Caring architect Heston is busy doing the rounds in Los Angeles, informing people about the need to ‘Earthquake-proof’ their buildings with new engineering for when ‘The Big One’ happens. Precisely what the seismology department are trying to do, also with little success. Right on cue (and rather inconveniently) is the tremor to end all tremors and Heston finds himself leading a rag-tag group of survivors through downtown L.A., avoiding collapsing buildings, explosions and floods from a collapsed dam.
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The title more or less sums up this by-the-numbers mid-70’s entry in the disaster movie genre, big at this time in Hollywood.
There are few surprises in store, but the biggest happens to be the special effects, which are more special needs than anything else, despite having a master in charge of them (Whitlock, who had worked with Hitchcock amongst others). The model miniatures are hilariously cheap but amazingly the whole package won an Oscar (Whitlock’s back-projections save the day and manage to display some calamity).
The clichéd script, with boring characters and boring, heroic platitudes is riddled with more fault lines than California’s geology – amazing, considering that one of the writer’s to blame is The Godfather author Puzo.
Unfortunately there is also Gortner’s embarrassing, is-he-or-isn’t he-gay psycho National Guard Captain and a merely decorative Principal (years before Dallas) as the ludicrously coiffed object of his affections.
Tedious disaster-fodder waiting a crowd-pleasingly gory end.
Esteemed veteran (at least before this was released) Robson side-steps the gaping coincidences and holes in the plot and the under nourishing story to give us an exciting film.
This was the first film to make rumblingly effective use of the new Sensurround stereo-sound system (it made auditoriums vibrate when the quake struck).