Special Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, Shelley Winters
Director:  Ronald Neame
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  117 Minutes
Release Date:  May 9, 2006

"Be careful."

"You think I'm planning on being careless?"

Film ***

Long before Titanic was wowing audiences on the silver screen, there was another famous, though fictional, big budgeted maritime disaster film that also thrilled moviegoers in its day, The Poseidon Adventure. Under the watchful eye of legendary producer Irwin Allen, the movie is quite a bit different in many ways. There is no love story developed here, no commentary on class struggle. Allen was not interested in that. His style was to flip the damn ship right away, and begin putting his impressive cast of stars in as much peril as conceivably possible.

With only a few token glimpses into the lives of a few key passengers, a massive tidal wave flips the ocean liner Poseidon upside down in the water, and the movie begins. The sequence is spectacular, exciting, and filled with many unpleasant deaths, as you might expect. And soon a team of survivors led by the plucky Reverend Scott (Hackman, who gets to scream delicious lines like "That's the wrong way, DAMMIT!!!") decides the only chance is to try and make it to the top...er, bottom of the ship, which is on the surface, and hope for the best.

And that's the whole plot. But you can't dismiss its ingenious premise, which leads to many imaginative sequences filled with danger, suspense, and deaths (you must understand, big name stars actually do die in Irwin Allen's pictures), and it is completely engrossing. You can't wait to see what happens next, or who'll survive, or if the whole crazy notion even works. As far as sheer cinematic entertainment goes, it works beautifully, even if it is a little light on mental stimulation.

Video ***

This is a solid anamorphic transfer, and probably the best looking transfer I've seen for this movie. Colors are always good, clear, and bright, images are crisp and sharp, and even the dark scenes are free from distracting grain.

Audio ***

With this special edition, we've gone from mono to stereo, which is a nice improvement. Some have informed me that it was in surround on laser disc, and I must admit, I'd love to hear a 5.1 mix.  But this track is still serviceable, and seems to present the illusion of more depth and dimension in key sequences.  And I don't care what anyone else says...I love the Oscar winning song "The Morning After".

Features ****

This double disc special edition packs on the extras!  The first disc features two commentary tracks; one by director Ronald Neame, and the other by stars Pamela Sue Martin, Stella Stevens and Carol Lynley.  For me, there's nothing better than hearing some veterans talk up their experiences on a classic film.

The second disc boasts NINE featurettes, including looks at the cast, the special effects, the writer Sterling Silliphant and more.  There's the terrific AMC "Backstory" episode on the movie, storyboard comparisons, photo gallery, teaser and trailer, and an interactive "American Cinematographer" article.


The Poseidon Adventure is big scale, thrilling movie-going at its big and bawdy best. True, it's light on both character development and real plot, but then again, you don't have to wait two hours to see the big boat go belly-up, either.

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