Earthquake (1974)

Theater patrons got to shake, rattle and roll, and it wasn’t from a rock revival, thanks to this 1974 disaster film and its new technological development,  Sensurround. Key first run theaters were outfitted with special speakers producing a low bass sound that actually shook seats (and triggered nosebleeds for some patrons). In between scenes, they got a multicharacter plot that focused on a Los Angeles stricken by a devastating quake that changes the lives of an allstar cast, including Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene, Genevieve Bujold, Richard Roundtree and Oscar-winners Charlton Heston, George Kennedy and an un-billed Walter Matthau. Universal made the film to capitalize on the success of Airport (1970), often considered the first disaster movie. The choice to focus on an earthquake was inspired by one in the San Fernando Valley in February 1971. With Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century-Fox producing The Towering Inferno (1974) at the same time, producer Jennings Lang had to go all-out to compete with that massive production. As a result, he used 140 stunt people, a record at the time, including legends like Joe Canutt, Terry Leonard and Ava Gardner, who surprised everybody by insisting on doing her own stunts. Critics didn’t have a lot of time for any of the movies in the disaster cycle, but audiences pushed Earthquake to a position as the year’s fourth highest grossing film.

(d. Mark Robson, 123 m Digital)