Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)
Who's In It: Michael Caine (Batman Begins), Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
What It's About: The morning after the Poseidon disaster, the broke captain (Caine) of a cargo tug discovers the wreckage and takes his crew (Field and Karl Malden) aboard to look for salvage. At exactly the same time, a wealthy doctor (Savalas) also goes aboard, claiming he wants to assist survivors. But is that really his goal or does he have something more sinister in mind?
How It Is: Once Caine and his crew get into the ship and their entrance route is cut off by shifting debris, there's a lot about Beyond the Poseidon Adventure that's a straight repeat of the first film. You've got the brave, headstrong dude (Caine replacing Gene Hackman) leading a group through the unstable, waterlogged vessel, and it doesn't stay the three of them for long. They collect survivors along the way, increasing the size of their party beyond that of the first movie, but including some of the same tropes. Instead of Ernest Borgnine's grouchy cop, we've got Peter Boyle's (Young Frankenstein) grumpy sergeant. And Jack Warden's (All the President's Men) blind man slows the group down as opposed to Shelley Winter's overweight woman.
But these are superficial similarities and they work (in Warden's case) or don't (in Boyle's) about as well as their counterparts did in the original. There's just enough similarity to make me feel it was worth coming back for more, but lots of difference to make it a new experience.
For one thing, Beyond really focuses on the adventure part of Poseidon Adventure. The original was exciting, but it's strength was the human drama. The sequel is all about action, from the treasure-hunting motives of its lead characters to the mysterious mission of whatever Savalas is really up to. It's not just humans against disaster; it's humans against disaster and other humans.
And they're quite likable humans too. I can take or leave Malden's performance, but Caine and Field are as charming as ever and make a wonderful team. I also got a kick out of the interactions between Boyle and Warden (who played best friends in While You Were Sleeping). Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family) plays a nurse and Mark Harmon (Summer School) is a young man who rescues Boyle's daughter (Angela Cartwright from Lost in Space) and is resented by her father for it.
Meanwhile, Telly Savalas is essentially reprising his role as Blofeld and Beyond could easily be as much a sequel to On Her Majesty's Secret Service as it is to The Poseidon Adventure. It's certainly a better OHMSS sequel than Diamonds Are Forever.
Rating: Four out of five Alfred/Aunt May team-ups.