Earthquake (1974)

earthquake poster 1974 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking for its time, fun cast

Some miscasting, weak story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Earthquake

Studio:  Universal/The Filmmakers Group

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Drama

Release Date(s):  November 15, 1974

MPAA Rating:  PG

earthquake los angeles charlton heston george kennedy

Well…it appears this building fell down a bit

When Los Angeles is struck by a massive earthquake, the struggle for survival begins.  Former football star Stewart Graff (Charlton Heston) finds building falling down around him as he must decide between the woman he’s in love with Denise Marshall (Geneviève Bujold) or his wife Remy (Ava Gardner) as he works for his father-in-law Sam (Lorne Greene).  Officer Lou Slade (George Kennedy) tries to keep the peace as madness breaks out.  Stunt cyclist Miles Quade (Richard Roundtree), his friend Sal Amici (Gabriel Dell), and his sister Rosa (Victoria Principal) are separated, but a mad National Guardsman named Jody Joad (Marjoe Gortner) has his sights set on Rosa…as the area braces for aftershocks or even worse.

Directed by Mark Robson, Earthquake is a disaster film.  The movie was released to mixed reviews and received an Academy Award for Best Sound and a special Academy Award for Visual Effects with nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Film Editing.  An expanded two-day edition aired on television in 1976 with additional scenes shot.

earthquake victoria principal marjoe gortner los angeles

If I get out of this, I’m moving to Dallas

Disaster films were everywhere as a kid be it environmental disasters like Earthquake or man-made disasters like The Towering Inferno or Airport.  I was pretty sure that the world was going to kill me.

Earthquake is like typical disaster films.  It has an expansive cast with a lot of issues going on between them.  The biggest story involves the love triangle between Stewart, Denise, and Remy (with them all just missing each as they try to reunite following the quake).  The other character stories however are kind of underdeveloped…the movie moves rather slowly, and there seems to be room for expansion, but it doesn’t happen.

Heston is kind of jerk in the movie.  While his wife played by Gardner can come off as nagging and some potential mental issues, he is cold and cool to her.  Original plans included Heston living, and Kennedy dying along with Gardner but Heston changed the ending (though his character still seems jerky despite his change of heart).  George Kennedy is always a bad sign that disaster is going to go down since he also starred in the Airport movies.  Lorne Greene feels miscast as Gardner’s father since they aren’t very different in age while Richard Roundtree and Victoria Principal are kind of weak.  Marjoe Gortner s a fun creep-o, but he also feels shoehorned into the plot.  The movie features a cameo by the executive producer’s friend Walter Matthau, but he’s credited Walter Matuschanskayasky as a joke.

earthquake ending destruction los angeles

…so…just another crazy night in L.A.?

The big hook of Earthquake is of course the earthquake.  The movie has to go big, and (for the time), it does.  The pre-computer practical tech means a lot of scale models which sometimes have the heft and weight they need, but other times looks flimsy.  It does what it can with what it had.

Earthquake is fun in that it is a complete popcorn movie.  It could go for even more drama and angst, but when it attempts it, it is bad.  The movie is best when it goes for melodrama and over-the-top acting.  While the 1970s were the home of cheesy disasters, disasters like Earthquake still are better than some of the modern ones.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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