Saturday, November 08, 2014


This made-for-TV Irwin Allen disaster picture dates from 1976.  This means it was made quite soon after the Buffalo Creek disaster of 1972, and probably drew most heavily on that event, but I see a lot of the Johnstown Flood in here too, frankly -- and that was all the way back in 1889.

PLOT SUMMARY:  The old, leaky dam above Brownsville, Oregon is springing one leak after another.  The town fathers -- all well aware that the town's only income stream, you should pardon the expression, comes from the great fishing above the dam -- refuse to open the spillway, feeling that a few more leaks than usual mean nothing special.  The grizzled Hydrodynamics Expert, Charlie Davis (James Griffith), asks the location of the latest leak and packs a bag -- he knows the dam is about to collapse.   Paul Burke, the Young Turk (Martin Milner), tries to convince his future father-in-law, John Cutler (Richard Basehart), the head of the town council (in JAWS his equivalent was Murray Hamilton, The Mayor of Shark City), to turn on their special dam-is-breaking alarm.  Cutler says no, of course.  While all this is going on, rakish helicopter pilot Steve Brannigan (Robert Culp) is trying to get a date with a pretty nurse but reluctantly agrees to help raise the alarm.  But it's too late -- the dam is bust and the water is heading downhill.  WILL ANYONE SURVIVE?

The movie didn't quite meet its goals for a number of different reasons. 


>> It looks as if the budget were too small to allow the filmmakers to show us any real destruction -- AND WHAT ELSE IS THE POINT OF MAKING A DISASTER MOVIE, AM I RIGHT?  I didn't even see much tame, made-for-TV-level destruction in here.   

>> They used all manner of big names in this movie -- but they didn't use many of them WELL.  Roddy McDowall had hardly any lines at all, for crying out loud, and he vanished from the movie almost as soon as he arrived.  Even Leif Garrett, who looked all of twelve in this story, had a juicier role.  All they would have had to do was put McDowall, a wealthy sportsman, out on the lake in a boat that got swallowed up in the turbulence when the dam broke.  Preferably just as he hooked a nice Trout on his line.

>> They appeared to use a real town in the making of this movie -- the credits even thanked the town for allowing the film crew in -- but they never made clear whether Brownsville even has a real dam.  One big missing piece was the usual Irwin Allen panning-from-here-to-there shot to show what is going to be destroyed -- and what was left after the disaster happened.

>> They never even estimated the toll of the flood in dollars, a favorite Shaved Monkey way of reckoning disasters.

>> Surely they could have afforded a panning shot of mud-caked survivors weeping in the wreckage! But it never happened in this movie.

A lot of points were left unresolved at the end of the story. 

>> How did Carol Lynley's character manage after the end of the story?

>> Who the funk builds a dam uphill from a small town, then fails to maintain it?  Where the filmmakers wanted to point out HUMAN FOLLY at work here, I rather see it as the Caudal Fin of Dagon sweeping the unwittingly Shaved Monkeys into Its Sacred Maw...But that might just be me.

>>  Did Martin Milner's character and Barbara Hershey's character stay engaged?  She seemed awfully peeved at him at the end.

>> Why is everyone so interested in the fate of Andy (Eric Olson), a completely unremarkable kid who is apparently accident-prone and whom EVERYONE risks his or her monkey neck to save from the flood? 

>> Will they rebuild?  Who will spearhead that effort? 

And the biggest oversight of all:  Where are the fish???  The fish are completely invisible in this story.  People keep referring to them as the reason everything happens -- YOU HAVE TO LIKE THAT! -- but you never see a single fish, even a stuffed one on a wall or one painted on the town's WELCOME sign.  

It's impossible for me to see it any other way:  the dam broke because THE FISH WANTED OUT. 


Post a Comment

<< Home