Disaster movies are as old as cinema itself. But their golden age began in 1970 with Airport - which, despite being an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, is now remembered chiefly for the parody it inspired. Earthquake - exhibited in Sensurround - set a record for the number of stunt performers used. But the Master of Disaster was Lost in Space producer Irwin Allen. His The Poseidon Adventure grossed the equivalent of $450 million in today's money. And The Towering Inferno - the filming of which destroyed all but 8 of its 57 sets - is still unsurpassed.
The Knickerbocker Theater was an old-fashioned movie palace in Washington, DC designed by Reginald W. Geare for local theatre mogul, Harry Crandall. On January 28, 1922, while patrons were watching Jimmy Durante's film debut in the comedy Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, 28 inches of snow caused the Knickerboof's roof to collapse, killing 98 people, in an event still known as the Knickerbocker snowstorm of 1922. [more inside]
Brando, Depp, the missing millions and Divine Rapture, the lost movie: "After settling into his rented Georgian mansion, Brando phoned [director] Eberhardt asking if they could meet at 11pm. "I said, 'No, Marlon, I'm too tired. I've been rehearsing all day.' Then he said, 'I'm going to shave my hair off and wear an orange wig'."" [more inside]
Dystopian storytelling is pillar of Western narrative tradition, but this decade has seen a significant shift in the way our apocalypse is told. Orthodox tales of government tyranny are giving way to visions of humans running helpless in the wake of environmental meltdown. From the plausible to the fantastic, most of this fiction remains hauntingly real while the non-fiction can get downright scary. In 2008, the 20th anniversary of climatologist James Hansen's landmark speech before Congress, popular art is beginning to reflect an increasingly bleak public sentiment on the future, playing out some of our worst nightmares. It may be that these writers and directors are wishing for the end of the world, but even so, they are certainly giving voice to the creeping feeling that indeed, we might not make it.