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Related: bad - accident - danger
Vesuvius in Eruption (1817) - J.M.W. Turner
A disaster (from Middle French désastre, from Old Italian disastro, from Latin pejorative prefix dis- bad + astrum star) is the impact of a natural or human-made hazard that negatively affects society or environment. Disasters occur when hazards strike in vulnerable areas. Disasters are generally more limited in scale than doomsday events, the global impact of which would threaten a large proportion of life on earth. The word disaster's root is from astrology: this implies that when the stars are in a bad position a bad event will happen. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disaster [Jan 2007]
A disaster movie is a movie that has an impending disaster (e.g. an asteroid collides with Earth) as its subject. They typically feature large casts and multiple plotlines, and focus on the characters' attempts to avert, escape, or cope of the aftermath of the disaster. One major character, several minor characters, and scores of extras typically die before the story is resolved.
Disaster themes are nearly as old as film itself. D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) has disaster elements, as do 1930s dramas such as San Francisco (earthquake) and In Old Chicago (fire). Science-fiction movies such as When Worlds Collide routinely used disasters as plot elements in the 1950s and early 1960s. The heyday of disaster movies began in 1970, however, when the success of Airport generated a flood of "all-star-cast-in-peril" stories.
Airport itself qualifies as a disaster movie only in retrospect. It is closer in tone and construction to The High and the Mighty or Zero Hour than to the full-blown disaster films that came after it. The disaster-movie cycle of the 1970s, really began with The Poseidon Adventure (ocean liner capsized by tsunami) in 1972, and continued with similar movies such as The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. The genre was beginning to burn out by the mid-1970s, when movies like The Swarm and Meteor were being produced more and more quickly with less production effort and less impressive casts. 1983 saw the TV movie The Day After that dealt with the possibility of a nuclear war.
The disaster movie genre revived, briefly, in the mid-1990s--perhaps because new special effects techniques made more spectacular disasters possible. In 1996 Independence Day merged a science fiction alien invasion plot with disaster movie conventions. Later, spectacular products of this brief revival were a pair of extraterrestrial object impact movies Deep Impact and Armageddon, both released in the summer of 1998.
In 2004, The Day After Tomorrow built upon fear of global warming with an unlikely assortment of disasters, perhaps setting a record of the most disasters in a single movie. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disaster_movie [Dec 2004]
Disaster movie spoof
- Airplane! (1980) - David Zucker, Jerry Zucker [Amazon.com]
The quintessential movie spoof that spawned an entire genre of parody films, the original Airplane! still holds up as one of the brightest comedic gems of the '80s, not to mention of cinema itself (it ranked in the top 5 of Entertainment Weekly's list of the 100 funniest movies ever made). The humor may be low and obvious at times, but the jokes keep coming at a rapid-fire clip and its targets--primarily the lesser lights of '70s cinema, from disco films to star-studded disaster epics--are more than worthy for send-up. If you've seen even one of the overblown Airport movies then you know the plot: the crew of a filled-to-capacity jetliner is wiped out and it's up to a plucky stewardess and a shell-shocked fighter pilot to land the plane. Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty are the heroes who have a history that includes a meet-cute à la Saturday Night Fever, a surf scene right out of From Here to Eternity, a Peace Corps trip to Africa to teach the natives the benefits of Tupperware and basketball, a war-ravaged recovery room with a G.I. who thinks he's Ethel Merman (a hilarious cameo)--and those are just the flashbacks! The jokes gleefully skirt the boundaries of bad taste (pilot Peter Graves to a juvenile cockpit visitor: "Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?"), with the high (low?) point being Hagerty's intimate involvement with the blow-up automatic pilot doll, but they'll have you rolling on the floor. The film launched the careers of collaborators Jim Abrahams (Big Business), David Zucker (Ruthless People), and Jerry Zucker (Ghost), as well as revitalized such B-movie actors as Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, and Leslie Nielsen, who built a second career on films like this. A vital part of any video collection. --Mark Englehart for Amazon.com
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