Shitty Movie Sundays: Beyond the Poseidon Adventure

Today Shitty Movie Sundays is featuring another Irwin Allen disaster flick. What makes this one different is that Allen wasn’t just the producer of today’s film. He also directed. It wasn’t his first time in the director’s chair, having helmed a couple of halfway decent sci-fi flicks in the past. But, I don’t think it would have made much difference who was at the helm for this stinker. John Ford could have directed this flick and it still would be packed to the gills with stupid.

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, from 1979, is the sequel to Allen’s earlier mammoth blockbuster, The Poseidon Adventure. That film followed survivors of an ocean liner that capsized and their struggles to find a way out of the ship before it sinks. This follow-up returns to the stricken SS Poseidon immediately after the original plot is resolved, and follows a group of people who arrive at the ship and want to go in. It’s The Poseidon Adventure in reverse.

The idiot who decides to crawl around a doomed ship is none other than Michael Caine as Mike Turner, a tugboat captain who claims the Poseidon as salvage, and wants to raid the purser’s office while the ship still floats. He has visions of a safe packed full with the jewels and gold of all the well-heeled passengers who are now drowned. Sure it’s morbid, but more than that, it’s just a stupid idea. One has to be truly desperate to go climbing down into a capsized ship looking for loot.

Alongside Turner are his longtime first mate, Wilbur (Karl Malden), and a passenger (on a tugboat? sure, whatever) named Celeste. But wait, there’s more. When Turner and crew arrive at the Poseidon, there’s a yacht anchored alongside. This is the vessel of the mysterious Dr. Svevo (Telly Savalas, proving that he was even less discriminating in the roles he chose than Michael Caine). Svevo claims he picked up a distress signal and wants to find any survivors the previous rescue might have missed. It’s a pretty thin story, made moreso by Svevo’s creepiness and the fact that he has henchmen. Real, honest to goodness, James Bond-style henchmen, only they have spoken lines.

The happy salvage crew and the would-be rescuers descend into the ship, and we see the familiar engine room set from the first film.

Speaking of sets, I have to mention the film’s opening. In it, we see the wave that capsized the Poseidon, and we also see Turner’s tug braving the same storm. Only, The tug is clearly a mockup. The ocean is projected on a screen behind, and members of the effects crew spray the bridge with hoses to simulate waves crashing over the bow. It’s laughably bad. The opening credits to Gilligan’s Island were more realistic. Don’t believe me? Look it up on YouTube.

Turner and Svevo’s crews wind up being trapped in the ship after an explosion seals off the escape route. Now they have to find their own way out. But first, Turner makes sure everyone loads up on as much loot as they can carry. Svevo, however, is aboard the ship for more nefarious reasons. In fact, likening him to the villain in a Bond flick isn’t all that far off.

The film becomes a race to survival for the now opposing groups, as well as more survivors that Turner kept stumbling over about every five feet. By the time the expanding group finds the blind guy (played by Jack Warden), it’s comical.

The survivors include Peter Boyle, Mark Harmon in an early role, and Slim Pickens as a wine loving oil wildcatter from Texas. Pickens could always be counted on to bring some levity to a production. Sure it doesn’t fit the film at all, but by the time he’s introduced this film has gone completely off the rails and it’s nice to see someone on screen who brings some joy to this disaster.

Because no one else could. Savalas was there for his paycheck, and couldn’t be bothered to care about his performance. Meanwhile, Michael Caine was constantly pissed and Sally Field looked like she was always ready to cry. It was hard to find anything endearing about the characters, including Karl Malden’s, who was burdened with cancer for dramatic effect. Irwin Allen always managed to fill the cast with some talent, but he could never seem to make them give a shit.

This is a stunningly bad film. It’s got bad sets, a bad script, and a cast that at times looked like they couldn’t wait for this dog to wrap. As a movie it’s a failure of epic proportions, but as a shitty movie it’s glorious. It doesn’t approach the sublime levels of shittiness of something like Anaconda, but I did enjoy a lot of this flick. I’d still rather watch Alien: Resurrection than Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.