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The Poseidon Adventure

film poster by Mort Künstler
Directed by Ronald Neame
Irwin Allen
Produced by Irwin Allen
Written by Paul Gallico (novel)
Wendell Mayes & Stirling Silliphant (screenplay)
Starring Gene Hackman
Ernest Borgnine
Red Buttons
Carol Lynley
Roddy McDowall
Stella Stevens
Shelley Winters
Jack Albertson
Pamela Sue Martin
Arthur O'Connell
Eric Shea
Leslie Nielsen
Music by Music:
John Williams
The Morning After:
Joel Hirschhorn
Al Kasha
Cinematography Harold E. Stine
Editing by Harold F. Kress
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) December 12, 1972
Running time 117 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5,000,000 (estimated)
Followed by Beyond the Poseidon Adventure

The Poseidon Adventure is a 1972 American action-adventure disaster film based on the novel of the same name by Paul Gallico. It concerns the capsizing of a luxurious ocean liner by a tsunami caused by an under sea earthquake and the desperate struggles of a handful of survivors to journey up to the bottom of the hull of the liner before it sinks.

It won the Academy Award for Best Song for "The Song from 'The Poseidon Adventure'" (also known as "The Morning After"), which became a hit single for Maureen McGovern, as well as winning an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects. Shelley Winters was also nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a film for the role. The cast of the film includes five past Academy Award winners - Winters, Gene Hackman, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons and Ernest Borgnine. Parts of the movie were filmed aboard the RMS Queen Mary.

The plot centers upon the fictional ocean liner SS Poseidon, an aged luxury ship from the golden age of travel, on its final voyage from New York City to Athens before being sent to the scrapyard. On New Year's Day, it is overturned by a tsunami caused by an underwater earthquake. Passengers and crew are trapped inside and a rebellious preacher attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety.

A huge box office success, it was the second highest grossing film of 1972, behind The Godfather. The success of this film is in the vein of other all-star disaster films in the 1970s such as Airport (1970) and later films like The Towering Inferno (1974), and Earthquake (1974). A sequel, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), had an equally star-studded cast, but was a box-office and critical failure. The film was remade twice, first as a television special in 2005 with the same name, and a theatrical release with the name Poseidon in 2006.



The SS Poseidon, an ocean liner slated for retirement and dismantling, is making its way across the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea from New York City to Athens. Despite the protests of Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen), who fears for the ship's safety in troubled waters, the representative of the Poseidon's new owners, Mr. Linarcos (Fred Sadoff), insists that the ship makes full speed towards its destination, meaning that it is not allowed to carry additional ballast onboard.

Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) and his former-prostitute wife Linda (Stella Stevens) —seasick, like many of the passengers — receive an invitation to the captain's table. Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), a minister questioning his faith and believing God helps those who help themselves, delivers a sermon. Susan Shelby (Pamela Sue Martin) and her younger brother Robin (Eric Shea) are traveling to meet their parents. Robin is interested in how the ship works and frequently visits the engine room. Retired Jewish hardware store owner Manny Rosen (Jack Albertson) and his wife Belle (Shelley Winters) are going to Israel to meet their two-year-old grandson for the first time. Haberdasher James Martin (Red Buttons) is a love-shy, health-conscious bachelor. The ship's singer, Nonnie Parry (Carol Lynley) rehearses for the New Year's celebration with her band.

That evening, New Year's Eve, passengers gather in the dining room to celebrate. Captain Harrison is called to the bridge because of a report of an undersea earthquake. Harrison receives word from the lookout that there is a huge wave heading towards them. He issues a mayday and commands a "hard left" turn, but it is too late. The wave hits the bridge, drowning Harrison, Linarcos and the other ship's officers on the bridge. With its lack of ballast, the ship rolls over, killing or injuring many of the people on board.

In the dining room, survivors take stock of their predicament. Acres (Roddy McDowall), an injured waiter, is trapped at the galley door now high above. With information from Martin, Scott surmises that the escape route will be found 'upwards', at the outer hull, which is now above water. Robin tells Scott that the hull near the propeller shaft is only one inch (2.54 cm) thick. The Rosens, the Rogos, Nonnie, Susan, Robin, Acres and Martin agree to go with Scott, using a Christmas tree as a ladder. Scott unsuccessfully tries to convince more passengers to join them. After the small group climbs to the galley, there is a series of explosions. As seawater floods the ballroom the survivors rush to the Christmas tree, but the weight of everyone climbing causes it to collapse.

Acres and Scott find the galley, and the survivors pick their way through the kitchen to a staircase. Scott climbs the underside of the stairs and he and Martin use a firehose to pull the others up. Scott leads them to an access tunnel. Rogo has been instructed to look after everybody, but just as Martin and Nonnie climb into the hole, water begins filling the corridor. While climbing up a long ladder inside the funnel, with Acres above them, the ship rocks from another series of explosions. Acres falls into the churning water and is lost despite Rogo's attempt to save him.

Climbing out of the shaft, Scott and Rogo argue over the loss of Acres. Their group meets a larger band of survivors led by the ship's medic, heading towards the bow. Scott is certain they are heading for their doom, but Rogo wants to follow them and gives Scott fifteen minutes to go aft to find the engine room. Although he takes longer than allowed, Scott finds the way to the engine room.

The group discovers the engine room is on the other side of a flooded corridor, so someone must swim through with a line to help the others. Belle, a former competitive swimmer, claims she can manage it, but Scott refuses and dives in with the line. Halfway through, a panel collapses on Scott, trapping him. The survivors notice something is wrong and Belle dives in. She frees Scott and they make it to the other side. As Scott secures the lifeline, Belle has a heart attack. Before dying she tells Scott to give her "Chai" pendant (representing the Hebrew sign for life) to her husband, who in turn will give it to her grandson.

Rogo swims over to make sure Belle and Scott are alright, then leads the rest over. When Rosen swims to the other side and finds his wife's body he is unwilling to go on, but Scott gives him Belle's Chai pendant, reminding him that he has a reason to live.

Scott leads the survivors across a catwalk to the propeller shaft room's watertight door, but there is another series of explosions and Linda falls to her death. An infuriated and heartbroken Rogo blames her death on Scott. More explosions rupture a pipe that releases steam, blocking their escape. Scott, outraged about the three deaths and this final obstacle, rants at God for betraying the survivors. He leaps and grabs onto the burning-hot valve wheel to shut off the steam, then tells Rogo to lead the group before letting go of the wheel, sacrificing himself.

Rogo leads the remaining survivors — Rosen, Martin, Nonnie, Susan and Robin — through the watertight door and into the propeller shaft room. They hear a noise above the ship and bang on the ceiling to get the rescuers' attention. The rescuers cut through the hull and help the group from the ship. The survivors, the only six alive after the disaster, fly off to safety by helicopter.


  • Reverend Frank Scott (played by Gene Hackman). He is a good natured preacher going on the cruise to discover God in his own way. When the boat is turned upside down, it is up to him to lead the people willing to the top of the boat. He ends up sacrificing himself to save them all.
  • Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo (played by Ernest Borgnine)
  • James Martin (played by Red Buttons)
  • Nonnie Parry (played by Carol Lynley), a young singer who is travelling with her brother, earning their fare by their performances, when the wave strikes. Devastated over her brother's death, she is looked after by James Martin. It is suggested that a romance is slowly blossoming between the two.
  • Belle Rosen (played by Shelley Winters)
  • Manny Rosen (played by Jack Albertson) Manny Rosen is a Jewish shopkeeper from Brooklyn, New York. He is married to Belle Rosen, but near the end, Belle dies from a heart attack. They are on the way to meet their grandchild in Israel.
  • Acres (played by Roddy McDowall) is a shy and reclusive steward aboard the Poseidon. Before the New Year's Eve party, Acres watches the ship's band rehearse as he and the other waiters get ready for the night. At the party Acres serves passengers drinks. After the capsizing Acres is trapped at the galley door now high above the ballroom. Originally Acres was going to climb down to them; however, Reverend Frank Scott decides that survivors should go up as rescue will be found upwards. At first Scott suggests table cloth to climb up to Acres; however, Acres tells them there is none. Soon after they decide to use the Christmas tree to climb up to Acres. While the other survivors climb up a staircase, Acres and Scott go ahead and find the only exit to 'Broadway' where Acres suggests using an access tunnel to the funnel shaft. When they climb up the tunnel, the ship rocks from another series of explosions and Acres falls into the churning water and disappears. Rogo makes an attempt to save him, but the shaft explodes and forces him to abandon Acres. Scott and Rogo soon argue over the loss of Acres.
  • Linda Rogo (played by Stella Stevens) is a loudmouth and tough woman. Linda was a prostitute until she married Mike, a policeman. He arrested her six times; revealed as his ploy to convince her to marry him. Linda and Mike are traveling together on a holiday. Seasick Linda is given suppositories by the ship's doctor, recovers, and sits at the captain's table at the New Year's Eve party having received invitations to do so. Linda and Mike survive the capsizing. Linda has to wear Mike's shirt as she cannot climb the Christmas tree with her dress on, and had "just panties" on underneath. Shortly before reaching the hull a series of explosions throw Linda to her death from a catwalk onto a burning platform below, presumably breaking her neck. Mike tries to reach her, but her body is surrounded by flames and it is obvious she is dead. Mike blames Scott for Linda's death. Linda Rogo, due to her sassy attitude and funny one-liners became a favorite character among the film's fans.
  • Susan Shelby (played by Pamela Sue Martin) is a teenager travelling with her younger brother to meet their parents. At the New Year Eve party, Susan dances with her friend Terry; however, Susan has a crush on Reverend Frank Scott. After the capsizing Susan ends up on a table which is now connected to the ceiling, and jumps into tablecloth which is being held by other passengers. Susan and Robin then agree to go with Scott. While the survivors are in Broadway, Susan and Scott find the hatch that leads to the engine room. Scott tells Susan to return to the others and go forward if he has not come back in five minutes. After waiting, Susan tells the others the bad news, but Scott reappears and announces he has found the way to the engine room. When Scott dies Susan is deeply upset. However, she and the other survivors are rescued a short time later.
  • Robin Shelby (played by Eric Shea) is a young boy travelling with his older sister Susan to meet their parents. Robin is interested in how the ship works and frequently visits the engine room and the captain. Robin and his sister survive the capsizing of the Poseidon and help Reverend Frank Scott by climbing up the Christmas tree to test it. While going through Broadway with the other survivors, Robin goes missing but is found by Scott. However, the water begins to flood Broadway and they race to the hatch and make it up just as the water floods the corridor. Robin and Susan are later rescued.
  • Captain Harrison (played by Leslie Nielsen) is the captain of the Poseidon. Captain Harrison is ordered by Mr. Linarcos to empty ballast and proceed at full speed; however, he does not agree with this, telling him it is dangerous. Still he does what he is told rather than lose his command. Captain Harrison attends the New Year's Eve party where Reverend Frank Scott, Mike and Linda sit at his table. However, he and Linarcos are called back to the bridge because of an emergency report of an undersea earthquake near Crete. Harrison receives word from the lookout that there is a huge wave heading towards them. He immediately issues a mayday, but it is too late. The wave hits the bridge, drowning Harrison, Linarcos and other ship's officers.
  • Mr. Linarcos (played by Fred Sadoff) is the company representative of the Poseidon. Mr. Linarcos orders Captain Harrison to empty ballast and proceed at full speed, against the Captain's better judgement, telling Mr. Linarcos it is dangerous. However Linarcos tells him he has the legal right to relieve him of command. That evening he attends the New Year's Eve party; however, he and Captain Harrison are called back to the bridge because of an emergency report of an undersea earthquake near Crete. However, they are too late and the wave hits the bridge, drowning Captain Harrison, Linarcos, and the other ship's officers.
  • Chaplain John (played by Arthur O'Connell) is a priest aboard the Poseidon. Chaplain John is friends with Reverend Frank Scott and helps him at the sermon on Sunday's service. That evening Chaplain John attends the New Year's Eve party and survives the capsizing. John helps the injured; however, when Reverend Frank Scott decides to go up, John decides to stay. Scott asks him to come but John tells him he must stay with them and help them even though he knows he will die if he stays. After a series of explosions, seawater begins to flood the ballroom, killing Chaplain John.
  • Mr. Tinkham (played by Erik L. Nelson) is the bridge officer aboard the Poseidon. He attends the sermon at Sunday's service and later attends the New Year's Eve party where he sits with Belle and Manny. At the party Belle asks Mr. Tinkham if he is married, whereupon he replies that the sea is his mistress. After the Poseidon capsizes, Mr. Tinkham is seriously injured and is helped by Reverend Frank Scott. Mr. Tinkham repeatedly tells Scott he must get to "Lifeboat Stations"; however, he soon dies.
  • The Purser (played by Byron Webster) is the purser aboard the Poseidon. He attends the New Year's Eve party and sits with Susan and Robin, where he tells them that the Poseidon is a giant hotel. The purser survives the capsizing of the ship and tells the other passengers to wait for rescue. However, Reverend Frank Scott does not listen to him and tries to persuade passengers to go up. Still the purser does not listen to Scott, telling him it is suicide. The purser with many other passengers stays; however, after a series of explosions, seawater begins to flood the ballroom, killing the purser.
  • Terry (played by Ernie F. Orsatti) is a passenger aboard the Poseidon. Terry attends the New Year's Eve party and sits with Susan as they are friends. Terry also dances with Susan at the party. He is also the character who does the spectacular fall into the skylight that was filmed from the perspective of the table he was hanging onto. The scene after the capsizing briefly shows him lying in the skylight with his corpse smoking from being subjected to electric current.

Popular culture

  • The comedy-musical stage version The Poseidon Adventure, the Musical! by Bill Robens and Genemichael Barrera, (Los Angeles, 2002) was featured in the Fox Movie Channel documentary Cult Culture: The Poseidon Adventure.
  • Another musical has been based upon the story, POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical written by David Cerda with Hell in a Handbag Productions in Chicago.
  • An official fan club was created in the late 1990s. The Poseidon Adventure Fan Club (1999-2006) was an international club run by Jak Castro, which presented seven fan club reunions over the course of its run. Most of the film's original cast made appearances at these reunions. The fan club was featured in the FOX Movie Channel documentary Cult Culture: The Poseidon Adventure, and in the AMC Backstory The Poseidon Adventure, which is also included on the special edition DVD of the original film.
  • One of the special effects models used for filming is on view at the LA Maritime Museum in San Pedro, CA.[1]
  • The Pokémon episode "Pokémon Shipwreck!" was based on the events of this movie.
  • An episode of The Simpsons ("The Wettest Stories Ever Told") parodied the film, even including a spoof of "The Morning After" exaggeratedly foreshadowing the destruction of the ship, the SS Neptune. Neptune is the Roman name of the Greek god Poseidon.
  • The cartoon The Angry Beavers featured an episode in which two of the characters had to escape from the sinking dam.
  • The film is parodied in the Seinfeld episode "The Puerto Rican Day", in which Elaine accompanies a ragtag group that includes a priest under stadium bleachers in an attempt to escape the parade.
  • The band Killdozer's song "Man Vs Nature" pays satirical homage to the film as well as The Towering Inferno and Earthquake (the last erroneously identified as an Irwin Allen production.) The lyrics of the first verse begin On my screen a ship was sinking/it seemed so real but it was just a movie/made by Irwin Allen (my what a relief).
  • The television show Sunset Beach (1997-2000) borrowed large chunks of the plot for its 'shockwave' storyline. This had around half of the cast boarding a cruise liner which was turned upside down by a giant wave. As in the movie, the show's characters had to make their way to the bottom of the ship (which was at the top) and cut their way through.
  • In the Father Ted episode "Speed 3", the priests watch the entire Poseidon Adventure to help them rescue Dougal from a milk float, believing it will help them as "Gene Hackman plays a priest in it!" It is "No help at all".
  • The movie Rugrats Go Wild! parodies the boat overturning and uses the song "The Morning After"
  • A SNES game called S.O.S., or Septentrion in Japan, has a largely similar plot, although some of the specifics vary.
  • Mad Magazine (issue 161) did a spoof of this movie called "The Poop-side Down Adventure". The cover does not show Alfred E. Neuman's face, but only his legs upside-down in a life preserver. It is also famous for being the best selling issue of all time in MAD Magazine's long history.
  • In the mid-1990s, The Poseidon Adventure was spoofed by a live comedy troupe called "The Sick and Twisted Players", led by Tony Vaguely in San Francisco.
  • The Urban Legends Reference Page has a joke page, complete with a phony Internet Movie Database entry which claims that a silent film version of The Poseidon Adventure, starring Donald Crisp as Reverend Scott, was playing in the ship's theater on the RMS Titanic at the time it struck the iceberg. This is done to caution the reader about believing everything you read on the Internet, even on the Urban Legends page.
  • The third season Xena: Warrior Princess episode 'Tsunami' similarly features a ship overturning and the passengers being trapped inside.
  • An episode of Duckman in which some characters are trapped in an emergency shelter including a waiter, Acres, who is a one-shot character, is quickly killed off and instantly forgotten by the rest of the party.
  • On an episode of Mama's Family, "Mama Gets the Bird", Mama and Iola enter the kitchen, turned upside down, looking for Uncle Oscar's gold. Mama replies to Iola "this looks like the galley from the Poseidon Adventure".
  • On an episode of Friends, Chandler imitates a dance by Belle Rosen, saying he was "Shelly Winters from Poseidon Adventure".
  • On a 2008 episode of the animated TV series King of the Hill, entitled "Pour Some Sugar On Kahn," the character Kahn performs a karaoke rendition of "The Morning After" to an enthusiastic audience.
  • On an episode of the cult classic series "Get a Life" with Chris Elliot, there is an episode in which he is stuck upside down on a roller coaster and begins to sing The Morning After
  • On the Carol Burnett Show from the 1970s, she and the cast do a spoof on disaster movies, mainly Airport 75, with Carol playing the Karen Black stewardess role. At one point she announces that the inflight movie will be The Poseidon Adventure.
  • On the Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show, a spoof of The Poseidon Adventure is done in one of the songs.
  • On the HBO series Dream On one of the characters played by Denny Dillon, is obsessed with The Poseidon Adventure and names some of the puppies in her litter Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, etc.
  • On the animated series South Park there is an episode in which the character of Chef falls in love with an evil woman who turns out to be a succubus. The only way the boys can get rid of her is to play "the Morning After" in reverse.
  • An episode late in the series of Designing Women finds the stars trapped in an elevator and Bernice (Alice Ghostly) says she remembers The Poseidon Adventure and says she could never figure out how they shoved Shelley Winters through the pipes
  • The famous glass windows in The Poseidon Adventure were originally created for the Fox movie Hello Dolly, and were also seen in the movie Sleeper with Woody Allen. Some of those windows are now on display at the Fox Baja movie studio in Mexico.
  • Cracked Magazine, a MAD-style magazine, also did a parody of The Poseidon Adventure called The Perspirin Adventure!
  • On the 1970s series The Bob Newhart Show, Bob and Emily are getting ready to take a sea cruise and the other characters on the show are in the stateroom seeing them of them mentions having just watched The Poseidon Adventure...
  • In the Daria episode "Sappy Adventure", Jane Lane mentions that her favorite song is "the theme from the Poseidon Adventure".


The film won two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA.[1]

Awards wins

Award nominations

See also


External links

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