Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 1974. , . Screenplay by , . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by . Academy Awards 1974. Golden Globe Awards 1974.
Released at the height of the popularity of disaster movies, this dreary, if technically well-achieved, look at Los Angelinos struggling in the rubble has nothing on the stylish soap opera in a skyscraper that The Towering Inferno offered up the same year. Various clusters of characters and their stories are introduced to us before their issues are completely upended by the titular geological event: at the centre is Charlton Heston as an architect whose faltering marriage to Ava Gardner is relieved by his affair with dewy young single mom Genevieve Bujold. There’s also Richard Roundtree as a leather-clad daredevil who is trying to outdo Evel Knievel, George Kennedy as a shady cop who doesn’t care about the authority above his head, a grocery store clerk who is also a psychotic war veteran (played by Marjoe Gortner, capitalizing on the recent success of the Oscar-winning documentary about him) who sees the lawlessness caused by destruction and goes mad, and a group of scientists at the L.A. reservoir who are concerned with the trembles they have been feeling. The effects are superb, most of them still look great, but the stories are so weak (despite having as impressive a name as Mario Puzo on the screenwriting credits) that seeing buildings fall on people’s heads is a relief to end such dull lives.