A Rock gets snowed under – with an icy ex-wife and a Thorne in his side – as a (snow) storm is brewing…
Irwin Allen wasn’t the only 1970s Master of Disaster movies, with this Roger Corman produced Avalanche themed winter’s tale.
Avalanche (1978) Trailer, Night Of The Trailers
As the opening scenes take us into the movie… and you hear the wind howl, and watch the aerial view of snowy mountains you could be excused for thinking this is a The Sound of Music (1965) sequel. As it continues, you may search for the von Trapps literally climbing every mountain on their escape from those bad guys. But it is in fact the Colorado setting for the disaster movie, Avalanche (1978).
Avalanche is surprisingly not a TV movie. Directed by Roger Corman. With a
n all-star cast headed by Rock Hudson – pre Dynasty (1981-89) – and Mia Farrow who also appeared in Death on the Nile (1978)) the same year. As its Corman, don’t expect extravagant budget filled disaster scenes with stellar special effects. In a move Ed Wood (1994) would be proud of, some of the titular disaster scenes of the avalanche itself are stock footage. With polystyrene doubling as snow. And the eagle-eyed disaster movie viewer will note some of the avalanche scenes make an appearance in – bizarrely – the next film to be reviewed, Meteor (1979). And the characters in this soap in the snow story is reminiscent of every disaster film ever, from The Towering Inferno (1974) to Jaws (1975). Yup, we’ve more of those much-loved stereotypes and plot lines before. But this time the plot devices not just nature vs man themed, there’s some man vs man scenes too.
We’ve the sultry talking, Rock Hudson heading the bill – as I assume millionaire – David Shelby, a man with a fondness of checked shirts who won’t shut his new ski resort whatever the impending disaster may be. Reminding me immediately of a similar man, with a similar taste in suits in a film with a shark in another more successful 1970s disaster movie. David is a man so passionate about a mountain he built his pride and joy, million dollar snow sports resort underneath it. In an area notorious for avalanches. Could this possibly be The Towering Inferno inspired?? Ironically this film did have The Towering Inferno‘s William Holden – he played the owner of the doomed tower – in the running for the Shelby role. And he turned this flop down for the Omen II (1978) movie. And while we talking casting, Charlton Heston of the film Earthquake (1974) was also in competition for this nature will find a way movie’s headlining role.
Anyway Shelby’s resort has everything and anything in snow sport themed facilities, with sports jumping, skating, ski mobiles and downhill skiing. This built so he could impress his ex-wife. He’s invited her for the celebrity attended – read two Olympic skaters, a TV Commentator and a ski jumper (whose sleeping with the commentator’s estranged wife) – celebration banquet and this followed the next day by the opening ceremony with snow inspired competitions galore. And crowds
of extras. It’s all go! However… Shelby got his men to pull trees down from his favourite mountain top as the damn trees obscured the view from the top. This action destabilising the slope and resulting in the mountain now more prone to avalanches. And this putting the lives of others at risk. And to top it all, a snow storm is due.
Shelby’s other passion is his ex-wife Caroline Brace (Mia Farrow), a woman who has moved on with her life, work and love. Caroline visits Shelby for the grand opening of his dream resort. And just to remind him she doesn’t love him anymore she changes her booking to her maiden name. Much to Shelby’s obvious upset. So he gets a frosty reception from her. Later she tells Shelby he’s a control freak. Furthermore, Caroline won’t respond to his passionate kisses or his moves on the dance floor. Which makes him angry. But hey there’s always his (obviously naked) secretary in the hot tub as a last resort. Caroline also flirts then sleeps with Nick Thorne (Robert Forster), his nemesis.
Thorne – a younger rugged looking environmentalist and wildlife photographer – has warned him the slope is unsafe and putting the resort at risk of being engulfed by snow. And Thorne built his own log cabin on this mountain with his bare hands (unless that’s a line for the ladies which Caroline falls for). He even “acquires” some explosives just to reinforce that the slope isn’t safe. Leaving Caroline a note while she sleeps after their night of lovemaking. Add to this trio, there’s Shelby’s mother Florence (Jeanette Nolan). She’s also hoping for a reconciliation with Shelby and Caroline. She spends a lot of time drinking and kinda flirting with McDade (Steve Franken), Shelby’s accountant who she kindly introduces us to as the film begins. This in the manner you would introduce someone awkwardly at a dinner party. So he drags her up a mountain to reinforce a plot line. Florence, however will find a piano in face of death and play you a tune. Which means she could fall into the category of “the lounge singer role”… see Airport 77 (1977) and The Towering Inferno (again).
Also attending the celebration banquet and opening day there’s downhill skier, Bruce Scott (Rick Moses), a major celebrity of the ski world. He’s there chatting up the lovestruck gals, despite the presence of his lady-love Tina (Cathey Paine). Her estranged husband, Mike Elliott (Barry Primus), the sports commentator also attends. With all three at Shelby’s table for the big celebration. It’s like awkward scene set at the Captain’s table in Titanic (1997). Bruce will bed any girl who gives him the eye, but only if you can prove your age by ID. There’s an Olympic skater with a bowl haircut, Annette (Peggy Browne) who falls for Bruce with his magic moves on the dance floor and later the bedroom. And Annette’s idea of foreplay is to demonstrate and squeak out names of skating positions. However the two are caught making love by Tina. This after she stripped to her undies outside in a snow storm on her way coming home. And finally more on her TV sports commentator soon to be ex-husband Mike. He will happily take your kid up the mountain for you via ski lift. Because he’s a nice guy. And that’s just some of the more
interesting relevant characters…
Add in no particular order… a minor avalanche, a heavy snowstorm, collapse, fresh snow on the mountains, a small plane crash, a major avalanche, a lot of shouting, collapse requiring mouth to mouth support, threatened with a knife, a lot of screaming, a broken ski lift, a suicidal jilted ex girlfriend, a gas leak, an explosion or two, a vat of boiling soup pouring over you and an ambulance crashing off a mountain side and its DISASTER in capital letters. And to think this all could have been avoided if David had taken heed of those weather reports and shut his ski resort and listened to those warnings… As now it’s the (other) Rock to the rescue.. And you count the 1000 ways to die in a snow related disaster movie.
This post was added to Moon in Gemini‘s Winter in July Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Rock Hudson in Dynasty. Mia Farrow also stars in Death on the Nile (1978) and The Great Gatsby (1974). Robert Forster starred in Murder She Wrote, Hotel, and Magnum PI. Jeanette Nolan starred in Hart to Hart, Hotel, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat and Columbo. Steve Franken starred in The Love Boat and Hotel. Barry Primus starred in Knots Landing and Hotel.