The Poseidon Adventure Blu-ray delivers stunning video and solid audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
A passenger ship, on her way to the scrap yard is pushed to her limits by the new owners to save on the dismantling fees. A tidal wave hits her, flipping her over so that all the internal rooms are upside down. A priest takes a mixed band of survivors on a journey through the bowels of the ship in an attempt to survive.
For more about The Poseidon Adventure and the The Poseidon Adventure Blu-ray release, see the The Poseidon Adventure Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on April 7, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
After over a decade working in TV, during which he created and oversaw such classics as
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel and Lost in Space, producer
Irwin Allen, known as "The Master of Disaster", returned to the big screen in 1972 with The Poseidon Adventure. It became one of
Allen's biggest hits and has endured as one of the best (maybe the best) of the Seventies disaster films.
One reason for the film's staying power is that Allen stuck (or, depending on who you ask, was
confined) to the role of producer, which is what he did best, while ceding directing duties to
British veteran Ronald Neame, whose courtly rapport with actors proved invaluable during the
physically grueling shoot. Writing duties fell primarily to Stirling Silliphant, an Oscar winner for
In the Heat of the Night, with assistance from Wendell Mayes, who transformed the novel by
Paul Gallico into an efficient thrill machine. Silliphant's skill for compressing both character and
plot information into dialogue that actors could speak like real people is one of the secrets of
Allen, who knew a good thing when he saw it, kept returning to Silliphant for scripts throughout
the Seventies, including The Towering Inferno and The Swarm. If only Allen had stayed
out of the director's chair, his winning streak might have continued. The Towering Inferno,
directed by John Guillermin, remainsa classic of the disaster genre along with
Poseidon; The Swarm, directed by Allen, is a camp favorite at best.
An opening title card informs us that the ship Poseidon was lost at sea on a voyage from New
York to Athens; "only a handful" survived. As director Neame explains in his commentary, he
insisted on this initial text to make the first half hour of the film suspenseful. Now, instead of just
being introduced to the main characters, the viewer begins to wonder which ones will be alive at
Neame's twist is crucial, because the list of potential survivors is long enough that it takes time
to introduce them properly, even for a writer of Silliphant's talent. Reverend Scott (Gene
Hackman, who won his Oscar for The French Connection during production of Poseidon)
is a firebrand of a preacher who has been stripped of "most" of his powers in an unidentified church
for his rebellious attitude and shipped to a tiny African ministry where he can no longer annoy
the elders. The ship's chaplain (Arthur O'Connell) lets Rev. Scott give a guest sermon, and it's
an aggressive self-help lecture, but at least, as the chaplain says, no one goes to sleep.
Mr. Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) is a New York cop taking his first real vacation with his wife, Linda
(Stella Stevens), who's self-conscious because she's a former hooker and thinks she spotted a
former client among the ship's crew. Belle and Manny Rosen (Shelley Winters and Jack
Albertson) used to run a hardware store, but now they're retiring to Israel where a two-year-old
grandson awaits their doting attention. Another shopkeeper, a haberdasher named Martin (Red
Buttons), is obsessed with staying healthy and living a long life, but has never found the time for
a relatonship. A teenaged girl named Susan (Pamela Sue Martin) is traveling with her younger
brother, Robin (Eric Shea), to join their parents; the kid is a nautical enthusiast who keeps
bugging the crew for tours, thereby picking up information that will shortly prove useful. A
ship's steward, Acres (Roddy McDowall), is taken with a singer, Nonnie (Carol Lynley), who
will be performing at the New Year's Eve bash later that night, where Acres will be on duty.
On the bridge, the ship's captain (Leslie Nielsen) and the representative of the new owners,
Linarcos (Fred Sadoff), battle over priorities. The captain wants to operate the ship safely, while
Linarcos wants to move as quickly as possible, because, unbeknownst to the passengers, this is
Poseidon's last voyage. The new owners have bought the ship for scrap.
Nature has other plans. Just after midnight on New Year's Eve, an undersea earthquake generates
an enormous tidal wave that capsizes the ship, killing most people aboard. A group of survivors
remains in the main dining room, and Rev. Scott urges them to follow him to the ship's stern at
its lowest compartment, which is now the highest point, because Robin learned from one of the
crew that the hull is thinnest near the propeller. Only the nine individuals we've come to know
follow the audacious reverend. The rest take the advice of the ship's purser to sit tight and await
help. Shortly they're all dead.
The rest of the film is nothing more than the struggle to reach their destination past increasingly
hazardous obstacles, as tempers flare, the doomed ship continues to break apart and the
onrushing sea pursues them like a predator. Without ever reaching Africa, Rev. Scott has found
his calling. "I've seen it!" he exclaims to the others, after he's returned from a scouting mission
to locate the engine room, and Hackman delivers the line with messianic fervor. Hackman's
performance is a key ingredient in Poseidon, because Rev. Scott could easily have been a
caricature. Hackman makes him a believable leader. (Hackman's life-long friend, Dustin
Hoffman, tells the story of how Hackman was thrown out of an acting class they both took as
young men, because the teacher thought he wasn't doing the work; his performances were so
natural that the teacher didn't believe Hackman was really acting.)
Ultimately, though, Poseidon works because of the simplicity of its nightmarish scenario.
There are no conspiratorial subplots about building codes, cost-cutting, greed or other human elements
in the disaster. Even the brief argument between the ship's captain and the owner's representative
about safety measures is a red herring, because nothing could have secured the ship against the
wall of water that capsized it. The film inflicts an unimaginable, unforeseeable disaster on a
random group of individuals, and then we watch how the survivors react. Forty years later, it's
still scary stuff.
As reactions from many fans have already confirmed, Fox's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of
The Poseidon Adventure looks terrific. The source materials are in excellent shape (and/or
have been faithfully restored), and the image is beautifully detailed with rich, saturated colors, deep
and solid blacks, and a sense of depth that is essential to conveying the sheer scale of the
production. This film was shot long before the era of home video, when directors and cameramen
used the whole width of the Panavision frame to convey important information, especially with
stories involving large groups of characters; in shot after shot, director Neame and
cinematographer Harold E. Stine arrayed people in carefully composed groups. The Blu-ray lets
your eye take in everything the frame has to offer.
Compression artifacts, banding, artificial sharpening and other defects that would militate against
a recommendation were nowhere to be seen. I did notice something that merits comment, though,
but since it won't affect the video rating, readers who never look past the score won't hear about
it. There's almost no visible film grain on this Blu-ray (once you get past the titles, where optical superimposition guarantees a
certain amount), and that's surprising in a film from 1972.
Under different circumstances, this might raise suspicions of high-frequency filtering (often
mistakenly called "DNR"), but careful inspection revealed no signs of lost detail, "frozen" grain,
waxy faces or any other tell-tale signs of such tampering. There's really nothing here to complain
Still, if one were to screen a 35mm print of The Poseidon Adventure, I very much doubt that
the image would resemble the one on this Blu-rayand here is where issues of technology and
philosophy converge. None of us knows what really happens at a digital colorist's workstation,
and the sophistication of the software available to these artisans has progressed rapidly,
especially now that the film industry uses digital intermediates as a standard procedure and
routinely distributes content digitally. Fox has been on the front lines of experimenting with ways
to make the appearance of older films acceptable to a generation used to contemporary
"cleanliness" in their video experience, and the results have often been controversial (e.g.,
Patton or Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition).
But with Aliens, Fox managed to find the right combination of software and artistry to "de-grain"
an older film without sacrificing picture detail or producing any of the side effects that so
outraged film purists; even the film's notoriously finicky director, James Cameron, applauded the
results. Having now found the "sweet spot" that appeals to both HD purists and film enthusiasts,
Fox appears to have applied a similar approach to The Poseidon Adventure. I don't blame them,
and I can't fault the results. But part of me can't help but regret that yet one more pop classic
from the age of film no longer looks quite the same as it used to.
The DTS-HD MA 4.0 track appears to contain the film's original "four-track stereo" mix, which
predates Dolby Surround and its variations (which wouldn't be available until the following
decades). Almost all of the sound occurs in the front three speakers with only occasional effects
or reinforcement from the mono rear channel. The discrete center channel aids in preserving the
clarity of dialogue, especially as the noise of the ship's deterioration increases, and the stereo
separation between the front mains contributes a welcome sense of dimensionality as the
survivors work their way through the various spaces and past increasingly challenging obstacles.
The dynamic range is respectable but limited at both the bottom and the top, so that explosions
that routinely rock the capsized vessel won't do much for your subwoofer and the high notes of
John Williams' memorable score (yes, John Williams really has been writing great movie music
for all these years) sound a bit harsh. Still, given the vintage of the production, the track sounds
Commentary by Director Ronald Neame: Neame was in his early 60s when he directed
Poseidon and his early 90s when he recorded this commentary (he died in 2010 at age
99). Still, you'd never guess his age from the quality of this presentation, which is sharp,
insightful and full of interesting detail. Neame's memory was no doubt kept fresh through
invitations to address biennial conventions of a Poseidon fan club that met aboard the
Queen Mary, where he and his wife would be put up in the Royal Suite, but his critical
faculties are equally sharp, as he routinely points out lines of dialogue he wishes he'd
changed, edits he would do differently today and directorial choices about which he's had
second thoughts (notably, he'd like to tone down the intensity of the conflict between
Hackman's Scott and Borgnine's Rogo). Neame's observations on the relation between
producer and director and on the changing role of the camera's "eye" in 20th Century
cinema are invaluable.
Commentary by Actors Pamela Sue Martin, Stella Stevens and Carol Lynley: As is
often the case with group commentaries, the three actresses have too much fun
reminiscing and talking over each other to provide an informative commentary. In the
latter half of the movie, pauses become frequent.
Hollywood Backstories: The Poseidon Adventure (SD; 1.33:1; 25:09): The
former AMC series produced some excellent features on classic films, and this 2000 episode on
The Poseidon Adventure is a fine example. Using both contemporary footage and new
interviews from 1995, it describes how Poseidon was greenlit, nearly canceled, rescued at
the last minute and went on to become a classic.
The Cast Looks Back (SD; 1.78:1, enhanced; 5:42): Made in 2005, the interviewees
include Sheila Allen (Allen's widow, who played the ship's nurse), Red Buttons, Stella
Stevens, Carol Lynley, Pamela Sue Martin and Roddy McDowall.
Falling Up with Ernie (SD; 1.78:1, enhanced; 4:10): Ernie Orsatti recalls how he
was hired on Poseidon as an actor, but was suddenly plucked from the crowd by director
Neame to perform the film's most famous stunt: the fall into a huge pane of glass.
The Writer: Stirling Silliphant (SD; 1.78, enhanced; 9:16): Recollections of,
and tributes to, Poseidon's screenwriter by assorted friends and colleagues.
The Heroes of the Poseidon (SD; 1.78, enhanced; 9:53): A quasi-allegorical
interpretation of the film that pushes every possible Christian element in the story to the
breaking point and beyond.
The Morning After Story (SD; 1.78, enhanced; 9:00): Co-writer Al Kasha (with
Joel Hirschhorn) describes writing the film's Oscar-winning theme song. Additional
observations are supplied by Maureen McGovern (whose recording became the standard
edition), Carol Lynley (who performed the song in the film) and Renée Armand (who
recorded the demo and ended up dubbing Lynley in the finished film).
R.M.S. Queen Mary (SD; 1.78, enhanced; 6:25): A brief overview of the majestic
ocean liner, which both inspired Gallico's original novel and provided a template and locations
for the film.
Conversations with Ronald Neame (SD; 1.78, enhanced; 8:51)
Sinking Corridor: How the shot of Reverend Scott and Robin running along the
flooding corridor was done, and how the negative ended up submerged in water
and was nearly ruined.
Generations of Fans: Fan mail.
Turning Over the Ship: Combining hydraulics with camera angles.
Marketing: Posters and other assorted ads.
Publicity: Publicity stills.
Behind-the-Scenes: On-set photos (many featuring director Neames) and concept
sketches for costumes.
Storyboard Comparisons (SD; various; 6:53)
The Vertical Shaft
Saving Reverend Scott
Vintage Promotional Material
Original 1972 Featurette (SD; 1.85:1, non-enhanced; 10:01). An EPK like they
used to make 'em.
Teaser (SD; 1.85:1, non-enhanced; 1:38): Short and to the point.
Trailer (SD; 1.85:1, non-enhanced; 3:17): Over twice the length of the teaser but
As a film, The Poseidon Adventure has aged well and holds up marvelously. As a Blu-ray, it
arrives from Fox with a beautiful image, a serviceable soundtrack and an informative collection
of extras. Highly recommended, especially if you can get it from a local Wal-Mart at the current
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