Movie Review: Earthquake (1974)

Up until Charlton Heston died in 2008, my dad always had a saying that if he ever saw Heston and George Kennedy together somewhere, he would run for his life. Whenever the two actors appeared together in the same movie, either an airplane was about to crash or the state of California was going to be rocked by an earthquake so severe, it would be crumbled and thrown into the Pacific ocean.

The 1974 film, Earthquake, was one of the first big disaster movie blockbusters, starring the above Charlton Heston and George Kennedy along with a supporting cast of Ava Gardner, Lorne Green, Richard Roundtree, Lloyd Nolan, and Walter Matthau in a cameo role.

There were not so many bright spots to the film as there were cringe moments. Sometimes I wonder if during the filming of this movie if they actually had the sets shaking or they were just bumping the camera up and down to make it appear that an actual earthquake was happening. Some movies from the 1970’s (and even earlier) have their special effects hold up to this day; Earthquake is not one of them.

Just by looking at it, one can easily tell where shots of small scale models being destroyed were spliced with scenes of people running around through the streets of Los Angeles. But the film was not entirely bad. Heston and Gardner play a married couple in the midst of a rocky relationship, and that is escalated when Gardner finds out that Heston is having an affair, with the much younger, more beautiful Genevieve Bujold. This, combined with George Kennedy’s signature tough-guy role make that just about the only bright spots in the movie.

I must also attach a spoiler alert to this paragraph. Can you actually believe that Charlton Heston dies in the end? I know, it’s incredible that they could kill off such a heroic man who throughout the movie saves countless people in a 40-story building by attaching a fire hose to a desk hair and lowering them down one by one. He later takes a jackhammer and drills through about twenty feet of solid concrete and dirt (on his own!) and saves close to 70 people who were trapped in the basement of a skyscraper. Ah, the good old days when heroes were heroes!

All in all, the film was not terrible and still has a cult following. I will give it a 6 out of 10 because it was interesting to see what was considered high technology for special effects way back when.


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