Earthquake (Remastered Collector's Edition) (1974) (NTSC)
Alternative Version-Extended Television Version (152:16)
|Year Of Production||1974|
|Running Time||121:51 (Case: 123)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Mark Robson|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The disaster movies that were popular in the 1970’s such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Towering Inferno (1974), or this film, Earthquake, worked off a pretty simple formula; take a diverse group of people, expose them to danger in a natural disaster, watch their stories intersect and see who will survive and who will not. In Earthquake the diverse characters include Stewart Graff (Charlton Heston), a civil engineer working in the firm of his father-in-law Sam Royce (Lorne Greene) although Graff is caught in a failing marriage to Remy (Ava Gardner) and is having an affair with widow Denise Marshall (Genevieve Bujold), suspended policemen Lou Slade (George Kennedy), motorcycle daredevil Miles Quade (Richard Roundtree), young woman Rosa (Victoria Principal) and grocery clerk / national guardsman Jody (Marjoe Cortner).
When two shocks rock Los Angeles, seismologist Walter Russell (Kip Niven) tries to warn his principals that the big one is coming while at the nearby dam a caretaker worries that the dam may not hold; both warnings of course are not heeded by those in authority. Then, the big one strikes (the film would not be called Earthquake otherwise) and LA is devastated as buildings and freeways collapse, fires break out all over the city and civil order breaks down. Graff rescues his father-in-law from a building and then searches for those he loves in the wreckage helped by Slade, Denise tries to find her son amid the rubble, Rosa and Jody meet as the National Guard is called in to stop looters. Then the dam collapses sending torrents of water into basements and low lying areas where people are trapped (this is not a spoiler; the trailer shows the dam bursting!). Some people will show heroism, giving their lives to save others, while some will be less honourable.
One should say, however, that the characters, and their character arcs, are not really why films like Earthquake were popular despite, in this case, having Mario Puzo of The Godfather fame as co-writer and Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner heading the cast. Rather, it is the peril the characters are placed under and the destruction that is the draw. Earthquake is now over 40 years old and was made in pre-CGI times but the combination of models, matte paintings and live action interposed on backgrounds, shot with a very shaky camera and accompanied by thunderous audio, still works rather well. Sure, it sometimes looks crude, such as the bending building created by optical effects or the rapidly shaking camera that can be nauseous at times, but that is part of the film’s appeal. In selected theatres that could be outfitted with special speakers the film featured “Sensurround” which produced vibrations intended to allow the audience to feel, as well as see, the earthquake. However, this proved less than successful; people reported feeling sick and in one theatre a net had to be spread above the audience to catch plaster shaken loose from the ceiling, so after being used in three other films, Midway (1976), Rollercoaster (1977) and Battlestar Galactica (1978), this experiment in audience participation was abandoned.
Earthquake’s pacing is also uneven. It takes 50 minutes to introduce the various characters and their issues, and like most ensemble pieces some of the characters are far more interesting than others, with perhaps George Kennedy’s being the best. There is also a section in the middle of the film after the big quake and before the dam bursts that is quite slow. In addition Earthquake has a strand of sly humour running through it which at times feels at odds with the death and destruction being shown; Walter Matthau appears as a drunk in a bar and is credited as Walter Matuschanskayasky, which people mistakenly thought was his real name (it isn’t, he was born Walter Jake Matthow). But when the disaster occurs, be it buildings collapsing, debris raining down on fleeing people or the dam bursting, Earthquake manages to deliver the goods. After all, Earthquake did win an Oscar for Best Sound as well as a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects.
Earthquake is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, NTSC and 16x9 enhanced.
Widescreen shots and matte paintings backgrounds do look soft, especially in the sequence where Graff rescues his father-in-law and others on the side of the building, but close-ups and model shots, such as the wall of water destroying buildings, have strong detail. Colours are natural, blacks and shadow detail good, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent. Other than some slight blur with motion and the odd small mark, artefacts are absent.
The layer change at 64:47 at a scene change resulted in a slight pause.
English subtitles for the hearing impaired are provided.
Earthquake is offered in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and “Sensurround” 2.1, both at 448 Kbps.
The Sensurround is genuine stereo which gives more prominence to the subwoofer in the disaster sequences while the dialogue is slightly clearer. The 5.1 is, not surprisingly, more enveloping with buildings falling, debris raining down and crashing onto the streets, crumbling rubble and the rush of the water. The subwoofer gets an excellent workout supporting the noise of the earthquake, the falling buildings and the crashing of the wall of water. Dialogue can be soft, even in the quieter sections, but I doubt one misses anything vital. The Sensurround cannot, obviously, duplicate the effect it had in selected theatres and its subwoofer use is not markedly different from that in the 5.1 mix, which I prefer.
The score is by John Williams. He wrote the music for this film, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno in a couple of years earning him the title of the king of the disaster movies. This was before Jaws, after which things would never be the same for Williams.
Lip synchronisation was fine.
|Surround Channel Use|
Earthquake was bought by NBC to broadcast as part of its “Big Events” series. However, the theatrical film was too long to fit, with commercials, into the two hour timeslot so with the agreement of Universal, but not the film’s director Mark Robson (Oscar nominated for Peyton Place (1957) and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958)), additional footage, including new characters, was shot resulting in a 152 running time that was spread over two nights. The IMDb gives some details of the differences here. This TV version of the film is in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, not 16x9, and has Dolby Digital 2.0 audio at 224 Kbps.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This “Remastered Collector’s Edition” from ViaVision containing both cuts of the film, is Region All and NTSC. It does not seem, at the moment, to be available elsewhere as sales sites at this time only list the older releases of Earthquake that include a trailer but not the extended television version of the film.
Disaster movies remain popular and are still being made, such as Skyscraper (2018) or San Andreas (2015) starring Dwayne Johnson, which are in a direct line from the disaster films of the 1970s such as Earthquake. The CGI may or may not, depending on your viewpoint, give those more recent films more scope but there is no denying that films such as Earthquake with their state of the art effects (for their day) and all-star casts still stack up well and are a heap of fun.
A DVD release of Earthquake two decades ago was reviewed on this site here. That DVD was PAL, had some artefacts and the trailer as an extra. This new release looks and sounds very good and includes the, as far as I know, never before released extended television version of the film. If you are a fan of the film, disaster epics or the cast, this re-release is a no brainer.
Earthquake was supplied for review by Via Vision Entertainment. Check out their Facebook page for the latest releases, giveaways, deals and more.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|