(director: Ronald Neame; screenwriters: Stanley Mann/Edmond H. North/based on a story by Edmond H. North; cinematographer: Paul Lohman; editor: Carl Kress; music: Laurence Rosenthal; cast: Sean Connery (Dr. Paul Bradley), Natalie Wood (Tatiana Nikolaevna Donskaya), Karl Malden (Harry Sherwood), Brian Keith (Dr. Alexei Dubov), Martin Landau (Maj. Gen. Adlon), Trevor Howard (Sir Michael Hughes), Henry Fonda (American President); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Sandy Howard/Gabriel Katzka/Arnold Orgolini/Theodore Parvin/Run Run Shaw; AIP; 1979)
“Chatty disaster pic that talks itself to death.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Chatty disaster pic that talks itself to death. Ineptly helmed by veteran British filmmaker Ronald Neame (“Hopscotch”/”The Odessa File“/”The Poseidon Adventure“), though no fault of his–he was sabotaged by studio interference and a poor screenplay. It’s based on a story by Edmond H. North, who co-writes the screenplay with Stanley Mann. The talented cast is wasted in such junk and just dutifully go through the motions in a perfunctory way. The tacky special effects are an eye-full and one’s only escape from the boring narrative, but are too tacky to be praised.
Sean Connery is an American scientist (with a Scottish accent) and Natalie Wood a Russian scientist (with a serviceable Russian accent that sounds a lot like her Puerto Rican accent in West Side Story), who make time to flirt with each other in a tepid romance while their respective Cold War foe countries get all worked up about working together to save the world from a giant asteroid on a collision course to crash into the Earth in a few days.
Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) is the pushy former boss of ex-NASA scientist Dr. Paul Bradley (Sean Connery), who recruits him in an emergency to save the world from a 5-mile-wide meteor about to hit the Earth in six days. The American scientists are forced to accept the help of the Soviets, and they work with chief Russian scientist Dubov (Brian Keith), who speaks only Russia, and his scientist translator-assistant Tatiana (Natalie Wood). The dire situation is made touchy because the Americans discover that their top secret nuclear weapon, Hercules, created by Bradley, is not enough to destroy the meteor. In order to prevent the disaster the Americans must work with the Reds, who have a similar top secret nuclear-missile weapon they call Peter the Great. The co-operation between the two superpowers upsets volatile right-wing General Adlon (Martin Landau), who is too dense to realize that the warnings from science about the meteor are real.
When the talking stopped for a few moments, the screen turned its attention to a massive avalanche in the Swiss Alps, a tidal wave that sinks Hong Kong and a chunk of rock smacking into NYC–which causes the subways to flood and floods the site of the American’s secret nuclear underground center.
The banal disaster film crashed at the box office, as the 18 million dollar production was one of the biggest money losers in the decade of the ’70s. Even its special effects, which were supposed to be the highlight of the film, weren’t impressive.
REVIEWED ON 3/27/2012 GRADE: C