The disaster-movie trend of the early and mid-1970s was starting to wear out its welcome when Earthquake was released in 1974. It?s another one of those enjoyably mindless all-star marathons, and the title tells you all yo... more »u need to know about the plot. Charlton Heston offers his trademark brand of macho courage as the citizens of Los Angeles brace for the Big One--an earthquake that rattles the city to its crumbling foundation. It's got all the sophistication of a Love Boat episode, but the movie's momentum scores high marks (at least on the Richter scale), and the Oscar-winning sound design and special visual effects are still impressive, especially when you consider that advanced computer-graphics effects were still two decades in the future. Genevieve Bujold adds a touch of class to the all-star ensemble, and of course, what self-respecting disaster flick would be complete without a role for George Kennedy? In more ways than one, this cheesy movie rocks! (If you want to re-create the movie's original sound process known as "Sensurround," you?ll just have to crank up the bass and subwoofer on your home theater system until plaster cracks and windows shatter!) --Jeff Shannon« less
Dennis M. from BELL CITY, MO Reviewed on 9/27/2009...
great all star cast, one of the best disater movies of its time
Poor Sensurround Soundtrack
P. T. Chamberlain | Plattsburg, MO United States | 06/10/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"While the picture is beautiful, the new DVD of "Earthquake" completely misses the boat on the Sensurround track and special features. First of all, the so-called "3.1" Sensurround track is nothing but the same, mono, audio fed to the 3 front channels with the 25/35 Hz control tones on the .1 LFE channel - no rumble is there at all. Nothing of the sort was ever heard in theaters, so I don't know why Universal bothered. It's obvious that the Universal tech's in charge of the DVD audio transfer didn't know that the control tones are NOT the earthquake rumble and are NOT meant to be heard! The 5.1-channel remix is problimatical too. Earthquake was the first feature to use the Sensurround Special Effects System (US Patent #3, 973,839). Because, at the time, audio in theaters and on film was in such a primitive state, MCA/Universal engineers designed a sound system to run along side the theaters existing system. Two control tones, at 25 and 35 Hz, were recorded either on the main soundtrack (for optical prints) or, with stereo Magnetic prints, on the redundant optical soundtrack. Their presence and volume controlled the turning on and off of a low-frequency noise (rumble) generator to create the 'earthquake' effects - they also controlled the addition of the "Center Front" channel (or the composite optical) into the Sensurround channel to create "surround" effects. When desired, the two tones could also increase the volume of ALL the speakers in the theater by a desired amount. While the 4-track magnetic soundtrack had a standard "effects/surround" soundtrack (complete with 12kHz CinemaScope switching tone), in Sensurround equipped theaters, the surround mag track was disconnected and not used at all... instead, the Center Front mag channel was connected into the Sensurround channel to create the 'surround' effects when needed. For non-Sensurround installations that used the Magnetic soundtrack, the 4-track mag had the standard surround soundtrack available. Universal's engineers in charge of the new DVD soundtrack remix do not seem to have known this - none of the sounds from the Center Front channel are used at all in the surround channels, nor is any of the Sensurround rumble taken to the back channels as it should be. In addition to the deep rumble, Sensurround was intended to "Surround and engulf you", which the new 5.1 track does NOT do! The composite mono optical prints, or the mag stereo prints, contained all the information the mixers needed, to know when to direct the sounds, and by how much, from the Center Front into the back channels. They only had to listen to and measure the amounts of 25 and 35 Hz tones! Heck, the old MCA DiscoVision laser videodisc release has the control tones present that we can hear, so anyone could have figured it out! Also, it does not appear that Universal used a Sensurround rumble generator - the bass is nowhere near deep enough - I've measured it and it cuts off around 25 Hz! That's a whole octave higher than it should be! The cut-off frequency that was designed for Sensurround was 16Hz. The bass should be played at a level of 110-120db at those frequencies! To replicate the Sensurround soundtrack on DVD, here's what should have been done:
The "main" channels should have been recorded at a much lower level than usual onto the DVD master. The Sensurround rumble should have been recorded at, or as near as possible, to 0db as they could. This would have allowed them to duplicate Sensurround in the home. It would have required the home viewer to raise their main volume control much higher than usual to hear the soundtrack, thus, when the rumble came along, it would be at it's correct, high, level - and the extra headroom could have been used to raise the level of the main soundtrack during the quake as the original presentation called for. The Center Front should have been mixed into the surrounds as required and the original mag Surround track used too. For viewers who don't have the ability to play the Sensurround track at such high levels, the original 4-track master, without Sensurround, should have been supplied at standard volume as an alternate track. The original mono Sensurround-compatible shouldtrack should have been supplied too as a 1.0 Dolby Digital track.
Contrary to what others claim, Earthquake was the ONLY Stereophonic Sensurround release (Zoot Suit doesn't count) - after Earthquake, Sensurround was modified to place all the effects on an optical mono track with dbx Type-II noise reduction. ALL of the other "Sensurround" DVD releases from Universal get the Sensurround track wrong too - Midway, Battlestar, Rollercoaster - all WRONG! The Sensurround, because of the control tones, would pan from the front to the back of the theater, as required - none of the DVD's duplicate this - it gave them a 'surround-type' soundtrack capability from a standard mono-optical print. Hopefully, future HD-DVD relases will get this right - if Universal would only ask me about it! I have extensive documentation on the Sensurround system and am probably the foremost authority on it in the world.
The basic fidelity and seperation of the 3 front channels is quite good, as is the high-frequency response. Unlike other magnetic stereo films of the era, Earthquake was mixed with mono, meaning Center Front-only, dialogue - other films of the time panned the dialogue across each channel to follow the speaker. The DVD replicates this nicely, although I hate mono dialogue.
The image of "Earthquake" has a bit too much edge enhancement, but is otherwise OK. Sadly, there are NO special features at all, which is a pitty, as there was a wealth of material produced for Earthquake. MCA Universal made a "Sensurround Product Demo Reel" to show theater owners how the system worked and why they should install it in their theater - there were film demo reels to show the total image+sound effect - there were Sensurround encoded trailers - there was deleted footage - the LAX restraunt was actually modeled and filmed collapsing, but the footage wasn't used in the film - in addition, around 10 mintues of footage were deleted shortly before the films release - all of this should have been included on the disc along with photos of the incredible Sensurround horns.
BTW, in the Mid-1970's, MCA/Universal was attempting to sell Sensurround as a new, high-fidelity, film sound system - Dolby Stereo had just become available, and there was a general industry-wide interest in upgrading theater sound. MCA positioned Sensurround as a large increase in fidelity with special effects, all from a single, compatible, mono optical soundtrack. When the dbx Type-II noise reduction was added, the specifications of Sensurround were quite impressive:
Dynamic Range-90db SN Ratio-80db Frequency Response-16Hz to 16,000 kHz.
All these specs out-did Dolby Stereo at the time. SENSURROUND+PLUS, used on Zoot Suit, was merely the use of dbx Noise Reduction, WITHOUT the rumble, on a 4-track mag stereo soundtrack.
Hopefully, Universal will get it right on the HD-DVD's of the Sensurround films."
Shaken, not stirred
tmp | Solar System, MA USA | 11/06/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From the time that what is left of Ava Gardner roars onto the screen bellowing "60ddammit" as if she were auditioning for a dinner theater version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe" to the end where half the cast is literally (rather than figuratively) mucking about in the sewer, this cheesy 70's disaster flick throws everything it can think of at you. Fires! Adultery! Floods! Duplicity! Electricity! Motorcycle stunts! Earthquakes! Marjoe (aieeee!)! The special effects range from great (Capitol Records building, Wilshire Collonade) to the pits (the elevator, the cows), the script is at the level of a movie-of-the-week, and the acting? Velveeta city. Charlton Heston runs all over the place looking as if he wants to part something, Ava runs around screeching her dialogue as if she were trying to read it over the sound of a departing jumbo jet, Lorne Greene looks as if he can't quite get why he was cast as Ava's father (they were the same age), Genevieve Bujold gives quite a hint of the scary elf she would late become, and best of all, Victoria Principal (in what must be the funniest wig in the history of cinema) ACTS. Yes, before she refined her craft on "Dallas" (point chest, tear up, sniffle, whine) she showed her early technique here (point chest, sneer, read line). There is also the big time debut (and thankfully, swan song) of Marjoe, as the... oh well, you'll just have to see for yourself to believe it.Fans of Debralee Scott's scenes will be disappointed- they are not included, since this is the theatrical version, not the padded version that was shown on NBC. This is a great loss, since I would love to see her big scenes; reacting to the card reading she gives her husband (who knew that an ordinary deck of cards could say "the plane will not crash, but your career will") and her loooooooooooooooooooooong scene reacting to the same piece of film showing the runway her plane is trying to land on cracking over, and over, and over, and over.As a side note- the night before the 94 Northridge quake, I had the flu. I was watching this very same movie. My roomate asked me why I didn't go to bed if I was sick. I replied that "I like the part where LA falls apart". I had quite the wake-up call at 5 am.I have seen this movie since, but I still get a little twinge falling alseep after."
PRISTINE TRANSFER, BUT WHA'HOPPIN? NO EXTRAS?
W. Budris | Rosedale, NY | 05/10/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For one of their most successful 70s films, I am so surprised that Universal did not get on the bandwagon and do a Special Edition of some kind, similar to the new Fox issues of Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno. Universal has treated this film like a throwaway, and if they took that attitude, they should have left the bad-print Good Times issue stand. Even the Region 2 UK version is better than this. It's in 5.1 and at least gives you one trailer!
The upgrades to this edition of EQ include a 3.1 Sensurround track, besides a 5.1 track, plus 2.0 Spanish track. You set your language and play the film. There isn't even a Select The Scenes menu. There are more chapter markers than the previous issue, but some are in weird places. The print of the film is fabulous. Looks like it was color-corrected and plays almost like HD. My only reason for 3 stars, or it would be less.
Still, Universal dropped the ball. Commentaries should have been included, featurettes if available, memories from cast and crew that are still with us, and even a couple of trailers and/or TV Spots. With adding the 3.1 Sensurround track, it would have been nice to see one of the "An Event" trailers for the theatrical release in Sensurround. The trailer on the UK version is one used for the post-Sensurround release of the film. Maybe they are waiting for the 35th Anniversary in 2009 to do it up big? I doubt it.
If Universal doesn't even care to issue the last remaining Rodgers & Hammerstein movie musical "Flower Drum Song" (1961) that has yet to see a DVD issue, what can you expect on how they treat one of their biggest 70s hits?
Wake up Universal."
Outstanding Transfer and Sound Remix - Awful Presentation Ot
Kent Hicken | Los Angeles, CA USA | 05/12/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Like another reviewer stated, the new digital transfer of "Earthquake" is simply amazing. Clearly, Universal stuck a new print from a new negative, which does not have all the flaws (and notable "emulsion scratch" during a certain quake scene) that were present in the 1998 Goodtimes release. The results are a much more vivid picture, with nice color saturation. The sound has been completely remixed in Dolby Surround 5.1, and features the legendary original "Sensurround" track as an option that will shake your house if you have the proper, high-power sound system (it just sounds like distorted bottom end audio if you don't). If you crank it, it's pretty impressive. The 5.1 is separated nicely, revealing many sound effects not heard in the prior Goodtimes release -- this 5.1 Surround does the Academy Award-winning sound engineers of the original film proud!
If one was interested in just seeing the film by itself -- with fantastic picture and sound -- then, this disc will be fine for you.
If you're looking for something along the lines of Fox's very well done "Sepcial Edition" DVDs of "The Towering Inferno" and "The Poseidon Adventure," you will be sorely surprised and disappointed. Universal Home Video colossally screwed up on the presentation of "Earthquake" on this DVD. No extras. No liner notes. No trailers. No still pictures. Not even chapter menus! Really, how difficult is it to make a chapter menu? Apparently, it was too difficult or time consuming for Universal to add the extras -- what makes this more frustrating is, this type of information for the DVD is out there, and easy to get: there is a fan web site dedicated to the film that has a ton of information. The lack of attention by Universal is baffling, since "Earthquake" is a film that was a huge hit for the studio in 1974. In light of the release next to the Fox "Special Editions" of their disaster films, Universal should be ashamed of this abortion of a DVD.
Whoever was responsible at Universal Home Video for the "Earthquake" DVD was clearly "phoning it in."
Earthquake Will Move You!
Steven Hedge | Somewhere "East of Eden" | 01/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've always liked this film even though it has often been dismissed by critics because of the marketing of the "Sensurround" sound the film contained that made you really feel the quakes. Most critics thought this was a hollow film that focused on a gimmick. I disagree strongly. The sound and other special effects were actually very groundbreaking, no pun intended, and enhanced one's experience of the film greatly. It was a huge hit when it came out. In fact, even on DVD you can enjoy this special sound device by simply upping the bass and/or sub woofer on your stereo. I have a 50 inch plasma television with 5.1 Dolby sound home theatre system and I was able to recapture much of the theatre experience I had when I first saw the film in 1974. It freaked out my kids whom I didn't warn in advance what I was doing. They loved it.
In addition, the other special effects are top-notch and still hold up even today. The acting is well-done by an all-star cast of familar faces and although the script is faulty at times, it works well enough. The one aspect I really appreciate about this film is that it wasn't afraid to kill off major characters we've grown to like very much the way Deep Impact did. That makes this disaster flick rather different than most in the genre.
I highly recommend this film. Even though this film had great sound and special effects, there are no Special Features on this DVD and that is a big disappointment. In spite of that serious oversight, it's worth owning as you can view this film many times.
FUNNY NOTE: This film was double-billed with The Towering Inferno once and they called both films "Shake and Bake" --Ya gotta appreciate the humor on that!"