Earthquake
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73 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2007
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.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2006
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.
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57 of 69 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 6, 2001
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2006
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."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2006
Another reviewer says this movie employed a technology called "Surrondsound". Actually, the term used at the time was Sensurround (spelling courtesy IMDB). The gimmick was to loosen the bolts of the theatre seats and use low frequencies to cause the seats to move - as if in an earthquake. Also used, I believe, in the films Rollercoaster and Midway. I think it was being confused with Surround Sound, the ubiquitous home theatre technology. At any rate, this is a terrific example of the heyday of the Hollywood disaster movie. 80% soap opera and 20% special effects action extravaganza. Still, it's a lot of fun and worth watching - if only for the clothes. The true disaster in this film is the leisure (whatever happened to 'i' before 'e' except after 'c') suits. Those were the days!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Universal finally releases "Earthquake" in the US on dvd. The only other domestic release was from GoodTimes several years ago. It's too bad that Universal didn't take the time to include the extended and deleted scenes that appeared in the television airing of the film. The only bonus here is a better looking film transfer, and the inclusion of the original "Sensurround" soundtrack, along with Dolby 5.1. 20th Century Fox pulled out all the stops with their special editions of "The Towering Inferno" and "The Poseidon Adventure". Unfortunately, Universal doesn't seem to care about preserving cinema history. Perhaps at some point Criterion will give "Earthquake" the royal treatment... The UK release of "Earthquake" from Universal included the theatrical trailer...the US one doesn't.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 1999
Definitely the cheesiest disaster movie of all time! Charlton Heston absolutely hams it up (ala "Ben-Hur") as a construction engineer, Ava Gardner plays his wife....and Lorne Greene's daughter (?!), Genevieve Bujold pouts about as Heston's tarty mistress and George Kennedy is the cop with a heart (there's always one). A devastating quake finally hits LA. Things begin to shake, rattle and roll - especially busty Victoria Principal (in a really bad afro wig). The best part of this movie is watching LA crumble. Some of the quake effects are great - others are embarrassing. Still, it's still a fun disaster flick to watch. This reviewer would have given an extra star had the DVD included Dolby Digital Surround sound. Why show "Earthquake" in mono?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2011
'Earthquake' is perhaps the most absurd of all the big-budget ensemble disaster flicks of the '70s, which is to say if that is your genre you will be in hog heaven watching it. The plot is standard, but manages to build suspense effectively to a crescendo of natural and man-made chaos modern CG-maniacs would drool over redoing-- speaking of which, the miniature/matte-art effects are so over-the-top, yet so carefully incorporated through the many scenes of mass destruction in the film, you almost yearn for those simpler days when you felt your favorite character actually might be in danger of getting squashed by an errant papier-mache set piece. Yes, the various storylines are cliche but they are oddly stretched, to the point of the surreal (Marjoe Gortner's psychotic guardsman, Richard Roundtree's bizarro-Evel Knievel, George Kennedy's dangerously unstable 'good cop' and Walter Matthau's besotted dancing pimp are not exactly stock by any definition), so much so that despite your better judgement you find yourself getting sucked gleefully into the vortex of dramatic mayhem. Better acting, writing and production values may be found in 'Airport,' 'Inferno' and 'Poseiden' but 'Earthquake' deserves its fair shake. 2 1/2 stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2007
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!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2003
Hollywood in the 1970's was the era of the disaster movie. With advances in special effects and stereo sound, they were a wonderful showcase for these advances. By 1975 when Earthquake was filmed, the standard for the genre had been set and Earthquake took it to new heights.
Centering around the usual big name stars and relationship melodrama, the storyline actually works hand in hand with the 'earthquake' rather than overshadowing or hindering it. It is not long until the big earthquake hits and we see the characters deal with the consequences in their own ways.
Whilst the technology of the day was tame by today's standards, the special effects in Earthquake are nothing short of spectacular, if somewhat imperfect on places (the badly edited dam bursting sequence and the elevator - blood on lens scenes being 2 that come to mind). Though the big drawcard was the sound. A new system had been developed called sensurround (basically big massive bass speakers installed in the theatres to give a realistic impression of being there), and it is here where the auditory senses become overwhelmed with the deafening rumble of the earthquake (especially with a good home theatre set up). Towards the end, when Charlton Heston is crawling through the tunnel to pick up a rock to mark an 'X' on the wall, shivers are sent up the spine as the scraping of rock on rock is reproduced with exceptional clarity.
The picture on the DVD is almost perfect - considerably effort has been made to clean up the original 70's grainy film. Perhaps a little too perfect in places - slight shimmering and anti-aillising can be seen occasionally throughout the movie. Extras are disappointing though - only a trailer is included (which shows the best bits of the earthquakes' special effects). If there was no 'behind the scenes' documentary made at the time, it would have been nice to have an interview with a member of the original FX team to discuss how the effects were created.
Whilst tame by today's standards, and perhaps a little too '70's' in feel, Earthquake is at the pinnacle of 70's disaster movies - a genre that at its height of popularity, made the studios a lot of money, and gave the audience thrill of a ride.
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