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The Poseidon Adventure is a 1972 American disaster film directed by Ronald Neame, produced by Irwin Allen, and based on Paul Gallico's eponymous 1969 novel. It features an ensemble cast, including five Academy Award winners: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Albertson, Shelley Winters, and Red Buttons. Parts of the movie were filmed aboard the RMS Queen Mary. The plot centers on the fictional SS Poseidon, an aged luxury liner on her final voyage from New York City to Athens before being sent to the scrapyard. On New Year's Eve, she is overturned by a tsunami. Passengers and crew are trapped inside.
A 1979 sequel, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, was also based on a novel by Gallico but was a commercial and critical failure.
- Gene Hackman as the Reverend Frank Scott
- Ernest Borgnine as Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo
- Red Buttons as James Martin
- Carol Lynley as Nonnie Parry
- Roddy McDowall as Acres
- Stella Stevens as Linda Rogo
- Shelley Winters as Belle Rosen
- Jack Albertson as Manny Rosen
- Pamela Sue Martin as Susan Shelby
- Arthur O'Connell as Chaplain John
- Eric Shea as Robin Shelby
- Leslie Nielsen as Captain Harrison
- Fred Sadoff as Linarcos
- Byron Webster as Purser
- Jan Arvan as Dr. Caravello
- Sheila Mathews as Nurse
- John Crawford as Chief Engineer
- Bob Hastings as M.C.
- Erik Nelson as Tinkham
Producer Irwin Allen had been an extremely successful television producer during all of the 1960s but had a hard time making the break into feature films. Upon coming across the book he immediately secured the rights and financing from 20th Century Fox to produce and distribute the film version. Writers Stirling Silliphant and Wendell Mayes co-wrote the screenplay removing some of the novel's more unsavory scenes including one where Pamela Sue Martin's character Susan is raped in the aftermath of the capsizing, the sweeping away the loss of her brother Robin in a panicked crew rush (his fate is never known) and the seductive behavior of Linda Rogo toward Reverend Scott and instead concentrating on just a few characters making them all more sympathetic. In the novel almost all the characters were deeply flawed and in most cases unlikeable.
A budget of $4.7 million was set but on the eve of production the studio pulled the plug on the film the reasoning being that audiences were moving away from big budget extravaganzas in favor of gritty, realistic and cynical fare. Fox was also losing money as a result of having produced several huge musical productions which mostly bombed at the box office. Allen managed to get two very wealthy friends to guarantee half the funding with their own money but the studio still had one stipulation, that the director be of their selection. Veteran British director Ronald Neame who had directed the critically acclaimed The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and Scrooge was then tapped to helm.
The film was shot mostly in sequence to give the cast the feeling of actually going through the adversity of the characters and the cast got along very well. The two main characters, Rev. Scott and Rogo were portrayed to the hilt by Hackman and Borgnine. In an interview many years later Neame would comment that he really let them loose a bit too much and they both "really chewed the scenery". Shelley Winters gave one of her very best performances as Mrs. Rosen, a role that would bring her great praise. She even performed her own underwater stunts swimming for extended periods.
Both in the book and film the Poseidon was closely based on the Queen Mary and many of the early scenes were shot aboard the actual ship, permanently moored as a floating hotel in Long Beach The sets built to simulate the capsized liner were designed as closely to the actual ship's design as possible. To achieve the capsizing sequence in the main dining room a full size dining room was designed by art director William Creber in such a way that it could be re-dressed to appear upside down. Built on Stage 6 on the Fox lot it was also designed to be lifted by large forklifts to simulate the ship being drawn into the giant wave. The set would be lifted up to a 30 degree incline allowing a convincing slide for actors and stunt performers. This was further enhanced by tilting the camera in the opposite direction to exaggerate the effect. Once filming for the first half of the scene was completed the set was completely redressed with tables being bolted to the inverted "floor" which had begun as the ceiling. Skylights with special padding for stuntmen to fall through were then built on the inverted "ceiling" which began the scene as the dining salon deck. Many of the other sets like the engine room, kitchen and barber shop were built inverted.
The ship model was used in several other productions over the years including a made-for-television film produced by Allen entitled Adventures of the Queen which was also a pilot for a proposed but never picked up series starring David Hedison with whom he had worked with on the TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which allowed him to make use of stock footage from "The Poseidon Adventure" as well.