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Disaster Films — Airport — The Poseidon Adventure — Earthquake — The Towering Inferno — Episode 17 — Decades of Horror 1970s

Airport from 1970 was not the first “disaster film” but it was a monster box office hit that ignited a series of disaster films throughout the Seventies until the spoof Airplane (1980) would put it all to rest 10 years later. With the release of San Andreas (2015), Decades of Horror ’70 takes a look at four of the major shakers and movers in this star studded sub-genre: Airport (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974) and The Towering Inferno (1974). The Black Saint and Doc Rotten tackle another groovy horror film from the 1970s.

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 17  —  Disaster Films
Airport  — The Poseidon Adventure  — Earthquake  — The Towering Inferno

The Black Saint and Doc Rotten celebrate the decade of disaster by looking at the big four. Starting with Airport, the take a quick look as the box office, the filming and the cast all the way to The Towering Inferno. The films remain  influential and are  remarkable in how they hold up after all these years. What makes them so incredible? Is it the nature of the sub-genre? Is it the incredible cast that include a string of Hollywood greats from their time? Check out the famous faces these films include, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Helen Hayes, Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine, Charleton Heston, George Kennedy, Faye Dunaway, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Big special effects, sprawling soap opera conflicts and sensurround. Hold tight, The Black Saint and Doc Rotten are here to rescue you. “Linda! My Linda!” – Ernest Borgnine, The Poseidon Adventure.

AIRPORT (1970)

Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey and directed by George Seaton, Airport stars  Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes,  Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Hale, Gary Collins. The film earns Helen Hayes an Academy Award  for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Released on March 5, 1970 with a budget of $10  million, it grosses over $100 million.


Irwin Allen steps into the disaster film ring with The Poseidon Adventure in 1972 with perhaps the best of all disaster films. The film is based on the novel  Paul Gallico and is directed by  Ronald Neame. The cast is phenomenal staring  Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson, Pamela Sue Martin, Arthur O’Connell, Eric Shea and  Leslie Nielsen. The film would earn the  Best Original Song Academy Award for  “The Morning After” and the  Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects.  Released on December 13, 1972 with a budget of $5  million, it grosses over $90  million.


Mark Robson directs the original screenplay from  George Fox and Mario Puzo presenting what would be advertised as “An Event…” film. Known for being presented in sensurround, Earthquake stars  harlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Green, Genevieve Bujold, Richard Roundtree, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, Victoria Principal and Walter Matthau (as Walter Matuschanskayasky). It wins the Academy Award for Best Sound and the  Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects.  Released on November 15, 1974 with a budget of $7 million, it grosses over $75 million.


Irwin Allen is back again using two books as inspiration – the novel The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and  the novel The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia & Frank M. Robinson  – for the block buster of all disaster films, the Towering Inferno. The film stars  Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astair, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, O.J. Simson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner and Mike Lookingland. The films wins Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Music, Original Song: “We May Never Love Like This Again.” Released on December  16, 1974 with a budget of $14 million, it grosses over $116 million.

We want to hear from you – the coolest, grooviest fans:  leave us a message or leave a comment on the site or email the Decades of Horror 1970s podcast hosts at theblacksaint@decadesofhorror.com or docrotten@decadesofhorror.com.




Doc Rotten
Doc Rotten is the founder of Gruesome Magazine. He is also a film critic for Gruesome Magazine and the podcast host & producer for Horror News Radio, Monster Movie Podcast, Decades of Horror: 1970s, The American Horror Story Fan Podcast and Hannibal Fan Podcast. He is also co-host of the Dracula podcast on TV TALK and is a contributing reviewer for HorrorNews.Net and Widescreen Warrior. Doc a lifelong fan of horror films, sci-fi flicks and monster movies first discovering Universal Monsters and Planet of the Apes as a young child in the 1970's searching out every issue of Famous Monster of Filmland (and, later, Fangoria). Favorite films include Jaws, The Car, The Birds, The Tingler, Vampire Circus and The Exorcist. Still a huge fan of horror films from the 70s, Doc continues consuming horror films to this day for the site, for the podcasts and for the fun of it all.

2 Replies to “Disaster Films — Airport — The Poseidon Adventure — Earthquake — The Towering Inferno — Episode 17 — Decades of Horror 1970s

  1. Hey guys,

    Enjoyed your discussion on disaster films. Poseidon Adventure is also my favorite and probably was the first to create the template for all films to be classified as a disaster film. Basically introducing an ensemble cast, put them in jeopardy and then the deaths of some of them. Poseidon Adventure was the first and the best to do it.

    Also I liked Earthquake. Sure it wasn’t as great as PA, but I enjoyed its view of society during a disaster. The personal stories weren’t as emotionally investing, but I really appreciated the end of the film when [SPOLER WARNING] Heston chooses his wife over his mistress. Besides how can you not like a film where George Kennedy ends up with Victoria Principal.

    And as for the effects in Earthquake, I have to embarrassingly admit there’s a scene where there are people in an elevator that crashes to the ground and then the camera lens is obviously colored with spots of red paint but it still makes me nauseous when I see it.

    Speaking of Heston, he was in a somewhat disaster film called Gray Lady Down. It has some elements of a disaster film with a submarine accident, a rescue involved and the death of some main characters. It’s not a bad film and it has Christopher Reeve and Ned Beatty acting in the same film before Superman.

    Finally, you guys made a big omissions by not mentioning John Williams who did the music for both Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Hopefully you won’t forget to mention him in your next podcast and the little theme he made for the movie Jaws.

    Great podcast and I’m looking forward to listening to the new ones and going back to listen to early ones. Keep it up.

    1. Holy crap! How did we miss that John Williams did the music for these films? Definitely a strike against the street cred. I totally blame The Black Saint. LOL

      It is such a blast to revisit these films over a few weeks or so leading up to the podcast. Airport is the big surprise with its “old-school” Hollywood charm while The Poseidon Adventure proves to be the best of the bunch.

      As for Earthquake, it is the George Kennedy/Victorial Principal/Marjoe Gortner storyline that I remember the most. MG freaks me out. And the stunt cycle gag is fun too.

      All in all a fun diversion from straight horror into disaster porn. Woot!

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