Monday, March 12, 2012

“God, This Is Not a Good Day for Me.”

The kiddo and I finally got around to watching Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. Whereas the Airport series is unconvincingly linked by the appearance of disaster magnet Joe Patroni, the Poseidon Adventure movies benefit from a more straightforward approach to sequels.

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure begins just before the original movie ends. Michael Caine is the ever sturdy Captain Mike of the tugboat Jenny. Along with first mate Wilbur (Karl Malden) and the passenger they picked up in their last port Celeste Whitman (Sally Field), we see the Jenny loose her cargo but otherwise safely weather the same storm that overturns the Poseidon. In the clear skies of the next morning, Captain Mike and Wilbur realize that without their cargo to deliver, the bank is going to seize the Jenny, but they spot a French Coast Guard helicopter speeding overhead – presumably carrying Detective Rogo and his group of survivors from the first movie to safety.

Captain Mike and Wilbur decide the helicopter must mean a ship has gone down nearby and arrive at the conclusion that claiming salvage rights on it is the best way to make at least some money off the trip and potentially stave off the bank.

As the Jenny reaches the capsized Poseidon, another ship also arrives. Captained by “Dr.” Stefan Svevo (Kojack himself, Telly Savalas), the Irene brings new arrivals claiming to be there only to aid any survivors, so Captains Mike and Stefan enter into a tenuous agreement to not necessarily help each other, but not hinder each other in their quests. So these seven people – Captain Mike, Wilbur, and Celeste (who Captain Mike and Wilbur amusingly refer to as “Monkey” throughout the film), along with Captain Stefan and three of his men – board the Poseidon through the hole cut in the first movie. And they do so without any knowledge of the ship schematics, stability, or things like flashlights and other basic navigation or survival items.

After reversing the previous movie’s climactic steps back through the propeller shaft room and into the engine room, the team finds their way to the ship’s gym. An explosion rocks the Poseidon and traps the combination salvage/rescue team.

Apparently the French Coast Guard wasn’t trying too hard, because a group of survivors turns up almost immediately. There’s Peter Boyle’s war vet Frank Mazzetti, the hothead father trying to locate his daughter (of course, Boyle will always be the Monster from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein) with Mrs. Partridge herself, Shirley Jones, as ship’s nurse Gina Rowe. Veronica Hamel, who I’ve crushed hard on since her Hill Street Blues days, is along as the beautiful Suzanne Constantine.

Captain Mike and Svevo agree to split up -- Team Jenny (now including the three survivors) heads for the Purser’s Office to break into the safe there and snag some loot, while Team Irene ostensibly looks for more survivors.

Team Jenny finds the Purser’s Office and the safe is buttoned up tight, but an explosion rocks the safe through the ceiling down to the next level, cracking it open. While liberating the cash, uncut diamonds, and gold doubloons, Mazzetti’s daughter shows up (The Sound of Music and Lost In Space’s Angela Cartwright), having been looked after by Slim Pickens’ completely sloshed “Tex” and dreamy Mark Harmon’s ship elevator operator.

Suzanne uses the moment to slip away from Team Jenny and rummage through some filing cabinets in the Purser’s Office, find some information, and take off on her own to find Team Irene. She locates Svevo, with whom she clearly has a history and knows what they are really looking for. They have a brief exchange before Suzanne tells him she is going back to Team Jenny because getting off the ship safely is more important than recovering whatever it is they’re after. Svevo orders one of his henchmen to follow and kill her because they can’t have any loose ends. The henchman shoots Suzanne, but she gets away and puts a fire axe into his chest.

Team Jenny, meanwhile, figures the missing Suzanne went to find Team Irene and begin looking for an alternate way off the ship. Picking up on the idea that Boyle’s Mazzetti plays contrarian to Caine’s Captain Mike, mirroring the dynamic between Borgnine and Hackman in the first movie, the kiddo observed that “both [Poseidon Adventure movies] had men that doubted they’d get out.”

Making their way through one of the ship’s kitchens and beyond, Team Jenny finds the Meredith’s – wife Shirley Knight and her blind husband Jack Warden. They decide to find Team Irene and get off the ship. Stumbling on Suzanne’s dead gun-shot body, they realize that Svevo is probably not who he portrayed himself to be.

Captain Mike leads the group upwards, and they pick their way up a makeshift ladder. This leads to a number of great “oh, shit” moments with the blind man and his wife. They eventually find the axed henchman, realizing Team Irene is between them and the surface. Team Jenny finds a weapons cache along with Svevo and his two remaining henchmen. Svevo’s finally found what he came for – a barrel of plutonium – and a gunfight erupts between Team Jenny and Team Irene. (I have to wonder if that is really the soundest idea on a sinking, capsized ship in a room with plutonium?) Another explosion rocks the ship, trapping Captain Mike and his group in the next room.

Mazzetti is shot during the exchange of gunfire. He dies, but not before having a moment with his daughter while at death’s door. The group thinks they’re trapped in this next room, but the blind guy’s apparent heightened Daredevil senses allow him to recognize that there is a door hidden behind a car they can escape through. While helping Mrs. Meredith (who previously separated her shoulder) up a ladder in a flooded passageway, Captain Mike loses his booty and the woman, resulting in another “oh, shit” moment. (Kiddo: “I did not see that coming. Poor blind man’s wife.”)

In the meantime, Svevo makes it back to the surface through the hole cut by the French Coast Guard and tries to bring up the plutonium using a cargo net and the men he left on the Irene.

Captain Mike finds an exterior door and three scuba tanks for Team Jenny to employ in an attempt to make it to the surface. They use the buddy system for sharing the tanks and split up. They lose the ailing Wilbur in the dive, but everyone else makes it, coming up on the other side of the ship from where Svevo is trying to extract the plutonium. Captain Mike and Monkey take two of the tanks and swim back to the Jenny. While Sally Field crouch/runs to the back of the tug to release the anchor, the kiddo exclaimed, “she’s walking like a monkey!” Thus, completely validating the nickname.

Svevo is aware of the duo as soon as they fire up the tugboat, and open fire. Tex gets shot while swimming for the boat with the others, but everyone else makes it safely onto the Jenny. Team Irene is left standing on the Poseidon when it explodes fantastically!

Talking in the wheelhouse while motoring away from the wreckage, Captain Mike confides to Monkey that he’s worried he’s going to lose his boat since he lost all the treasure he was trying to get off the Poseidon. Monkey reveals she had one of the raw diamonds tucked in her shirt. They kiss and, presumably, live happily ever after.

This sequel was entertaining from beginning to end. The kiddo pointed out in the opening tugboat scenes that “you can tell it’s fake just by the way the boat is rocking,” but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the effects in the final Airport installment. We both found the movie much less dark than the original and certainly watchable. I was honestly dreading Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. I had heard that it is a horrible movie and one of the worst of the disaster genre, but it was actually one of my favorites so far! Definitely recommended.

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