• Earthquake (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: May 21st, 2019.
    Director: Mark Robson
    Cast: Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Geneviève Bujold
    Year: 1974
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    Earthquake – Movie Review:

    A star-studded spectacle that could have only come from the Hollywood of the mid-seventies, director Mark Robson’s Earthquake follows the lives of an array of people from different walks of life in Los Angeles when the City Of Angles gets its ass kicked by an earthquake.

    First up, we meet an engineer named Stuart Graff (Charlton Heston) who is in a broken marriage with an insanely possessive woman named Remy (Ava Gardner). Her jealousy is not unfounded, however, as studly Stuart has been fooling around with Denise Marshall (the beautiful Geneviève Bujold), the much younger widow of a man he used to work with. When Remy isn’t dealing with her marital issues, she’s trying to convince her father, Sam Royce (Lorne Greene), who just so happens to be Stuart’s boss, to put an end to her husband’s affair with Denise.

    Elsewhere, a cop named Lew Slade (George Kennedy) is suspended from the force for punching another cop! In a nearby grocery store, the manager, Jody (Marjoe Gortner), aggressively pursues pretty employee Rosa (Victoria Principal). Her brother, Sal (Gabriel Dell), works for Miles Quade (Richard Roundtree), a professional stunt rider.

    And of course, when the quake hits, these different worlds from varying parts of Los Angeles collide as human drama and big budgeted disaster set pieces collide in a clearly flawed but very entertaining work of seventies schlock. It’s all fairly hammy and Heston is in full on scenery chewing mode here, but Earthquake is fun thanks to those effects and that cast. Where else are you going to get Heston, Kennedy, Lorne Greene and Shaft (decked out in a black leather motorcycle suit with yellow lightning bolts on it!) all oozing macho charisma, a lecherous Marjoe Gortner giving off creepy vibes and a few seventies hotties all in one movie fighting for survival against plate tectonics? And if that weren’t enough, we also get appearances from Walter Matthau, Reb Brown, Dick Warlock and George Murdock.

    The effects are great for their time. There are a lot of obvious matte paintings here but matte paintings, when done well, are an art unto themselves and that’s definitely the case here, they’re very well done. The rest of the effects work is equally solid, and often times impressive in its scope if not always completely believable. The score from John Williams doesn’t rank up there with the composer’s best work but it’s not half bad at all and it heightens the drama and tension well enough. The direction from Robson, who also gave us Peyton Place and The Harder They Fall, is decent. The movie goes at a pretty good pace. At times it’s difficult to take all of this as seriously as the film seems to want us to but it’s hard not to have a good time with it.

    Earthquake – Blu-ray Review:

    Earthquake comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory who present both versions of the film on separate BD-50’s and in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The theatrical version of the movie, taken from a new 2k restoration, is framed at 2.20.1 (not 2.35.1 which is its original aspect ratio) and, slight framing quirk aside, it looks very good. The shift in framing doesn’t really have much of an effect on the compositions, but it’s there. The image is clean and nicely detailed, boasting excellent color reproduction, strong black levels and healthy-looking skin tones. Aside from some minor white specks here and there, there isn’t much print damage to complain about and transfer is free of noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression problems. The TV cut of the film is presented in 1.33.1 and uses the restored footage when possible, going back to lesser-quality inserts for the footage that was only created for the TV version. The drop in quality is noticeable, and also understandable as the elements clearly differ. Still, despite a bit more print damage and heavier grain this is still a pretty decent high definition transfer with solid detail and more depth than you might expect to see.

    The theatrical cut gets three audio options - DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.1 with Sensurround and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo, each one in English with 24-bit encoding. Optional English subtitles are provided. The 5.1 track is good, especially during the action set pieces and the quake scenes, but the dialogue is a bit low in the mix at times and it can occasionally be a little harder to hear the performers than it should be. Otherwise, it sounds really good. The 2.1 track doesn’t have this problem to the same extent but there are still moments where dialogue is a bit low. While obviously it lacks the rear channel spread that the 5.1 mix has, it’s still got plenty of channel separation and a nice strong, low end.

    The theatrical cut is provided a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono option, also with optional English subtitles offered. Obviously, it doesn’t sound as bombastic or as interesting as the theatrical version but the mono track is perfectly fine. It’s balanced and clean and clear. No real problems to note, just not as fancy as the options provided for the theatrical version, which obviously makes sense as it was prepared for 70’s TV broadcast.

    Extras on disc one includes some interesting archival audio interviews. Charlton Heston goes first, speaking for four-minutes about his fellow cast members, Robson’s direction and the effects-intensive nature of the production. From there, Lorne Greene spends five-minutes discussing a lot of the charities that he was involved with around the time of the production and why he feels they’re important. Richard Roundtree goes next in a four-minute talk that touches on his early acting career, his move from theater into movies and his thoughts on Earthquake.

    This disc also contains a large gallery of Production And Publicity Stills, a gallery of Behind The Scenes photos, a gallery of Matte Paintings And Miniatures, a small gallery of Deleted Scenes, a large gallery of Posters & Lobby Cards.

    Rounding out the extras on disc one is a theatrical trailer, a TV spot, some radio spots, menus and chapter selection.

    As to what’s included on the second disc, we get a few new featurettes starting with Scoring Disaster: The Music Of Earthquake, a seventeen-minute talk with film music historian Jon Burlingame about the film’s score, where John Williams was at professionally during this phase of his career, some of this other Universal projects and more. Painting Disaster: The Matte Art Of Albert Whitlock is an eleven-minute piece that pays tribute to the work of Whitlock by taking a look back at his career and exploring not only his work on Earthquake but many of the other influential pictures that he worked on over the years. It’s quite interesting. Sounds Of Disaster: Ben Burtt Talks about Sensurround is an eleven-minute interview with Burtt who speaks about the sound design that went into creating the film and how certain prestige theaters were outfitted with special hardware to take advantage of the unique work that was done in this area.

    Also found on disc two are twenty-four-minutes of scenes from the TV version of the movie – you can watch these in the TV version, of course, but you can also opt to watch them on their own in this featurette. Shout! Also includes both a seven-minute and two-minute TV scene not put into the restored TV cut of the film.

    Both discs include menus and chapter selection and the two discs come packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase that comes with a slipcover for its first pressing.

    Earthquake – The Final Word:

    Earthquake may be very much a product of its time but it’s still an entertaining 70’s blockbuster with some great effects work, a solid score and a really fun cast. Shout! Factory has done a nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray in a fine presentation, though the audio could be better and the aspect ratio quirk is odd) that includes both cuts of the film and loads extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Earthquake Blu-ray screen caps!