Tuesday, September 16, 2014


AVALANCHE was Roger Corman’s attempt to replicate the success of Irwin Allen’s big-budget disaster movies, such as THE TOWERING INFERNO and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. Unfortunately, Corman and his executive producer Paul Rapp (THE CURIOUS FEMALE) were working on less than half the budget of Allen’s smash hits. Plus, the genre had pretty well run its course by the time New World released AVALANCHE in August 1978 (it also played at least twice on CBS, so no doubt Corman turned a profit).

Corman’s cost-cutting extended to its all-star cast. Whereas Irwin Allen’s THE SWARM, also released in 1978, boasted big names like Michael Caine, Richard Widmark, Fred MacMurray, Olivia de Havilland, and Henry Fonda among its cast, director Corey Allen (THUNDER AND LIGHTNING) had to make do with Rock Hudson, Mia Farrow, and Robert Forster, Jeanette Nolan, and Barry Primus — capable performers, for sure, but not among 1978’s most highly sought-after movie stars.

Two-time Oscar nominee Gavin Lambert (INSIDE DAISY CLOVER) took his name off the picture after director Allen reportedly futzed with his screenplay, and neither Hudson nor Farrow deigned to promote the movie when it came out. Corey Allen, with the help of second unit director Lewis Teague (ALLIGATOR), did an okay job with the action sequences and stunts on a tight budget, but the visual effects from the studio of Gene Warren (an Oscar winner for THE TIME MACHINE) look phony and cheap. Irwin Allen made you believe a skyscraper was on fire and a cruise ship had capsized, but nobody watching AVALANCHE could possibly be convinced of a snowbound disaster (which didn’t stop Corman for recycling the effects in other movies).

The human characters are scarcely more convincing than the special effects. David Shelby (Hudson), who’s rich, bossy, and controlling, hopes to rekindle a romance with ex-wife Caroline (Farrow) by inviting her to the opening weekend of his swanky new ski resort in the Colorado mountains. She, on the other hand, is turned on by sensitive nature photographer Nick Thorne (Forster), who warns Shelby that his corner-cutting has made the mountain unstable and unsafe.

Guess who gets to say “I told ya so” when a private plane crashes into the mountain and causes the whole damn thing to tumble down upon Shelby’s lodge. The effects may be lame, but AVALANCHE at least delivers a high body count and some laughable scenes, including an exploding ambulance and two skiers whose foreplay consists entirely of snow-sporting jargon. Rock’s lascivious looks at a nubile temptress in his hot tub is his best acting in the movie.


Stephen Mertz said...

I was living in Durango, Colorado when this turkey was filmed there (and at the Tamarron resort outside of town). Half the town were extras.

Chuck Collins said...

The most interesting question is why was Rock Hudson willing to appear in this bit of silliness when he had just come off of six years of steady employment with "McMillan"? Was it to re-establish himself as a film star? Surely he had some money put away and could have held out for a higher-caliber role.

Marty McKee said...

My guess: Hudson was a working actor and liked to work. He had just done EMBRYO, another low-budget genre movie, and was doing more television (I think WHEELS was produced around this time). Forster says Hudson was a good guy and friendly on the set, so he probably wasn't bitter about doing a Corman film.

Jim Koch (JT Reno) said...

I worked at Tamarron during the filming...helped with the snow effects. Rock Hudson was nice enough...Mia Farrow was usually drunk and a bitch