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Still shot from the movie: The Poseidon Adventure.

The Poseidon Adventure

After a cruise ship named the Poseidon capsizes because of a tidal wave, a small group of survivors lead by a rebellious preacher (Gene Hackman), climb their way up to the bottom of the boat in the hopes of being rescued.

Overall Grade: C+
Violence: C
Sexual Content: B
Language: C-
Drugs/Alcohol: A-
Release Date: 12 Dec 1972
Run Time: 117
MPAA Rating: PG

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In-Depth Review

Poseidon may have been the Greek god of the sea, but the cruise ship that bears his name is an aging vessel heading for dry dock as soon as her last Atlantic crossing is completed. Anxious for the end of this final voyage and its associated expenses, the owners urge the Captain (Leslie Nielson) to precede at full speed ahead--despite the fact the boat is dangerously top heavy.

However, differences in opinions over administrative and operating procedures are not the only heavy seas this luxury liner will have to endure, or so a report on sub-ocean seismic activity indicates. With no time to do more than send a mayday signal, the boat hits a wall of water and capsizes.

Meanwhile, the passengers in the main dining room are celebrating New Year's Eve. Their first indication that something may be wrong occurs when their whole world tips upside-down and people, furniture and decorative Christmas trees start falling from the ceiling.

Amidst the wave of panic that ensues, one calm head rises above the chaos. Revenand Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), an unorthodox man-of-the-cloth known for preaching reliance on self rather than God, takes command by suggesting those who survived the upheaval begin heading to higher ground-- which in this case means climbing to the bottom of the ship. Still, he only manages to convert a handful of followers.

His faithful include a retired detective and his ex-prostitute wife (Ernest Borgnine and Stella Stevens), an older couple who were traveling to Israel to meet their grandson (Jack Albertson and Shelly Winters), an aging bachelor (Red Buttons), a hip singer (Carol Lynley), a couple of children (Pamela Sue Anderson and Eric Shea), and a ship's steward named Acres (Roddy McDowall). Despite their diversity, the misfit company understands the perilous journey into the bowels of the boat will take a united effort. Unfortunately, some are more willing to work together than others.

Anyone who has ever seen a disaster movie knows the whole crew is not going to make it. The only unpredictable part is guessing who will and who won't. The other question is, what kind of obstacles will they need to overcome along the way? In this case, the group loses a few members as they struggle past dead corpses (who have been crushed, burned or drowned), debris, explosions, flames and rising waters. Very little attention has been given to scientific details (the electric lights keep working and the fire never consumes all the oxygen--to name a few examples), but that's really not the point of this film genre.

The point is... well, I'm really not sure. Perhaps it is the tenacity of the human spirit and its will to survive. Or maybe it's watching the best in human nature surface during a test of character. Then again, it might just be morbid curiosity.

Whatever the attraction, there are some content concerns potential spectators should be aware of. Besides some skimpy costumes on the female cast members (they had to ditch their fancy formal-wear before beginning their trek) and mentions about the past career choice of the wife of the former policeman, the script is also flooded with mild and moderate profanities, along with terms of deity. The gruesome appearance of the many bodies (some bloody and charred remains are shown) as well as the constant sense of peril will be problematic for many viewers.

When seeking stories of adventure and courage, families may want to look closely at the weight of this baggage before booking their passage on this voyage.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

The characters in this film are faced with constant perilous situations. When the ship overturns, many people fall to their death and/or are crushed by debris. Later, victims of drowning and death by fire are shown. These depictions are frequent and sometimes gruesome. The next biggest content issue is the large number of mild and moderate profanities and terms of deity used in the script. One woman alludes to her work as a prostitute before her wedding. When the women in the survivor party begin their climb to the bottom of the ship, they remove their evening gowns, leaving a couple of them in very short shorts, and another wearing only a borrowed shirt and her panties. Women’s underwear is sometimes seen when they are climbing or swimming. A seasick woman (who’s bear shoulders are shown above the bed sheets) discusses medication. Alcoholic beverages are used to toast the New Year. A character is shown smoking.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Rev. Scott’s ideology is not always appreciated by his listeners. How do you feel about God? Do you think he cares about individuals? Do you believe you can call on the help of a superior being, or do you feel a need to rely solely on your own strengths?

How do the various members of the group work through their trails? What things are important to them? Why do you think some of them begin to help each other while others do not? What sacrifices would you be willing to make for the benefit of others?

Video alternatives

A group of survivors face peril on the ocean when their ship sinks and they are forced to take refuge in a Lifeboat. Another captain tries to keep his boat afloat when he faces The Perfect Storm. Poseidon (2006) is a remake of this deep-sea disaster movie.

Home Video Notes

Blu-ray Notes: The Poseidon Adventure

Release Date: 3 April 2012

The Poseidon Adventure releases on Blu-ray, and is available for purchase exclusively at Wal-Mart.

DVD Release Date: 9 May 2006

The Poseidon Adventure comes to DVD as a 2-disc set with a boatload of special features, such as a commentary by director Ronald Neame, and another by actors Pamela Sue Martin, Stella Stevens and Carol Lynley. There are also a number of featurettes (The Cast Looks Back, Falling Up with Ernie, The Heart of Disaster: Stirling Silliphant, The Heroes of The Poseidon, The Morning After Story, The R.M.S. Queen Mary, Sinking Corridor, Generations of Fans, Turning Over the Ship and the AMC Backstory: The Poseidon Adventure), as well as one that is interactive (Follow The Escape). The secrets of filmmaking are revealed in a film-to-storyboard comparison of the scenes: Ship Capsized, Up The Vertical Shaft, and Saving Reverend Scott. Other promotional and marketing tidbits are also included. The film is presented with audio tracks in English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0) and French (Dolby Digital 1.0), with subtitles in English and Spanish.

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About the Reviewer: Donna Gustafson

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