Friday, January 15, 2021

Poseidon Quickies: Bridging the "Poseidon" Gap

Poseidon. That's the cat this site was named after, right? Ha ha! So it's only natural that I frequently turn the focus onto things associated with The Poseidon Adventure (1972), no item of trivia being too small. In all honesty, there are many other webmasters who have made it their life's work to pay tribute to the movie where I like to dabble in other areas, too. If I seem obsessed, trust me, I'm a lightweight compared to some fellow fans. There is probably nothing those gents don't already know. Yet, when I come upon something I wasn't aware of before, I like to share it just the same. Today we're going to make an unexpected link between the bridge of S.S. Poseidon to the bridge of the Jenny, a ramshackle tugboat featured in the delightfully heinous sequel Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), by way of the Golden Gate Bridge. On we go...

As the 1972 film opens, the S.S. Poseidon is experiencing rough seas. The ship tossing to and fro thanks to it being top-heavy and not helped by a blustery rainstorm.

Here we find the ship's captain, Leslie Nielsen, and his first officer, Charles Bateman. Lurking behind them is a representative of the ship's new owner, played by Fred Sadoff.

With passengers experiencing seasickness and the ship teetering back and forth alarmingly, Nielsen wants the engineer to take on ballast as soon as some pumps are repaired down below.

Eventually, the time has come when the ship can take on the necessary ballast, so Nielsen gives the order to do so to Bateman as Sadoff looks on.

Sadoff wants the ship to be traveling at "full ahead" even though doing so is reckless under the present circumstances. The captain explains this to an unsympathetic Sadoff.

Decrying that his consortium is spending thousands of dollars to maintain a wrecking crew at the end site and that they are already three days behind schedule, he insists that Nielsen order the ship to go full ahead. Nielsen replies that the Poseidon is not only "too fine a lady" to be rushed to the junk heap, but also that it is very dangerous to be sending an unstable ship ahead at full speed.

With that, Sadoff threatens to relieve Nielsen of his command and replace him with someone else. Nielsen acquiesces, but not before referring to Sadoff as an "irresponsible bastard." As an impressionable tyke watching this movie for the first time, words cannot describe the hatred I had for Sadoff. His rash decisions led to the resultant calamity. Seeing it now as an adult, he's still an asshole. Ha ha!

Bateman knows the way things ought to be, but it's not within his power to do anything...

Nielsen reluctantly orders "Full ahead!"

Later that night, just before midnight on New Year's Eve, Nielsen is called to the bridge to observe something on the sonar in the wake of a sub-sea earthquake. The slithering Sadoff follows along, ever afraid of being left out of any key decisions.

Nielsen takes a moment amid the potential crisis to wish his fellow men a rather wilting "Happy New Year," though it is doubtful to say the least.

And so there it is, on the port bow, "an enormous wall of water" coming towards them!

"Hard left!"

The men of the bridge await their fate as a tidal wave overwhelms the ship.

Sadoff, who didn't wish to be left out, gets his wish...

The bridge is flooded, killing everyone on it.

And the overturned vessel is left hanging upside-down as a small band of survivors must try to attempt an escape.

These two actors, Sadoff and Bateman, are forever linked through their participation in The Poseidon Adventure. But now we jump seven years into the future...

The belated and badly-conceived sequel went through countless permutations during its development. By the time it limped into (and quickly out of) theaters, and with none of the original cast involved, no one gave a care.

On this bridge, we find tugboat captain Michael Caine and his own first mate, Karl Malden.

They are in waters nearby the S.S. Poseidon at New Year's Eve. Not only is the set for this sequence pitiably phony, it's shot by Irwin Allen in the most pedestrian way imaginable, looking as if stagehands are tossing buckets of water onto the puny deck. Apart from that, there was no storm on New Year's Eve! That had happened the morning of. It was a tidal wave that knocked over the Poseidon (and even that is a scientific impossibility when you get down to it. Those don't occur in open water, only on shorelines.)

So a tidal wave capsized a luxury liner, but this tug was unaffected beyond one broken window and the loss of some cargo that was secured with one flimsy cable in the back?

Having witnessed a rescue chopper flying away from a damaged vessel, Caine and Malden opt to go for broke and attempt a salvage operation. This is imperative since their cargo has just sunk to the bottom of the deep blue sea. (Caine was at a low-ebb in his career, doing literally any role for the money. Malden's judgement wasn't too much better for he also did Meteor the same year, though he is solid in both.)

They spot the bottom (top!) of the capsized S.S. Poseidon.

Rear screen projection worthy of, say, a second-rate drive-in feature.

Caine, Malden and their newfound pal Sally Field, take a look at the burping red hulk before their eyes. (Field had just done Norma Rae - ! - and unwisely took then-beau Burt Reynolds' advice to do something "commercial" afterwards. This after he turned the movie down himself!)

In the first film, the ship was due to be scrapped because of its age. Somehow the hull now looks close to showroom new, with no barnacles, stains, etc... and with gleaming propellers...!

Before they can even attempt to board the ship, they are confronted by the presence of a nattily-attired doctor (Telly Savalas), who insists that he and his crew join in the excursion in case there are any survivors left on-board who may need aid.

So in they all go, allegedly through the same hole that the first movie's survivors just barely escaped from before the ship gasped its last breath.

They start across the same tangled catwalk that the others had climbed upon in order to get out. In a tasteless move to connect the movies, a shot of one of the deceased original stars is inserted. By now, it's been upwards of an hour since her death and yet her shirt (made of, what, asbestos?) remains un-singed. I mean, the whole film is filled with idiocy like this.

Suddenly there's a side panel which, when removed, leads to a whole other way of entering the bowels of the ship!  Caine, Malden, Field and Savalas make their way through there.

When the ship (surprise!) continues to explode, Malden and Caine (and others still to come) find themselves in a very similar predicament as the folks from the first movie, though with additional inane twists and contrivances. Yes, I beat up on this dog, but to be honest I actually love watching it. It's so bad it's good! But where in the hell am I going with all this??

You'll recall I mentioned that the connection between the bridges of the two seagoing vessels would be made via the Golden Gate Bridge. That landmark hails from San Francisco. Thus we turn our attention now to a 1975 episode of The Streets of San Francisco. The time is nearly smack dab in the middle of the two aforementioned Poseidon films.

Here we find intrepid homicide detective Malden on a case. To the left is costar Michael Douglas. On the right is none other than Bateman, playing a fellow detective.

In the same episode, we find Sadoff. Sadoff made about nine appearances on San Francisco over its 5-season run, playing a psychologist who lent the police department a hand from time to time.

So here we have it! The owner's representative of the S.S. Poseidon, the first officer and a man who boarded it for salvage, all seated in an office together trying to unravel a murder over some sandwiches!

This time out, Sadoff and Bateman are colleagues rather than enemies. I have no clue why Bateman's hair is frosted gray this way. Perhaps to break up some of the brown on set or to differentiate him from the usually on-hand Douglas (who, in the episode, has gone undercover.)

Sadoff came from a strong theatre background. He worked both on Broadway and in Europe, founding his own company for a time. Though he worked frequently on TV from the 1950s on, his memorably snarling role in Poseidon remains one of his best-known. But he was not originally cast in the role! The looming, 6'3" Vic Lundin was cast in the role, but departed for another project, allowing the part to become Sadoff's. (You may recall Lundin as Friday in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 1964.) He continued in an array of character roles on sitcoms, daytime dramas and prime-time TV series and movies until 1990 when his health declined. He died in 1994 at age 67 from AIDS complications.

Bateman worked on many TV episodes from the late-1950s on. He had recurring roles on Manhunt and Hazel. He even starred in his own show, a western called Two Faces West, in which he played twins, one a doctor and one a marshal! Quinn Martin used him in many of his shows as well. Later, he popped up on Days of Our Lives and Santa Barbara before retiring in the early-1990s. Mr. Bateman is still alive today at 90. That's no particular reason to be alarmed given the fact that his mother lived to be 110!

Malden worked in films from the 1940s on, taking part in classics like Kiss of Death (1947), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - which earned him an Oscar, On the Waterfront (1954) and Baby Doll (1956.) There were many other major movies as well as camp classics like Parrish (1961), Dead Ringer (1964) and Murderer's Row (1966!) For many years he was the spokesman for American Express traveler's checks. A skilled and very versatile actor despite his distinctive look, Malden died in 2009 at age 97 of natural causes.

The Poseidon Adventure and Beyond in one room.

In case you may be wondering, Leslie Nielsen also served time on The Streets of San Francisco. In fact, he guest-starred three different times between 1973 and 1974. He was a highly-prolific television face, with a stretch of feature films in the mid-1950s. After that, he worked on countless TV-movies and shows with occasional movies along the way. He was most often cast is serious fare until the unexpected smash Airplane! (1980) transformed him into a wacky, comic leading man. Nielsen passed away in 2010 of pneumonia at age 84, having continued working up until the year before.

For this episode (also shown above), Nielsen played a beat cop whose uncontrolled drinking causes the death of his partner.

Now this post is perhaps a bit drier and duller than some others, especially if you barely give two shits about the subject, so I thought maybe I ought to perk it up just a skosh at the tail end. Not too long ago, I recorded a 1971 thriller called The Brotherhood of Satan, just because I love movies of that period and wanted to see Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones try to steal their scenes. Imagine my surprise at the leading man of the piece!

Here we find Charles Bateman enjoying a romantic lakeside picnic at the start of the movie.

Dig those hairy legs and the short swim trunks.

I love the clean look of films, even low-budget films, of this era.

His girlfriend in the movie is curvy Ahna Capri, who was a busy TV and movie child actress turned starlet of the 1960s and '70s.

Two things interrupt the couple's lovey-dovey moment. An impromptu rain shower (probably supplied by the same people who threw water at Michael Caine in Beyond!) and the appearance of Bateman's pre-teen daughter.

Does the daughter seem in any way familiar? She couldn't have known it at the time, but in a half-dozen years she would be thrust into a pop cultural maelstrom that had people debating, complaining and scrutinizing for decades to come! All because she opted to portray a character that had previously been made (very) famous by another girl...

This little gal's name is Geri Reischel. Otherwise known as...  
"FAKE JAN!" Resichl took over Eve Plumb's iconic role of Jan Brady when Plumb (wisely) opted out of taking part in the legendarily hellacious program The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

The (chiefly) music and rhythm challenged Brady Bunch clan became a laughing stock on national television through this ill-advised venture which had them gussied up in mid-'70s finery and performing all sorts of "show-stopping" numbers. There were also domestic scenes of them as the family. Since every member of the cast came back to this fiasco except Plumb, Reischel stood out like a sore Plumb, er thumb, and seemed to receive particular derision. In fact, she didn't perform before cameras again for decades after. Fortunately, she was later able to embrace her stint as "Fake Jan" (especially after there were "Fake Cindy" and "Fake Marcia" in later efforts to keep the concept going.)

And so with that I think I've wrung nearly everything possible out of this wildly random post! Till next time...


Dan said...

Well, that was an interesting essay in free association. “Poseidon” is one of the movies I had the good luck to see in my hometown’s long gone movie palace, on what was said to be the largest screen in Pennsylvania.

Like, OMG, a CHIPS interjection! It’s on right now and they’re doing one of those cliche first date sequences with Ponce and his girl friend gazing into other’s eyes and laughing on a carousel, horseback riding, strolling on the beach, while a soulful love song plays in the background! Look, a sunset! Beautiful, just beautiful...

Where were we? Oh, yeah, in another free association ship disaster film segue, as I know you know, “The Last Voyage” is infamous for systematically destroying the beloved Ile de France with it’s mostly intact interiors. My husband sailed on her as a toddler. We were watching the first few scenes in the dining room and he suddenly said, “I remember sitting right there!”. We always stop watching before the mayhem starts, too heartbreaking.

Well, that’s that.

Shawny said...

Fake Jan. I never knew of it, but it’s hilarious. I love this grab bag post. It made me laugh. And I was thinking from reading in the beginning, I wouldn’t mind a top heavy ship...

joel65913 said...

I suppose with the proliferation of cop shows at the time and the fact that the two were journeyman actors it was an inevitability they would end up sharing an episode on one of them but I enjoyed your pulling everything together.

Geez Beyond the Poseidon Adventure is such a piece of garbage. Poor Sally! She fired her agent directly afterwards and has pointed to it as her least favorite and worst picture she appeared in. Having seen most of her films I have to agree, and I'm one of those people who think Forrest Gump is one of the biggest piles ever foisted on the public!

Gingerguy said...

I really wasn't prepared for Geri Reischl showing up at the end. Hilarious. Sadoff was loathsome in PA but really good now that I think of it. I took bridge literally and thought they reused a set from one film into the sequel. Your brand is all things Poseidon, and I can never get enough of this flick. Such an indelible movie experience in 1972 and fun to see here

Shawny said...

I agree with you on Forest Gump. Absolute bull crap only self-important straight men can pinch off.

Poseidon3 said...

Hi Dan! I am jealous that you saw TPA in its initial run on a big screen. Must have been quite an experience. Yes, I do tend to be quite random around here. LOL I prefer to cloak it as "unpredictable," but perhaps I am not even that. I really like "The Last Voyage" and its surprisingly gritty approach for a film of that time. Nail-biting! I always mean to feature it here, but never have.

Ha ha! Shawny! Maybe on a Rosie O'Donnell cruise? I thought everyone of a certain age knew of "Fake Jan" but you may be too young. It was startling, jarring and almost blasphemous to me when it happened!!

Thanks, Joel. It wasn't exact Nobel-Prize level research, but it just struck me as interesting to have the three people there in that office who had all been on board the title boat! "Beyond" is just plain INEPT, but I always love watching the steamily beautiful Veronica Hamel and the regally elegant Shirley Knight. So I have to be grateful to it on that score (and virtually that score alone!)

Gingerguy, I have occasionally done posts on re-used sets (The "Bewitched" one, for example), so you can surely be understood for thinking in that direction. I probably misled with my title anyway, but - man - the creative juices have been draining off lately. Just way, way, WAY overworked and overstressed. Always. But I am plugging along the best I can. Someday I hope to return to boredom. LOL

Shawny (and Joel), I recall when "Forrest Gump" came out, my father was at the head of the family dinner table for some holiday and exclaimed that it was the best movie he had ever seen. I didn't hate it, but it really did little for me (I was already averse to Tom Hanks because I wasn't really very fond of his acclaimed performance in "Philadelphia" nor of his pompous, self-important posturing at so many industry events.) Anyway... I haven't spoken to my father since 2004 so there may be some correlation there! Yikes!

Mark R.Y. said...

It's amusing that, in that final pic of the Bunch, with the awful prom wear the family is wearing (enormous clown ties on the guys, floor-length shapeless gowns on the gals) that Alice in her housekeeper kit looks the most stylish!

Shawny said...

Even more amusing, that Mr Brady really wants to face the other direction.

Matt said...

I came across the Brady Bunch variety show late one night and was amazed. It an appalling spectacle and I was absolutely riveted, I could not turn away, it was like a car wreck.

The ironic thing is that “fake Jan” was the only one in the cast aside from Florence Henderson who could actually sing and dance. I guess it makes sense, she was the only one who had to audition.

Mike said...

Hey Poseidon! Jonathan Harris from LOST IN SPACE was offered the Linarcos part as well! Wouldn't THAT have been interesting?

Poseidon3 said...

Mike, I can only imagine the scenery-chewing that would have gone on! LOL Leslie Nielsen is retroactively campy in some of his old straight parts thanks to his later career as a parodist, but Jonathan would likely have been campy from the get go! Irwin seemed to be really loyal to many of the actors in his projects (and vice versa!)