmate's Diary" (12 min.), and the History Channel documentary "Rogue Waves" (28 min.). Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
Mike Russell



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