Friday, September 11, 2009

Where'd He Get That Name?!

So, dear reader, if you've been perusing this blog since the beginning, you know that I started off those early posts in a sort of auto-biographical manner, relaying some of my earliest movie memories in order of their occurrence. Today I will reflect a little bit on the movie that had the GREATEST overall impact on me as a child and which gave me my online moniker and, thus, the name of this site.

Having seen The Towering Inferno in the theater, I was zooming back and forth on my backyard aluminum whirley-gig (I have no idea what it's called - a rowing and spinning device from the 70s which has probably since been deemed unsafe!), talking about the movie with a slightly older neighbor kid named Eddie. He brought up The Poseidon Adventure and described it's plot line to me. I remember him telling me about the upside down toilets, for one thing, and how funny it was when Robin Shelby went to the men's room and saw them there. I couldn't believe that such a film existed and, of course, at that time, I had no access to it.

Cut to a year or so later when our house was robbed on Christmas Eve. The burglars took our color TV set, but left an old (and very heavy) black and white set in my bedroom. Until we could replace the color set, my mom would lie on my twin bed at night to watch TV and I would crouch on the floor in front of her if something was on that I liked. One night, they broadcast The Poseidon Adventure and we tuned in. It would be a life-changing occurrence. (And just as information, the airing of this film on TV was a ratings triumph. This was long before home video was widespread. Practically everyone was watching!

I guess I was a pretty sensitive child and, to that point, I don't think I had ever quite grasped the concept that sometimes the good guys don't win. To make it brief, my illusions were shattered. It was inconceivable to my 8 year-old mind that innocent vacationers on a boat could be celebrating New Years Eve one minute and, after having been capsized, dead the next or that people valiantly fighting to survive could work for the safety of others and then not make it out themselves. It was a realization that overwhelmed me.


I had a memory of my mother saying to one of her friends once that she "couldn't stand to see a grown man cry." It stuck with me and on the night of the Poseidon viewing, when the most stunning and sad point for me arrived, I wanted to cry desperately, but didn't, even though I wasn't a "grown man." I held it in. Stifled it. For many years afterward, whenever I would catch the film on TV (and, trust me, I sought it out, stayed up late, GOT up late if it was on overnight...) I would be wrecked emotionally by the end.


Thankfully, I've since worked through that aspect of the film and now enjoy it in a whole new way, though if it catches me in a certain frame of mind, I sometimes still get choked up when Miss Shelley Winters takes her big dive. In fact, I have become so comfortable in my attitude towards the film that I can simultaneously laugh at it, be moved by it and become excited by it all at once and even attended a recent stage musical parody of it during which I was one of the people laughing the hardest. (I was concerned about a show that mocked a film that has always been a favorite of mine.) I had also been skittish about the two recent remakes, wondering if they would somehow soil the memory of the original. I needn't have worried. Both productions were so pedestrian and utterly forgettable that in time people are unlikely to recall that they were even made.


In later posts, I will mention some of the aspects of The Poseidon Adventure that have enthralled me, amused me and inspired me. I would single myself out as a complete nut (before you get the chance to!), but I'm aware, as a matter of fact, that there's an entire cult culture built around this film with people dressing up, making dolls of the cast, redesigning rooms of their house in an upside down fashion, holding parties, making video tributes that star themselves and their friends and on and on. There's a fan club that holds an annual screening aboard the Queen Mary to which surviving cast members are invited and occasionally attend. Clearly, Irwin Allen and Ronald Neame fashioned something that made a tremendous impact on its viewing audience and that's something that only one in a hundred films can engender.

I have never been on a cruise, though I want to go sometime. I always feel like I'd come away disappointed if the ship stayed right side up the entire time. Maybe the promise of endless food and frolicsome on board activities, along with interesting shore leaves, would make up for it.
I watch the movie every New Years Day and try not to see it in between if I can help it so that it retains some small level of freshness for me.

2 comments:

vinniepop said...

The Poseidon Adventure is a New Year's Eve viewing tradition for myself (although on a few occasions when I have been pressed for time, I've had to skip ahead and just make do with the countdown-and-capsize sequence). It's not only my favourite disaster movie, but one of my all-time favourite movies, period. Loving all the coverage you've given it throughout your blog!

Poseidon3 said...

Thank you very much and it's great to meet another fan! I'm reading the comments you leave, believe me, on these archived posts, even if I don't always reply. So glad you're here and enjoying The Underworld!