Hollywood’s first disaster movie is based on a true story

A gigantic wave sinks a luxury liner. 25 years before Titanic, The Adventure of the Poseidon, broadcast this evening on Arte, tells of a spectacular shipwreck, inspired by a misadventure that occurred in 1937 on the Queen Mary.

A luxury cruise ship, The Poseidon, named after the god of the seas in Greek mythology, sets sail in New York, heading for Greece. Captain Harrison (Leslie nielsen) is informed of an earthquake off Crete, but he is forced to continue his journey by the company which employs him. On board, passengers celebrate the New Year when a gigantic tidal wave overturns the liner. Among the survivors, a group led by Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman) understands that the only way out is to get closer to the hull. About ten people follow him, climbing one by one the giant Christmas tree to leave the reception room before it disappears under the water …

Hollywood’s first disaster movie

The adventure of Poseidon from Ronald neame, broadcast this evening on Arte, bridges two genres: the classic blockbuster and the blockbuster. Released in 1973, it is considered the first disaster film in Hollywood history, the precursor of a new genre that will surge onto screens: from The infernal tower to the multi-Oscar winner Titanic from James cameron. The shipwreck, filmed in a very realistic way and the eventful advance of the passengers through the labyrinthine corridors of the sinking liner are for many in the success of the film which was crowned with the Oscar for the best original song and a special prize for the realization of special effects, bluffing, which have not aged a bit. The sequences of the overturning of the boat and those of the breaking of the giant wave are particularly impressive.

The Queen Mary nearly sank twice

The film is adapted from a novel by the writer Paul Gallico, which was inspired by one of his eventful trips in 1937 aboard the Queen Mary, a British luxury transatlantic. While he was having breakfast in the dining room, a huge wave, called the “villainous wave,” sent people and furniture racing across the ship. Another similar event also occurred aboard the liner, requisitioned for the transport of troops during the Second World War. Once again, a gigantic wave struck the ship head-on in the open sea. Failing to sink as in the disaster film, the Queen Mary drifted towards the North Atlantic where she was finally rescued. These tumultuous anecdotes fed the pen of the novelist.

A colossal success

The spectacular opening scene was filmed aboard the Queen Mary itself, but most of the filming took place on set, part of which was built on a hydraulic system, allowing it to be placed at an angle. 45 degrees. The actors performed their own stunts except the most dangerous. So much so that they complained about the difficulties of filming. When it was released, the film was a huge success around the world. A sequel was shot in 1979 under the title The Last Secret of Poseidon through Irwin Allen, then a TV movie by Jean Putch in 2005 and finally a remake, Poseidon, directed by Wolfgang Petersen in 2006.



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