The Poseidon Explosion

Dir: Mircea Dragan
Star: Radu Beligan, Gheorghe Dinica, Toma Caragiu, Dem Radulescu

Originally known as Explozia, this is supposedly based on a true story, when a Panamanian vessel loaded with highly-explosive fertilizer, caught fire on the Danube, threatening the city of Galati, until a bunch of heroic firefighters doused the threat. However, the only reference to this I can find is a sentence in the Wikipedia article on Galati...which refers back to the movie. Shame the US retitlers didn't wait a year, or they could have cashed in on two disaster movies, and gives a more accurate title, calling it The Poseidon Inferno. They also carved more than 30 minutes off the original running-time, which helps the pacing, but makes the flaws tricky to discuss from a critical perspective. For instance, here, the boat shows up in the harbour, already on fire and almost abandoned. No explanation for either is offered: was it present in the original movie and removed, or was this a plot failure? Until Criterion release an uncut version, guess we'll never know. Not quote holding my breath for that.

There may be cultural factors at play in this Romanian production. Do wedding parties normally sail out to extrenely hazardous locations? And climb aboard for a picnic with the firefighters? Got to let that slide as well. Instead, if you can ignore the logical aspects (preferably entirely!), this gallops along at a decent pace, and some of the fiery sequences are pretty intense, and they wisely keep the less-convincing model-work to quick clips. There's a nice range of characters, e.g. the mayor who is unsure whether to evacuate the town or not. While the dubbing is fairly ropey, I liked the response of the scientist [there's always a scientist], to the mayor's vaguely threatening query as to whether he'd made a will, along the lines of "No, because if that ship goes up, there'll be nothing left to inherit." That illustrates the breezy disregard for personal life which runs throughout this, and can only be admired. Not as bad as I feared, and interesting to hear about the explosive properties of fuel oil and fertilizer, a quarter-century before Timothy McVeigh rolled up in Oklahoma City

[June 2012]

Ship of fools
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