The Poseidon Adventure (1972 film)

The Poseidon Adventure (1972 film)

Infobox Film
name = The Poseidon Adventure

caption = film poster by Mort Künstler
producer = Irwin Allen
director = Ronald Neame
Irwin Allen
writer = Paul Gallico (novel)
Wendell Mayes & Stirling Silliphant (screenplay)
starring = Gene Hackman
Ernest Borgnine
Red Buttons
Carol Lynley
Roddy McDowell
Stella Stevens
Shelly Winters
Jack Albertson
Pamela Sue Martin
Arthur O'Connell
Eric Shea
Leslie Nielsen
music = Music:
John Williams
The Morning After:
Joel Hirschhorn
Al Kasha
cinematography = Harold E. Stine
editing = Harold F. Cress |
distributor = 20th Century Fox
released = December 12, 1972
runtime = 117 min.
country = USA
language = English
budget = $5,000,000 (estimated)
followed_by = "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure"
amg_id = 1:38807
imdb_id = 0069113

"The Poseidon Adventure" is a 1972 action adventure/disaster/thriller film based on a novel by Paul Gallico. It concerns the capsizing of a luxurious ocean liner by a tidal wave and the desperate struggles of a handful of survivors to journey up to the bottom of the hull of the liner before it sinks.

It won the Academy Award for Best Song for "The Song from 'The Poseidon Adventure'" (aka "The Morning After"), which became a hit single for Maureen McGovern, as well as winning an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects. Shelley Winters was also nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a film for the role. The cast of the film includes five past Academy Award winners - Winters, Gene Hackman, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons and Ernest Borgnine.

The plot centers upon the fictional ocean liner SS "Poseidon", an aged luxury ship from the golden age of travel, on its final voyage from New York City to Athens before being sent to the scrapyard. On New Year's Eve, it is overturned by a tsunami wave caused by an underwater earthquake, trapping passengers and crew inside. A rebellious preacher attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety. The description of a tsunami is scientifically inaccurate because they are small in open waters and the ship was more accurately capsized by a rogue wave which was corrected in later versions of the story. Parts of the movie were filmed aboard the RMS "Queen Mary".

A huge box office success, it was the second highest grossing film of 1972 [behind The Godfather] . The success of this film is in the vein of other all-star disaster films in the seventies such as "Airport" (1970) and later films like "The Towering Inferno" (1974), and "Earthquake" (1974). A sequel, "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" (1979), had an equally star-studded cast, but was a box-office and critical failure. The film was remade two times, first as a television special in 2005 with the same name, and a theatrical release with the name "Poseidon" in 2006.


* Hell, upside down.
* At midnight on New Year's Eve the SS "Poseidon" was struck by a convert|90|ft|m|sing=on tidal wave and capsized.
* Who will survive-in one of the greatest escape adventures ever!
* Combining the talents of fifteen Academy Award Winners.

Plot summary

The SS "Poseidon", a trans-Atlantic passenger steamship slated for retirement, is making its way across the Atlantic from New York City to Athens on its last voyage. On the bridge, company representative Linarcos (Fred Sadoff) orders the ship's master, Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen), to empty ballast and proceed at full speed, against the Captain's better judgement.

Meanwhile, Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) and his ex-prostitute wife Linda (Stella Stevens)--seasick, like much of the passengers—receive an invitation to the captain's table. Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), a priest questioning his faith, delivers an unnerving sermon at Sunday service. Susan Shelby (Pamela Sue Martin) and her younger brother Robin (Eric Shea) are traveling to meet their parents. Robin is interested in how the ship works and frequently visits the engine room. Retired hardware store owner Manny Rosen (Jack Albertson) and his wife Belle (Shelley Winters) are going to Israel to meet their two-year-old grandson for the first time. Haberdasher James Martin (Red Buttons) is a love-shy, health-conscious bachelor. The ship's singer, Nonnie Parry (Carol Lynley) rehearses for the New Year celebration with her band, which includes her brother Teddy on drums.

That evening, New Year's Eve, everybody gathers in the dining room to celebrate. Captain Harrison is called back to the bridge because of an emergency report of an undersea earthquake near Crete. Harrison receives word from the lookout that there is a huge wave heading towards them. He immediately issues a mayday, but it is already too late. The wave hits the bridge, drowning Harrison, Linarcos and other ship's officers. The ship rolls over, killing and injuring most of the people on board.

After the capsized derelict steadies, the surviving passengers and crew in the dining room take stock of their predicament. Robin looks for his sister, who has ended up under a table attached to what is now the ceiling. Scott assembles a team to hold a tablecloth that will cushion her fall and coaxes Susan to jump to safety. Acres, an injured waiter, is trapped at the galley door now high above them. Scott seizes on this, saying that rescue will be found 'upwards', at the outer hull, which is now above water. Robin confirms this, telling the group that the steel plating near the aft propeller shaft is just one inch thick. After some more talking and discussing, the Rosens, the Rogos, Nonnie, Susan, Robin, Acres, and Martin reluctantly agree to go with Scott. The group need something to climb up to Acres, so they eventually agree to use the Christmas tree as a makeshift ladder. Scott tries to convince more passengers to join his group, but all remain where they are in hopes of rescue.

Just after the small group reaches the galley, there is a series of explosions and seawater begins to flood the ballroom. The survivors left behind rush to the Christmas tree, but the weight of everyone trying to climb at once pulls it over into the rising water. Scott, the last to leave, sadly closes the kitchen doors on the desperation below.

Acres and Scott find the galley, but a warning light is on and the fire door, hot to the touch, has been shut. Scott enters the incinerated kitchen to investigate, returns, and the survivors pick their way through to a staircase on the other side. Scott climbs the ramped underside of the stairs first and he and Martin use a salvaged firehose to pull Rogo and Acres up. While Rogo pulls the others up, Scott and Acres go ahead and find the only exit to 'Broadway' (the main passageway of the ship) is blocked. Acres suggests an access tunnel to the funnel shaft. Scott undogs the opening and returns for Linda, Martin and Nonnie. Just then, water floods the staircase and the now-panicked survivors race to the tunnel.

Temporarily safe, Scott leads them to an access tunnel. Rogo had been instructed to look after everybody but, just as Martin and Nonnie climb into the hole, water begins to fill the corridor. They make it into the funnel and began to climb up with Acres above them. Suddenly, the ship rocks from another series of explosions and Acres falls into the churning water and is lost. Rogo makes an attempt to save him, but the shaft explodes and forces him to abandon Acres.

While climbing out of the shaft and into 'Broadway', Scott and Rogo argue heatedly over the loss of Acres when their group meets a larger band of survivors. These are led by the ship's medic and are heading towards the bow. Rogo argues with Scott about which direction to go and gives Scott only fifteen minutes to go aft to find the engine room. Everybody else looks for supplies. Scott and Susan (who has a crush on the charismatic Reverend) find the hatch that leads to the engine room. Scott tells Susan to return to the others and go forward if he's not back in five minutes. After waiting, Susan tells the others the bad news, but Scott reappears and announces he has found the way to the engine room.

While Susan shows the survivors where to go, Scott notices that Robin is missing. He finds Robin just as the water begins to flood Broadway. They race to the hatch and make it up just as the water floods the corridor.

The group finds the engine room is on the other side of a flooded corridor, so someone must swim through with a line so the others can find a way across. Belle, a former trained swimmer, claims that she could swim under it, but Scott refuses and dives in with the line. Halfway through, a panel collapses on Scott and traps him. The survivors notice something is wrong and Belle dives in to save him. She finds Scott and they make it to the other side. As Scott secures the lifeline, Belle suddenly has a heart attack and collapses. With her last breath, she tells Scott to give her "Chai" pendant (representing the Hebrew sign for life) to her husband who in turn will give it to her grandson. Scott weeps at her loss.

Rogo swims over during the delay to make sure Belle and Scott are okay. When he surfaces, he sees Belle's death, and returns to the other side. Rosen suspects something is wrong and swims to the other side only to find his wife's lifeless body. A few minutes later, the others make it across and find Manny in tears. Initially he is unwilling to go on, but Scott gives him Belle's Chai pendant, reminding him that he still has a reason to live.

Scott continues aft and finds the propeller shaft room's watertight door 'below' a steam valve. He returns and leads the survivors across a catwalk to the door, but there is another series of explosions and Linda falls to her death into a flaming pool of fire. An infuriated and heartbroken Rogo blames her death on Scott, calling him a "lying, murderous son-of-a-bitch."

More explosions rupture a large pipe which releases clouds of scalding-hot steam that block the group's path to their escape. Scott, outraged about the three deaths and this final obstacle, screams at God that he has betrayed the survivors. He leaps and grabs onto the burning-hot valve wheel to shut off the escaping steam. Hanging from it, Scott slowly turns off the steam, all the while cursing God. The helpless Scott tells Rogo to lead the group on, then lets go of the wheel and is lost to the flaming, oily water below. Susan, in anguish, tries to follow him.

Rogo finally leads the remaining survivors—Rosen, Martin, Nonnie, Susan and Robin—through the watertight door and into the propeller shaft room, but they find no rescuers. Suddenly, they hear a noise outside the ship. They bang on the metal hull to get the rescuers' attention and, after several frantic attempts, finally get a response. The rescuers cut a hole through the hull using a blow torch and help the group from the ship. The survivors, the only six alive after the disaster, fly off to safety by helicopter.

Primary cast

* Gene Hackman: Reverend Frank Scott
* Ernest Borgnine: Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo
* Red Buttons: James Martin
* Carol Lynley: Nonnie Parry
* Roddy McDowall: Acres
* Stella Stevens: Linda Rogo
* Shelley Winters: Belle Rosen
* Jack Albertson: Manny Rosen
* Pamela Sue Martin: Susan Shelby
* Eric Shea: Robin Shelby
* Arthur O'Connell: Chaplain John
* Leslie Nielsen: Captain Harrison
* Fred Sadoff: Mr. Linarcos


Handbag Productions released ten dolls of the Poseidon Adventure. They were available in Rogo, Reverend Scott, Acres, Belle, Linda (twice), Manny, Mr. Martin, Nonnie and Susan.

Popular Culture

* The comedy-musical stage version "The Poseidon Adventure, the Musical!" by Bill Robens and Genemichael Barrera, (Los Angeles, 2002) was featured in the FOX Movie Channel documentary "Cult Culture: The Poseidon Adventure".
* Another musical has been based upon the story, "POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical" written by David Cerda with Hell in a Handbag Productions in Chicago.
* An official fan club was created in the late 1990s. The Poseidon Adventure Fan Club (1999-2006) was an international club run by Jak Castro, which presented seven fan club reunions over the course of its run. Most of the film's original cast made appearances at these reunions. The fan club was featured in the FOX Movie Channel documentary "", and in the AMC Backstory The Poseidon Adventure, which is also included on the special edition DVD of the original film.
* One of the special effects models used for filming is on view at the LA Maritime Museum. []
* The "Pokémon" episode "Pokémon Shipwreck!" was based on the events of this movie.
* An episode of "The Simpsons" ("The Wettest Stories Ever Told") parodied the film, even including a spoof of "The Morning After" exaggeratedly foreshadowing the destruction of the ship, the SS "Neptune".
* The cartoon "The Angry Beavers" featured an episode where two of the characters had to escape from the sinking dam.
* The film is parodied in the "Seinfeld" episode "The Puerto Rican Day", where Elaine accompanies a ragtag group that includes a priest under stadium bleachers in an attempt to escape the parade.
* The band Killdozer's song "Man Vs Nature" pays satirical homage to the film as well as "The Towering Inferno" and "Earthquake" (the last erroneously identified as an Irwin Allen production.) The lyrics of the first verse begin "On my screen a ship was sinking/it seemed so real but it was just a movie/made by Irwin Allen (my what a relief)".
* The TV show "Sunset Beach" (1997-2000) borrowed large chunks of the plot for its 'shockwave' storyline. This had around half of the cast boarding a cruise liner which was turned upside down by a giant wave. Like in the movie, the show's characters had to make their way to the bottom of the ship (which was at the top) and cut their way through.
* In the "Father Ted" episode "Speed 3", the priests watch the entire "Poseidon Adventure" to help them rescue Dougal from a milk float, believing it will help them as "Gene Hackman plays a priest in it!" It is "No help at all".
* The movie "Rugrats Go Wild!" parodies the boat overturning and uses the song "The Morning After"
* A SNES game called "S.O.S.", or "Septentrion" in Japan, has a largely similar plot, although some of the specifics vary.
*"Mad Magazine" did a spoof of this movie called "The Poop-side Down Adventure". The cover doesn't show Alfred E. Newman's face, but only his legs upside-down in a life preserver.
* In the mid-1990s, "The Poseidon Adventure" was satired by a live comedy troupe called "The Sick and Twisted Players", led by Tony Vaguely in San Francisco.
* The Urban Legends Reference Page has a [ joke page] , complete with a [ phony Internet Movie Database entry] which claims that a silent film version of "The Poseidon Adventure", starring Donald Crisp as Reverend Scott, was playing in the ship's theater on the RMS "Titanic" at the time it struck the iceberg. This is done to caution the reader about believing everything you read on the internet, even on the Urban Legends page.
* The third season "" episode 'Tsunami' similarly features a ship overturning and the passengers being trapped inside.
* An episode of "Duckman" in which some characters are trapped in an emergency shelter including a waiter, Acres, who is a oneshot character, quickly killed off and instantly forgotten by the rest of the party.
*The 2007 "Doctor Who" Christmas special, "Voyage of the Damned" was inspired by "The Poseidon Adventure" and similarly features a group of characters trying to escape from a doomed cruise ship (in this case a spaceship).
* On an episode of "Mama's Family", "Mama Gets the Bird", Mama and Iola enter the kitchen, turned upside looking for Uncle Oscar's gold. Mama replies to Iola "this looks like the galley from "the Poseidon Adventure".
* On an episode of "Friends", Chandler imitates a dance by Belle Rosen, saying he was "Shelly Winters from "Poseidon Adventure".


Awards wins

* BAFTA Award for Best Actor - (Gene Hackman)
* Academy Award for Best Original Song - (Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn) for the song "The Morning After"
* Academy Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects - (L.B. Abbott & A.D. Flowers)
* Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture - Shelley Winters

Award nominations

* Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama
* Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress - (Shelley Winters)
* BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - (Shelley Winters)
* Academy Award for Best Art Direction - (William J. Creber & Raphael Bretton)
* Academy Award for Best Cinematography - (Harold E. Stine)
* Academy Award for Costume Design - (Paul Zastupnevich)
* Academy Award for Film Editing - (Harold F. Kress)
* Academy Award for Original Music Score - (John Williams)
* Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score - Motion Picture - (John Williams)
* Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song - Motion Picture - (Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn) for the song "The Morning After"
* Academy Award for Sound - (Theodore Soderberg & Herman Lewis)


* Brazilian Portuguese: "O Destino de Poseidon"
* French: "L'Aventure du Poséidon"
* German: "Poseidon Inferno"
* Polish: "Tragedia "Posejdona"
* Portuguese: "A Aventura de Poseidon"
* Spanish: "La Aventura del Poseidón"

See also

* "The Poseidon Adventure" (book)
* "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" (1979)
* "The Poseidon Adventure" (2005)
* "Poseidon" (2006)
* SS Poseidon
* SS Andrea Doria

External links

* []
* [ The Poseidon Adventure Fansite]
* [ The New Official Fred Sadoff Website]
* [ Irwin Allen News Network] (The Irwin Allen News Network's Poseidon Adventure page)

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