This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. The following was inspired by fellow SoCal blogging colleague, Arlee over at Tossing It Out, and his subterranean sub-genre related post:
“The earthquake has been a special effects staple since the silent film era. The effect can be as unrealistic and silly looking as a shaking camera and stumbling actors or the effects can be quite dramatic and powerful with the earth cracking open and buildings crashing to the ground.”
November 1974: Those living in, or visiting, Southern California eventually learn how fast their heart can accelerate when the ground starts something unexpected. Moving… all by itself. Jaded Angelenos say they only get excited if a quake registers a Richter Scale 4 or above. They’d be lying. At least the conscious ones. If the pharmaceutical industry could bottle the adrenaline poured into people’s veins during tremors, they’d be even more wealthy.
Such is the power, and consequence, of living in earthquake country. With hurricanes you get warnings. Maybe a few minutes with tornadoes (lucky 13, if you believe the NOAA). Not this. You’re suddenly in the moment when it happens, and the end of the ride doesn’t come fast enough. Then, there are two kinds of folk. Those who can quickly forget what just happened and those who can’t. My daughter and I belong to the former. My bride and son the latter.
Rinse and repeat.
So when Universal announced and then released a film that, they said, could recreate the same havoc in a movie, Earthquake, you had a lot folk around here more than curious. A little dubious, also. Many who had taken nature’s free version would pony up $$ at the box office to see (and feel) if the studio could deliver. They came close. Surprisingly so.
People lined the sidewalks in places like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to experience the film. Luckily, I didn’t have far to go to encounter this. The nearby Huntington Park Warner Theatre being one of the handful in the southland set up with the “Sensurround” system for the film’s first-run. For one of the few times I got into a long line, along with my college girlfriend, at the theater of my youth to buy a movie ticket.
A packed house greeted us, too. The most I’d ever seen there, and we had to sit up front and to the right of the screen. As the story unfolded I think we were all a bit underwhelmed. This was it, we thought? Then, the first of the sequences arrived, with those BGW amplifiers kicking in. Their sub-audible “infra bass” sound waves cranked up to 120 decibels, btw. The screaming began in earnest, next. I assure you that a whole lot of linen got washed that day as a result.