Earthquake is certainly one of the lesser of the disaster film of the 1970s and certainly the story and characters, despite a respectable cast, was the weaker point but I was at least impressed with some of the miniature and special effects work.
— Collector’s Edition / Shout Select —
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama
Shout Factory | PG/NR – 122 min. / 152 min. – $29.99 | May 21, 2019
Date Published: 05/16/2019 | Author: The Movieman
Shout Factory provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.
THE MOVIE — 3.0/5
Plot Synopsis: When a major earthquake hits Los Angeles, the various residents of the city cope with the chaos and destruction. Successful architect Stewart Graff (CHARLTON HESTON) argues with his demanding wife, Remy Royce-Graff (AVA GARDNER), as the disaster hits. Later, when he checks in on his flirtatious friend Denise Marshall (GENEVIEVE BUJOLD), they begin an affair. As the personal dramas continue, the city is threatened by aftershocks and possibly even greater quakes. Also leading the rescue efforts is LAPD officer Lew Slade (GEORGE KENNEDY) and stunt motorcyclist Miles (RICHARD ROUNDTREE).
Review: I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I have an affinity for the disaster subgenre, even the lesser or dumber ones like Volcano or Dante’s Peak, but the golden era was the 1970s which produced such classics as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, the latter a personal favorite of mine. 1974 saw the release of Earthquake, a movie that probably didn’t have quite the all-star cast in comparison but the spectacle was there, though certainly was missing the magic touch of producer Irwin Allen.
Certainly these disaster movies didn’t have the strongest plots, mostly an ensemble making their way through life-endangering situations and the characters aren’t the most three-dimensional either. But both The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno had at least semblance of characters one could care about. Earthquake on the other hand? The lead portrayed by Charlton Heston (who a month prior also starred in Airport 1975) is a bit of a bastard; sure he was in a loveless marriage and certainly Genevieve Bujold’s Denise was adorably charming and cute, but having your lead be a cheater didn’t make for an endearing character, albeit he does redeem himself at the end, though wasn’t exactly satisfactory.
The biggest positive Earthquake has going for it is the special effects. The miniature work when the big one hits, buildings topple over and some creative set designs, is fairly impressive (some more than others). It does try to replicate some of the more memorable moments of other disaster films (like a man falling to their death through glass), though didn’t have the thrills by comparison.
The film was directed by two-time back-to-back Academy Award nominee Mark Robson (Peyton Place, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness) and scripted by George Fox and… Mario Puzo. Yep, author and scriptwriter of The Godfather novel, yeah I’m sure he put his full effort into this endeavor (interestingly, The Godfather Part II was released a month after Earthquake).
In the end, Earthquake isn’t great to say the least and doesn’t have the most memorable characters, although Walter Matthau makes a great cameo as a bar drunk, and yet I still found this to be passably entertaining, but doesn’t hold a candle to others in the disaster subgenre.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.75/5
This Shout Select Collector’s Edition release comes with a matted slip cover. No reversible cover artwork unfortunately.
These were promotional interviews with each actor basically talking about the characters they play and some general discussion on working on the project. Nothing especially profound but neat to have these older interview sound bites.
Scoring Disaster: The Music of Earthquake (16:42) – Film Music Historian Jon Burlingame discusses the legacy of the legendary composer John Williams and his contribution to scoring Earthquake and his career as a whole.
Painting Disaster: The Art of Albert Whitlock (10:36) delves into the importance of the matte painting work of Whitlock which was truly masterful.
The Sound of Disaster (11:19) has Sound Designer Ben Burtt talking about the SENSURROUND system that was utilized for the film’s release.
Rounding things out we get TV Scenes (23:43) so you can still watch the theatrical version and the sequences that was added to the TV Cut. There are also two Additional TV Scenes (7:14/1:40) that were of poor quality and could not be put into the full cut.
VIDEO – 4.25/5
|Shout Factory releases Earthquake onto Blu-ray presented with a 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio and has been given a 1080p high-definition transfer, taken from a new 2K scan of the original film elements. Other than one scene where specs were apparent, this was an otherwise impressive looking picture, detail was sharp and colors appear era appropriate, with some decent pops here and there.|
AUDIO – 4.5/5
|The theatrical version comes with a trio of options (all in English): DTS-HD MA 5.1, 2.1 and 2.0, the first being the default option. This does sound rather great outputting some crisp and clear dialogue mainly from the center channel. The track of course especially comes to life during the earthquake sequences adding a nice rumble courtesy of the strong LFE channel. The front and rears get a fine workout during those scenes displaying adequate depth.|
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Earthquake is certainly one of the lesser of the disaster film of the 1970s and certainly the story and characters, despite a respectable cast, was the weaker point but I was at least impressed with some of the miniature and special effects work and ultimately found this to be passable entertainment. This Collector’s Edition release from Shout Factory offers up solid video/audio transfers and a good selection of bonus features headlined by the TV cut with an additional ~30 minutes of footage.
Check out some more 1080p screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.