In “Earthquake”, the special effects boys at Universal get to flatten the city in which they work and play and must have gotten a chuckle out of the task, a sight more amusement than the audience gets from this tepid, fractured television film passing as major motion picture drama, as the effects team halted their destructive efforts before similarly eliminating the amateurish script by George Fox and Mario Puzo. Mark Robson is at a loss to find an actor or incident on which to develop any dramatic flow and his direction is noticeably anemic: the film has the perfunctory feel of episodic 1970’s TV only armed with a larger budget and a barely more noteworthy cast. There really isn’t anything for the audience to do except to sit back and wait until the buildings start to collapse, hoping that the destructively tectonic shifts will enliven the proceedings considerably as the impressively weak narrative threads which make up the script are not the stuff of memorable cinema.
Even for an “all-star” (someone must buy the marketing departments a dictionary to avoid these promissory misunderstandings) disaster film, there is little plot, no sympathetic characters, no incidents of individual heroism in which to alleviate the mindlessly random carnage (the simple ugly fact of disaster film is that they require the creation of cataclysmic situations in which a number of random people will die in colorful and novels ways in order to ensure the circumstances for the the heroes to prove their mettle on the unspoken backs of the many who expire), no wit (the level of humor is no deeper than a guy drooling over Victoria Principal’s bosom in a tight tee shirt) and, worst of all, no narrative direction. Once the quake occurs, there is nothing for the scattered assemblage of characters to do except to keep tripping over debris until an almost Rube Goldberg series of events occur which accelerates the picking off of several more highly-billed actors, a result of screenwriting which ignores certain fundamentals of advancing a story, such as actually having writing a plot to begin with.
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