The boat Jenny is sailing through rough seas in the Atlantic on New Year's Eve, and its captain Mike Turner (Michael Caine) is struggling with the wheel. There is a three person crew aboard, with Mike's right hand man Wilbur (Karl Malden) and passenger Celeste (Sally Field), who is hoping to reach Africa where she plans to make it big. In the storm, the Jenny's cargo goes overboard and Mike is now in danger of losing his boat, but in the morning when the ocean is calmer they notice a helicopter flying away from an upturned liner. Obviously some disaster has taken place, but Mike sees an opportunity to make some of his money back by salvaging what he can find aboard the ship, little knowing of the danger that awaits...
The seventies had been good to producer/director Irwin Allen, but by the end of the decade he was floundering. The all star disaster epic he had made a fortune with over the past few years had gone out of fashion, and he didn't seem to be able to change his tune, so audiences had to suffer such travesties as The Swarm and When Time Ran Out. And this too, a sure sign of desperation in that it was a sequel to one of his biggest hits, The Poseidon Adventure, starring the leading man of one of his biggest flops, Michael Caine in his "anything as long as the paycheque is large enough" role. The result, written by Nelson Gidding from Paul Gallico's novel, predictably failed to set the box office alight.
Nevertheless, the all star cast is all present and correct here, as we see when the trio meet none other than Telly Savalas when they arrive at the red hull of the Poseidon. He's playing Svevo, a Greek Orthodox gentleman who claims to be a doctor looking for survivors in the now abandoned ship with his small crew of non-famous actors who don't get many lines. There's a hole in the bottom of the ship where viewers with good memories will recall the survivors of the first film escaped, and that's the way they get in, making a deal with each other about what they can take. No sooner have they climbed down than footage of the original special effects is edited in and the cast have to throw themselves around the set, and not for the only time.
Would you believe it? There are survivors down there after all, and they are of the calibre that makes you glad that Gene Hackman never found them. Chief among them is loudmouth Mazzetti (Peter Boyle sporting a wig and in the Ernest Borgnine mould), who continually bellows about finding his daughter and tests the patience to a formidable degree. Along with him come nurse Gina (Shirley Jones) and ballgown-wearing passenger Suzanne (Veronica Hamel) and after some tedious business about jumping over a hole in the floor (well, technically the ceiling), Svevo and his men decide to go their own way to look for a mysterious crate. Meanwhile, Mike and company are delighted to find a small fortune in gold coins for their trouble.
That's not all they find, as it seems practically half the passenger list have escaped the tragedy with their lives. There's a wine guzzling Slim Pickens in full-on "aw shoot" mode, blind man Meredith (Jack Warden) and his wife (Shirley Knight) who refuses to leave him, and what do you know? Mazzetti's daughter (Angela Cartwright) with the lift operator who saved her (Mark Harmon) all ready to cue some tiresome over-protectiveness from Mazzetti. Mind you, the incessantly chattering Field gives Boyle a run for his money in the annoying stakes with her chipmunk perkiness, and her ability to cheer up when Caine says he thinks she's beautiful in one of many cheesy, character building interludes. As every set looks pretty much the same, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure is like watching a collection of not terribly interesting people trying to solve a maze, and therefore it's little wonder the genre died out when the eighties struck. Music by Jerry Fielding.
American producer and occasional director who became known for his starry, trashy epics. Coming to the movies from a career in publishing and radio, he won an Oscar for the documentary The Sea Around Us, and The Big Circus, the campy Story of Mankind and The Lost World followed.