Drag legend Hedda Lettuce hosts a tribute screening to the granddaddy of all disaster movies The Poseidon Adventure (1972) this upcoming Saturday night, 10 P.M. at Clearview Chelsea Theatres on 23rd Street and 8th Avenue. Forget the atrocious remakes, this is the one to see!
As everyone knows by now it is New Year’s Eve on the SS Poseidon when just after the stroke of midnight a huge tidal wave cause the ship to go topsy turvy and a small band of survivors must climb, crawl, swim their way to the bottom now the top of the ship. Hip preacher Gene Hackman leads to safety a ragtag band of stereotypes including tough talking cop Ernest Borgnine and his foul-mouthed ex-prostitute panties-wearing only wife Stella Stevens; an old Jewish couple Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson; helpless hippie singer Carol Lynley; lonely bachelor Red Buttons; injured steward Roddy McDowall; and two kids Pamela Sue Martin and Eric Shea. The fun of course is that most don’t make it.
I saw this movie at the Westbury Drive-in on Long Island for my 12th birthday on May 11, 1973. The movie was such a hit that it was still playing theatres 5 months after it opened in December 1972. I was totally mesmerized by this movie. What stayed with me for days that turned to weeks that turned to years was the scene of the ship turning upside down and the lovely Carol Lynley bedecked in hot pants and go-go boots as Nonnie. For some reason I identified with her most because of all the survivors she couldn’t swim (I am a weak swimmer myself) and showed the most fear as I imagined I would in such a situation.
I interviewed Carol Lynley about the movie and it seems her on screen fear was not all acting:
“The only way to describe working on The Poseidon Adventure is hellish. I spent close to four months dripping wet wearing the same dirty clothes. To make matters even worse, I have a tremendous fear of heights. I had it all my life. I usually get very dizzy and throw up. Not attractive. I even went to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio to try to conquer it. Usually a stunt double is used but in The Poseidon Adventure I had to do all my stunts myself. We would shoot the scenes high up on the catwalks or ladders and when the director would yell ‘cut’ all the other actors would climb down except me. Gene Hackman’s brother was working on the film as a stunt coordinator and he would have to climb up and help me down!”