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The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Running Time: 117 mins.

Aspect Ratio: 2:35: 1

Directed by: Ronald Neame & Irwin Allen
(Allen as co-director / action sequences - uncredited)

Produced by: Irwin Allen
Screenplay by: Stirling Silliphant & Wendall Mayes
Based on the Novel by: Paul Gallico
Director of Photography: Harold F. Stine
Edited by: Harold F. Kress
Costume Design by: Paul Zastupnevich

Special Effects: A.D. Flowers (mechanical),
L.B. Abbott (photographic),
Matthew Yurich (matte paintings - uncredited)

Music by: John Williams

"Song From The Poseidon Adventure -
The Morning After":

Sung by: Renee Armand (film);
Sung by: Maureen McGovern (release single)
Music & Lyrics: Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn


Gene Hackman: Reverend Frank Scott
Ernest Borgnine: Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo
Red Buttons: James Martin
Carole Lynley: Nonnie Parry
Roddy McDowell: Acres
Stella Stevens: Linda Rogo
Shelly Winters: Belle Rosen
Jack Albertson: Manny Rosen
Pamela Sue Martin: Susan Shelby
Arthur O'Connell: Chaplain John
Eric Shea: Robin Shelby
Leslie Nielsen: Captain Harrison
Fred Sadoff: Mr. Linarcos
Byron Webster: the ship's pursor
Jan Arvan: Dr. Caravello
Sheila Allen (Billed as Sheila Mathews): the ship's nurse
John Crawford: Chief Engineer
Erik L. Nelson: Mr. Tinkham
Ernie Orsatti: Terry


A sea going luxury liner, the S. S. Poseidon, is pushed by it's new owners to meet a designated deadline, and in so doing encounters a massive "rouge wave" which capsizes the ship and kills most of it's occupants.  Lead by an iconoclastic preacher, a small band of survivors defy the odds (and some say common sense) by attempting to navigate the Poseidon's upside-down burning and flooding
compartments in a bid for freedom before the slowly sinking vessel is completely submerged. 

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE Theatrical Trailer (1972)


Site Search Index:

    "The Morning After" - Song from THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
     Vocal: Maureen McGovern (A. Kasha / J. Hirschhorn)


* THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE is based on the 1969 novel by Paul Gallico (1897 - 1976).  

* Gallico began his career as a successful sports writer.  He founded the GOLDEN GLOVES amateur boxing competition.  His 1941 book LOU GEHRIG: PRIDE OF THE YANKEES was adapted into the classic 1942 film starring Gary Cooper.  And he'd became famous as the writer who caught "Dizzy Dean"'s fastball,  golfed with Bobby Jones, and described first hand what it was like to be knocked out by heavyweight boxing champ Jack Dempsey.  

* After making the shift to short story writer and novelist, a number of Gallico's works would be adapted for film and television: among them the NBC adventure/fantasy series THE ADVENTURES OF HIRAM HOLIDAY starry Wally Cox (1956 - '57);  LILI (1953) - based on his "The Love Of Seven Dolls"; THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA (1964); the ever popular THE SNOW GOOSE (1971); and MATILDA (1978) - a family comedy starring Elliot Gould and Robert Mitchum about a boxing kangaroo which takes the fight world by storm.  His 1968 novel "Manxmouse"  would become one of HARRY POTTER author J.K. Rowling's favorite childhood books; and she would later acknowledge it's "clutterbumphs" (which took the form of a character's greatest fear) were a great influence on the creation of the "boggarts" of the POTTER world.  No direct adaptation of his work however proved as lastingly popular over the years as THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972).

Gallico's inspiration for THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE stemmed from a true life incident wherein the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary was nearly capsized after being slammed by a massive rouge wave during WWII.
While the book was enjoyed by many, it was dismissed by many literary critics as a slight, if engaging, GRAND HOTEL-esque potboiler.

* THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE as a film began life as a gleam in the eye of fantasy film & TV producer Irwin Allen (1916 - 1991).  Having begun his career as a film industry publicist, Allen would make the leap to features producer with a handful of smaller films including WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950) starring Robert Mitchum, and the Oscar winning 1952 oceanography documentary THE SEA AROUND US.  He'd soon pattern his producing style on that of idol Cecil B. DeMille, with larger scale epics (liberally borrowing studio stock footage to keep budgets down while making them appear more grand than they actually were) such as THE STORY OF MANKIND (1957) - sort of an all star comedic precursor to Mel Brooks' later HISTORY OF THE WORLD.  MANKIND would co-star Groucho Marx, another Allen boyhood idol with whom the producer-in-the-making had become friends during his publicist days.

* After the DeMille / Jules Verne-esque THE BIG CIRCUS, THE LOST WORLD, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON,  Allen would become "the biggest TV producer of the decade" of the 1960s with the weekly version of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA as well as the genre favorites LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL and THE LAND OF THE GIANTS, all produced at his home studio - 20th Century Fox.    

* Having secured the rights to POSEIDON, and a financing / distribution agreement from Fox, Allen was stunned when studio executives pulled the plug on his star studded extravaganza (featuring five Oscar winners including Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and Shelly Winters) just as it was to commence filming. 

   At the time a string of large scale box-office failures (such as Fox's Robert Wise / Julie Andrews musical STAR! - 1968) had nearly sent the studio into bankruptcy.  This, coupled with the recent successes of smaller budget / youth oriented fare (EASY RIDER, THE GRADUATE, M*A*S*H), caused studio execs to adapt a "smaller is better" financial mentality.  Undeterred, Allen secured a new deal wherein if he'd raise half the film's $5 million budget on his own, Fox would foot the remainder as well as distribution expenses.  In one afternoon of wheeling and dealing the maverick producer was able to secure a "handshake deal" with two wealthy country club acquaintances.  The mere promise of the financial commitment from the backers was enough to put POSEIDON back on track.  And when the film became the box office sensation of 1972 (second only to THE GODFATHER) the backers made a huge profit without actually ever having to write one single check. 

* Fox insisted an "actors director" be hired, and Ronald Neame (THE PRIDE OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, THE ODESSA FILE) was selected, while Allen himself directed the stunt / action sequences.  While 125 stunt performers were employed, most of the stars performed their own amidst a panoply of practical on-set fire and water "gags" (physical effects).

* Shelly Winters gained 35 lbs. to portray the portly Mrs. Belle Rosen.  She also trained with an Olympic swim coach so her character, a former swimming champion in her youth, would come across more realistically in the sustatined underwater sequence where she rescues Gene Hackman's preacher character. 

   In the original script Hackman's character feels it's most wise to send the former swimmer through the underwater corridor first, and when she becomes trapped it is he who rescues her.  He and Winters agreed his character would never allow that, so it was reversed.  For her role as Belle Rosen, Winters received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.  Before casting, and upon first reading of the script, actress Stella Stevens (Linda Rogo in the film) had predicted,  "I promise you, the fat lady get's an Oscar nomination".    

* The design of the S.S. Poseidon herself is based upon the Queen Mary, where much of the film's pre-disaster interiors where filmed - the famous vessel berthed in Long Beach, California.  Working together, long time Allen creative cohorts - Art Director William Creber (PLANET OF THE APES) and legendary Fox studio FX chief L. B. Abbott (TORA! TORA! TORA!) created a number of sprawling "movable" sets - including the exquisite banquet room where the revelry of the ship's New Years Eve celebrants turns to horror as the liner is slowly flipped upside down.  Sections of the dining salon (Stage 6 at Fox Studios) were tilted 30 degrees by on-set forklift vehicles. 

* While the film version is a fairly faithful adaptation of Gallico's novel, Allen wanted a family friendly adventure and chose not to film some of the book's more "unsavory" (if realistic) elements including a horrific rape scene which occurs after the vessel is capsized.

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE score - "Rescue / End Title" (J. Williams)

* While frequently dismissed (like the original novel) as a mindless "GRAND HOTEL-style soap opera with thriller elements", alert viewers (and even a few critics) have noticed and made comment over the years concerning the film's socio-religious and philosophical subtext - courtesy screenwriters Wendell Mayes (ANATOMY OF A MURDER, THE ENEMY BELOW) and Stirling Silliphant (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT).  

* In the Mayes/Sillphant film version of POSEIDON, the small group of survivors are lead by a poverty-raised radical clergyman preaching "self help and self determination" over what he considers "an abstract self-defeatist philosophical construct which relies on another".  Many agree this and the survivors' Homerian, even Dante-esque!, journey through "hell upside down" (as the ad campaign would say) is a specific analogy for "self determination" winning out over "destiny" in an obstacle-strewn life.    

* Frequent Irwin Allen collaborators on THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE included the aforementioned William Creber and L.B. Abbott, as well as costume designer Paul Zastupnevich (VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL), actor Red Buttons (FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON, THE BIG CIRCUS), Allen's actress wife Shiela Matthews Allen (episodes of LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL) and composer John Williams.

* Having provided popular themes and underscore to LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL and LAND OF THE GIANTS, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE would nab Williams his fifth Oscar nomination is as many years (or sixth if counting IMAGES - also released and nominated in '72).   Having previously won the Oscar the year prior for the filmic orchestral adaptation of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Williams would garner an astounding sixth, seventh and eighth in a row nominations each of the successive years following POSEIDON for his work on TOM SAWYER, CINDERELLA LIBERTY, and Allen's follow-up adventure THE TOWERING INFERNO. 

* While initially dismissed by some critics, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE would defy them all by not only becoming one of the year's biggest box office sensations, but by also securing an amazing six 1972 Academy Award Nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Shelly Winters), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, and Original Score.  It would win two: for Best Original Song - the ever popular ballad "The Morning After" by Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn, and a Special Achievement Oscar for it's astounding Visual Effects under the supervision of L. B. Abbott and A. D. Flowers. 

Allen on THE TOWERING INFERNO (circa 1973)   

* THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE would usher in a decade of knock-off "disaster flicks" (some good; some not) -  including AIRPORT '75, EARTHQUAKE, AVALANCHE, and Allen's own theatrical THE TOWERING INFERNO (the best of the lot), WHEN TIME RAN OUT, THE SWARM (one of the worst), as well as his TV movies FLOOD!,  FIRE!,  HANGING BY A THREAD,  THE NIGHT THE BRIDGE FELL DOWN and CAVE IN! 

*  Popular culture would remember "Master of Disaster" Irwin Allen's influence and legacy with references to his films in (among others) OCEAN'S THIRTEEN (2007) - wherein a "natural disaster" con is nicknamed an "Irwin Allen";  the rock group Killdozer's 1989 song "Man Vs. Nature" (where the legendary producer is referred to as "the Master of Realism"), and even a 1989 episode of Disney's animated DUCK TALES, wherein "Irvin Mallard" films the destruction of Scrooge McDuck's Hindenburg-esque airship. 

* Mid sea "rouge waves" were initially thought to occur in nature approx. once every ten thousand years.  A 2004 satellite study helped confirm they actually occur hundreds of times per decade.

* Allen's follow up adventure THE TOWERING INFERNO would star Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, O. J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner and many others.  As rival studios Fox and Warner Bros. had separate productions of two novels in production - THE TOWER by Richard Martin Stern and THE GLASS INFERNO by Thomas N. Scortia & Frank M. Robinson,  Allen would be instrumental in both entities shelving their similarly themed competing projects in favor of a joint venture which would split production expenses as well as profit.  Fox would distribute the film in the U.S. while Warner handled the international release.  Allen's THE TOWERING INFERNO would emerge as one of the most successful films of all time (adjusted for inflation), returning approx. $140 million on it's initial $14 million outlay.  


* A sequel BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1979) was directed by Allen, and starred Michael Caine, Sally Field, and Telly Savalas in an adventure yarn about competitive raiders boarding the still afloat but slowly sinking ship to find a supposed gold shipment ... as well as a load of lost plutonium.   Paul Gallico, the author of the original novel on which the first POSEIDON was based, would pen a novelization for the new film, but both it and the movie (lambasted by critics and avoided by audiences) would be quickly forgotten. 

* A 2005 TV movie remake directed by ONE DAY AT A TIME actor turned director John Putch, starred Adam Baldwin, Rutger Hauer, Steve Guttenberg, and Peter Weller.  In this version the capsizing was caused by a terrorist action at sea rather than a rouge tidal wave. 

* In 2006 a theatrical remake utilizing the IMAX format under the direction of Wolfgang Peterson (DAS BOOT, AIR FORCE ONE, THE PERFECT STORM) was released.  With an all star cast including Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, Andre Braugher and pop icon Fergie, it received sterling accolades for it's technical achievements (including a well deserved Academy Award nomination for it's super-realistic CGI effects), but was otherwise panned by most critics and audiences, and deemed "unsuccessful" - managing to return only $182 million on an astonishing $160 million budget. 

* In 2005 Fox released an impressive restored / remastered two disc "Special Edition" DVD of the original 1972 THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE.  It featured all-new commentary by director Ronald Neame, nine new behind the scenes / interview featurettes, the 2000 "AMC BACKSTORY" documentary episode on the film, an interactive version of the original American Cinematographer magazine article published at the time of the film's original release, and much more.     


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