Into The Storm howled into cinemas August 20. It’s a cheesy all-American disaster movie, in the mould of Twister. Before green screen and seamless CGI, chaos still reigned at the cinema. Earthquake (1974) starred Charlton Heston and featured a mega quake hitting L.A. It used sensurround and infra bass said to be as loud as a jet taking off. It actually made some audience members physically ill.
Gojira (1954) The original Godzilla movie from Toho was the first of the kaiju or ‘giant beast’ films. Awakened by nuclear testing the lizard king, who can do anything, wreaks havoc on Japan. Seen since as a metaphor for the evil power of nuclear weapons, Godzilla’s devastation echoes the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It spawned three eras of sequels and a 2014 Hollywood reboot.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968). George A. Romero’s cult classic kickstarted the zombie genre by imagining a world where the dead awaken to terrorise the living. Romero had been making kids TV programmes before adapting the novel I Am Legend about a plague whose victims live a vampire-like existence and prey on the living. The shuffle and groan horror was born and five sequels followed.
Credit: George A. Romero
Airport (1970) Rooted in a reality any audience could understand it’s hell at 30,000 feet when a suicide bomber goes loco on a Rome-bound Boeing 707 jet. The Rat Pack’s Dean Martin headed an all star cast with Burt Lancaster who called the Oscar-nominated film “the worst piece of junk ever made”. Three sequels followed and the spoof Airplane in 1980.
The Omega Man (1971) The inspiration for films like Will Smith’s I Am Legend and 28 Days Later, Charlton Heston thinks he’s the last man alive in L.A. not affected by a vampire-like plague (triggered by germ warfare between China and Russia) whose victims only come out at night… Up against a cult of brainwashed albino mutants Chuck’s got guns.
Credit: Warner Bros
The Poseidon Adventure (1972) A high concept all star actioner set aboard a luxury cruise liner hit by a rogue wave. Gene Hackman (The French Connection) leads a group of fellow Oscar-winning survivors through the bowels of the capsized ship.
The scenes of the vessel upside down were shot on a hydraulically controlled set tilted to 45 degrees. A reboot entitled Poseidon was released in 2006.
Juggernaut (1974) Basically it’s Airport on a boat as a lone maniac with a bomb demands a 500 grand ransom. Big money back then… Inspired by a real life incident where a hoax bomb threat was made on the QE2 Juggernaut followed Richard Harris’ bomb disposal expert as he saves the day. Director Richard Lester worked with The Beatles on Help! and A Hard Day’s Night.
The Towering Inferno (1974) The makers of The Poseidon Adventure reached for the sky with Paul Newman’s architect and Steve McQueen’s fire chief battling to save the world’s tallest building and its penthouse inhabitants in the Rolls Royce of 70s disaster flicks. Newman did his own stunts and when a real fire broke out on set McQueen got stuck in with the attending fire crew.
Avalanche (1978) A winter wonderland becomes a nightmare of destruction… The joy of a film like Avalanche is that it’s so bad it’s good. When a ski resort gets hit by six million tons of icy terror it’s time to get the styrofoam boulders out and shake the cameras as Rock Hudson and Woody Allen’s ex Mia Farrow lead the charge for a Golden Raspberry Award.
Credit: New World
The Swarm (1978) This big budget shocker about a killer bee invasion of Texas flopped at the box office and is one of the films Michael Caine admits he made for the wonga to buy himself a nice house in L.A. Incredibly, around 800,000 bees were refrigerated, incapacitated and had their stingers removed to make filming the swarm scenes safer for the actors. No wonder it cost so much to make.
Credit: Warner Bros