Film Review – EARTHQUAKE (1974)

EARTHQUAKE (1974, USA, 123m, PG) ***
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures / The Filmakers Group; d. Mark Robson; w. George Fox, Mario Puzo; pr. Mark Robson; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. John Williams; ed. Dorothy Spencer; pd. Alexander Golitzen; ad. E. Preston Ames.
cast: Charlton Heston (Graff), Ava Gardner (Remy), George Kennedy (Slade), Lorne Greene (Royce), Geneviève Bujold (Denise), Richard Roundtree (Miles), Marjoe Gortner (Jody), Barry Sullivan (Stockle), Lloyd Nolan (Dr. Vance), Victoria Principal (Rosa), Walter Matthau (Drunk (as Walter Matuschanskayasky)), Monica Lewis (Barbara), Gabriel Dell (Sal), Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (Chavez), Lloyd Gough (Cameron), John Randolph (Mayor), Kip Niven (Walter Russell), Scott Hylands (Asst. Caretaker), Tiger Williams (Corry), Donald Moffat (Dr. Harvey Johnson).
A major earthquake hits Los Angeles and various stock characters are thrown into the chaos and destruction. Successful architect Heston argues with his drunken and demanding wife, Gardner, who is also the daughter of his boss Greene.  Bujold is Heston’s distraction from his marriage. Kennedy is a cop suspended for insubordination. Roundtree is an Evel Knievel copyist assisted by Principal. Gortner is a loner army reservist who has fascist tendencies. As the personal dramas are explored, the city is shaken by tremors leading to the inevitable titular event. This is the kind of movie Roland Emmerich has made his fortune producing in more recent times. Here, pre-CGI, the scenes of huge destruction are technically well achieved for the period with some effective matte work and wall-shaking sound (Sensurround was a much-touted new approach to sonics, which ultimately never took). The cast is solid, although Gardner’s histrionics veer toward melodrama. The movie ends abruptly with most of the personal stories left unresolved. Additional footage was shot, without the involvement of Robson, for the 152m TV version.
AA: Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.); Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects (Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock)
AAN: Best Cinematography (Philip H. Lathrop); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Golitzen, E. Preston Ames, Frank R. McKelvy); Best Film Editing (Dorothy Spencer)