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Avalanche (1978)

With Irwin Allen laying claim to most of the natural disasters that make for explosive cinema, producer Roger Corman once again takes a popular theme and grabs a piece of it for himself resulting in this campy flick that sees dump trucks of snow and big white Styrofoam blocks wipe out a skiing lodge in the mountains of Montana. Unlike the majority of Roger’s New World Productions, this time he’s landed some very well known thespians to play the leading parts in his man vs. nature flick.

avalanche-poster

Injecting some soap opera into the proceedings to kick things off, Mia Farrow arrives at the lodge where the media have gathered for the grand opening of this big budget endeavor. It seems Mia is the ex-spouse of our grand master and owner/developer of the multi million dollar venture, Rock Hudson. Upon seeing Mia, Rock launches into a schoolboy act as he’s so excited to have things turning his way. A new lodge and the return of his lady love who he fully intends to win back. Their opening scene together is fairly tragic. By that I mean, the script is terrible and Rock’s overacting is kind of embarrassing. Topping it off is one of the more uncomfortable screen kisses I’ve think I’ve seen. Chemistry is the not the word to use in describing the appearance of Rock and Mia as former lovers.

avalanche-1978

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s have some fun with this slice of camp.

Taking the script of Jaws as a template, we’re bringing in Robert Forster as the Smokey Bear Ranger type who is having fits when he sees the construction crews working away with heavy machinery causing vibrations throughout the mountainous territory. Picture Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper in a forest ranger outfit. It’s sure to bring down mountains of snow directed at the lodge if they don’t cease and desist. Off he goes to confront “The Rock.” Rock instantly turns into Murray Hamilton’s Mayor of Shark City who will keep those beaches open. Or in this case the slopes, skating rinks and anything else that just happens to be in the shadow of Mt. Avalanche.

forster-avalanche

Not giving anything away, the title of the movie is Avalanche so we can count on one to hit the screens though the F/X do leave a lot to be desired. I do believe I’ve pointed out that this is a Roger Corman production so there are a few things we can always count on from Uncle Roger, one of which is the injection of a topless woman and sure enough while Rock is hanging out in his custom designer sauna pining for Mia, a well endowed brunette just happens to be with him offering him a consolation prize if he can’t win Mia back.  The other is the frugal production qualities and have yourself a hoot during some of the scenes when you can clearly see the blocks of snow blow away in the breeze when a news truck approaches.

Bodies fly about when the snow hits the lodge, people are buried and or crushed leaving Rock  and Forster to do some heavy handed hero bits at organizing the rescue operations and digging out the bodies. Actress Jeanette Nolan as Rock’s Mother and Steve Franken as the company accountant are also featured and in need of some heroic help in the aftermath. I can just picture Mia pointing out to Corman and director Corey Allen, “my character all but disappears in the final reel. I’m not in the snow and nowhere in need of any help as I spent the night in bed over at Forster’s place. How about injecting me into some of the action.” So in what seems like an afterthought, Mia finds herself in an ambulance that goes crashing off a mountain side. Thankfully she is ejected from the vehicle but finds herself hanging perilously over the edge hanging on to a guardrail. Paging Rock Hudson to the rescue.

This is one title I can recall as a kid having a BIG network premier. It all looked pretty cool at the time but now just appears campy and pretty much a maid for TV event. This isn’t surprising in the end if you’ve listened to an interview with Roger Corman on the recent blu ray release as he received a large amount from television to help fund the film and hire an above average cast for his disaster epic.

hudson-in-avalanche

The truth is Rock would have fit nicely into something like The Poseidon Adventure back in 1972. Here it’s just a little too late in the career and he isn’t looking all that good despite being only 53 years of age.

For more on that blu ray release, there’s a great interview with Robert Forster available as an extra where he casually discusses the film and where it fits in amongst his many appearances. “It was a disaster movie on a budget.” He relates the story and chance encounter of working with second unit director Lewis Teague and his subsequent film work with the youngster in Alligator. A film Forster ranks very high on his resume of titles.

It’s a Roger Corman specialty for those looking to catch up on all the titles in the career of Hollywood icon, Rock Hudson.

avalanche

7 Comments »

  1. Back in the day I really liked disaster movies, and still do have a soft spot for most of them if I’m honest, but I can’t remember seeing this. Despite, or perhaps even because of, the lousy effects and unconvincing melodrama, I’d like to have a look at this film at some point.

  2. Holy Moly this thing is a stinker! The genre was running on fumes by the time of its release and really the thrills and chills are nonexistent. It’s more an example of the kind of sludge Woody Allen saved Mia from when she became his muse for those many years. Too bad he turned out to be such a smuck.

    I do recall Jeannette Nolan having a good hammy time as Rock’s mother but otherwise this is a disaster in every way.

    • As you say, running on fumes. Not surprising then that Roger Corman jumped into clean up the last few dollars available. No all star cast here and small in scope with the lame FX to boot. Still it has that cheesy appeal that I love.

  3. The disaster flicks of the ’70s were my springboard out of Disney films and into ‘grown-up’ movies…but I don’t ever remember seeing this one. Was it released to theaters, or was it strictly made-for-TV? And now that you’ve compared it to a particular favorite movie of ours, I’m sure someone will read this review and decide to make ‘Sharkalanche’.

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