The Morning After
Maureen McGovern

The SS Poseidon, an ocean liner slated for retirement and dismantling, is making its way across the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea from New York City to Athens. Despite the protests of Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen), who fears for the ship's safety in troubled waters, the representative of the Poseidon's new owners, Mr. Linarcos (Fred Sadoff), insists that the ship make full speed towards its destination, meaning that it is not allowed to take on additional water ballast.

Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) and his former-prostitute wife Linda (Stella Stevens) — seasick, like many of the passengers — receive an invitation to the captain's table. Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), a minister questioning his faith and believing God helps those who help themselves, delivers a sermon at Mass. Susan Shelby (Pamela Sue Martin) and her younger brother Robin (Eric Shea) are traveling to meet their parents. Robin is interested in how the ship works and frequently visits the engine room. Retired Jewish hardware store owner Manny Rosen (Jack Albertson) and his wife Belle (Shelley Winters) are going to Israel to meet their two-year-old grandson for the first time. Haberdasher James Martin (Red Buttons) is a love-shy, health-conscious bachelor. The ship's singer, Nonnie Parry (Carol Lynley) rehearses for the New Year's celebration with her band, which includes her brother Teddy on drums.

That evening, New Year's Eve, passengers gather in the dining room to celebrate. Captain Harrison is called to the bridge because of a report of an undersea earthquake. Harrison receives word from the lookout that there is a huge wave heading towards them. He issues a mayday and commands a "hard left" turn, but it is too late. The wave hits the bridge, killing Harrison, Linarcos and the other ship's officers on the bridge. With its lack of ballast, the ship rolls over, killing or injuring many of the people on board.

In the dining room, survivors take stock of their predicament. Acres (Roddy McDowall), an injured waiter, is trapped at the galley door now high above. With information from Martin, Scott surmises that the escape route will be found 'upwards', at the outer hull, which is now above water. Robin tells Scott that the hull near the propeller shaft is only one inch (2.54 cm) thick. The Rosens, the Rogos, Nonnie, Susan, Robin, Acres and Martin agree to go with Scott, using a Christmas tree as a ladder. Scott unsuccessfully tries to convince more passengers to join them. After the small group climbs to the galley, there is a series of explosions. As seawater floods the ballroom the survivors rush to the Christmas tree, but the weight of everyone climbing causes it to collapse.

Acres and Scott find the galley, and the survivors pick their way through the kitchen to a staircase. Scott climbs the underside of the stairs and he and Martin use a fire hose to pull the others up. Scott leads them to an access tunnel. Rogo has been instructed to look after everybody, but just as Martin and Nonnie climb into the hole, water begins filling the corridor. While climbing up a long ladder inside the funnel, with Acres above them, the ship rocks from another series of explosions. Acres falls into the churning water and is lost despite Rogo's attempt to save him.

Climbing out of the shaft, Scott and Rogo argue over the loss of Acres. Their group meets a larger band of survivors led by the ship's medic, heading towards the bow. Scott is certain they are heading for their doom, but Rogo wants to follow them and gives Scott fifteen minutes to go aft to find the engine room. Although he takes longer than allowed, Scott finds the way to the engine room.

The group discovers the engine room is on the other side of a flooded corridor, so someone must swim through with a line to help the others. Belle, a former competitive swimmer, claims she can manage it, but Scott refuses and dives in with the line. Halfway through, a panel collapses on Scott, trapping him. The survivors notice something is wrong and Belle dives in. She frees Scott and they make it to the other side. As Scott secures the lifeline, Belle has a heart attack. Before dying she tells Scott to give her "Chai" pendant (representing the Hebrew sign for life) to her husband, who in turn will give it to her grandson.

Rogo swims over to make sure Belle and Scott are alright, then leads the rest over. When Rosen swims to the other side and finds his wife's body he is unwilling to go on, but Scott gives him Belle's Chai pendant, reminding him that he has a reason to live.

Scott leads the survivors across a catwalk to the propeller shaft room's watertight door, but there is another series of explosions and Linda falls to her death. An infuriated and heartbroken Rogo blames her death on Scott. More explosions rupture a pipe that releases steam, blocking their escape. Scott, outraged about the three deaths and this final obstacle, rants at God for betraying the survivors. He leaps and grabs onto the burning-hot valve wheel to shut off the steam, then tells Rogo to lead the group before letting go of the wheel, sacrificing himself.

Rogo leads the remaining survivors — Rosen, Martin, Nonnie, Susan and Robin — through the watertight door and into the propeller shaft room. They hear a noise above the ship and bang on the ceiling to get the rescuers' attention. The rescuers cut through the hull and help the group from the ship. The survivors, the only six alive after the disaster, fly off to safety by helicopter.

Oscar
9 Nominations
2 Awards
Best Visual Effects
Best Original Song

Golden Globes
4 Nominations
1 Award
Best Supporting Actress
“The Poseidon Adventure” was the movie that defined a genre. It was the standard by which all others were measured. It set off a chain reaction of fires, floods, mid air disasters, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, avalanches and animal attacks like you'd never seen. It was the rebirth of producer Irwin Allen. His career began with an Oscar for the 1953 documentary “The Sea Around Us”, before moving onto more profitable fantasies, such as “The Lost World”, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Five Weeks In A Balloon”, to name a few. But it was his hugely successful hits on the small screen that he found his stride with such classics as “Lost In Space”, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “Land of the Giants” and “Time Tunnel” that made him the king of Sci-Fi TV. However, it was “The Poseidon Adventure” that earned him the bold new title, The Master of Disaster, and it was bestowed upon him with the utmost respect.

Paul Gallico, who wrote the novel, was inspired to write it by a voyage he made on the Queen Mary. When he was having breakfast in the dining room, the liner was hit by a large wave, sending people and furniture crashing to the other side of the vessel. When Twentieth Century Fox bought the rights to the blockbuster novel, they asked Stiriling Silliphant, the Oscar winning writer of “In The Heat Of The Night” to pen the screenplay. Ironically, just two years later, he would pen the screenplay to another one of the ‘Master of Disasters’ masterpieces, “The Towering Inferno”.
The star-studded cast was also unbelievable. It read very much like a Who's Who of celebrated Oscar winning actors of the day: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson and Red Buttons; in addition to Stella Stevens, Pamela Sue Martin, Roddy McDowall, Carol Lynley, Arthur O'Connell and Eric Shea.

Leading man Gene Hackman was fresh from his Oscar-winning performance in “The French Connection”. His character is an angry, rebellious and critical Reverend Scott, who believes God wants winners, not quitters, and it’s that driven nature of his religious conviction that propels much of the film's narrative. Unfortunately, two hours of the angry reverend can be a bit much, but he does move the picture along.

Another Oscar winner is Shelly Winters. Miss Winters shines as Belle Rosen, the Jewish grandmother on her way to see her grandchildren for the first time. Shelley won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role. Her performance, which she reportedly gained 40 pounds for the part, was the best of the bunch sans one… Ernest Borgnine.
Borgnine plays brash and tough cop Mike Rogo. He's the perfect balance to Hackman's character and they clash for leadership but also work together to save lives. They have great chemistry opposite each other and he's a loud mouth fun character. As is Stella Stevens, who is terrific opposite Borgnine as his equally loud mouthed wife Linda. Their banter and arguing but love for one another is fun to watch.

Pamela Sue Martin shines as Susan who, traveling with her younger brother, played by Eric Shea, is on their way to meet their parents. She was a great scene-stealer when it came to her crush on Hackman’s Reverend Scott. She made an excellent showing out of what would otherwise be a small role. And for her first film role, she did quite well.

There's also Red Buttons who plays Martin, perhaps the most interesting supporting character, one who "has been a bachelor too long" - but who nevertheless strikes up a platonic relationship with the shell-shocked Nonnie played by Carol Lynley. While Martin fondly considers marriage, he is instantly recognizable as gay - a role which, in different times, would surely have been made more explicit. But his sensitivity and caring for each of the stranded and doomed shipmates makes him the most sympathetic character there is.

Other top-notch actors are Jack Albertson, Belle Rosen’s loving husband and Roddy McDowell as Acres, the ships crewman. In minor roles were also great actors Leslie Neilson as the Captain and Arthur O'Connell as the ships Clergy. All together, they make the unlikely nature of the story seem entirely plausible.
It's a huge movie in every sense of the word. The SS Poseidon is more than just a ship; it is a world turned upside down. The sets are incredible, from the upside down kitchen and ballroom to the engine room. They're detailed and humorous, such as the barbershop and the men’s room, where little Eric Shea ponders how to use the restroom with the urinals upside down. They're interesting, and they're used in ways you've never imagined. The dangers are larger than life. Fire, explosions, and water, water everywhere.

“The Poseidon Adventure” was a huge box office success and the number one movie of 1973, doing twice as much business as the number two film, “Deliverance” with Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight. By the end of 1974, it ranked among the six most successful features in film history. With other disaster films of the 1970s, such as “Airport” with Dean Martin and later ones like “Earthquake” with Charleton Heston and “Avalanche” with Rock Husdon, the two most powerful and lasting are “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno” both of which are a glorious testament to Irwin Allen.
Of the 9 Academy Award nominations the film received, it won a Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects and one for Best Original Song, The Morning After, written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. The song was performed by Carol Lynley and French singer Renee Armand. The two sounded so much alike that only the person in charge of the final mixing knows just how much Carol really sang. The song reached No. 1 in the charts by Maureen McGovern. The trio, Kasha, Hirschhorn and McGovern would later work together for the theme song to “The Towering Inferno” which also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song two years later.

As the line on the movie poster says, its ‘Hell, Upside Down’... and boy, you better believe it!


Click on the title for my review of Irwin Allen’s "The Towering Inferno"