Burying Art Alive In ’Avalanche’

Washington Post, The (DC) - September 23, 1978
Author: Gary Arnold

After theater managers add up the receipts, "Quarantine" may seem a more appropriate title for "Avalanche," an inept disaster melodrama now at several obliging, unlucky locations. This fizzled brain-storm from New World, Roger Corman ’s production company looks like a cinch for the first supplement to "The 50 Worst Films of All Time."

Not that "Avalanche" is the sort of terrible movie that cries out to be seen. It lacks the irresistible> transcendent foolishness of the bombastic, egomaniacal duds like "Exorcist II" and "The Trial of Billy Jack" and "Viva Knievel."

Basically a marvel of disorganized exposition and cut-rate disaster effects, "Avalanche" is a low-yield bomb-out.

Given Corman’s reputation for thrift. "Avalanche" poses a kind of chicken-or-the egg mystery did someone in the organization actually consider it timely to slap together a quickie imitation of "Earthquake" and "Airport 75" set at a ski resort in the Rockies? Or did Corman just have some winter sports footage gathering dust and decide that it had to be integrated into a feature at any cost?

Whaever the motives, the result is a shambles. The plot ostensibly a romantic triangle involving Rock Hudson as a dynamic resort developer, Mia Farrow as his on-again, off-again ex-wife and Robert Forster as a rugged outdoorsman never gets off the dime. Ditto for the "subplot" a shameless appropriation of the Spider Sabich-Claudine Donget case with Rick Moses cast as a philandering superskier and cathey Paine as his hysterically jealous girlfriend. Mercifully, the avalanche gets them before they can get each other.

After lurching between expository fragments and winter sports fragments without conveying the faintest illusion that anything of consequence has been depicted, the filmmakers turn to the avalanche in the vain hope that it might bury their mistakes. Instead, it compounds them.

The disaster footaage is faked so poorly that there never appears to be a pictorial connection between the rampaging snow - sometimes falling down real mountains at other times down miniature sets or in tacky optical shots - and the sites and characters it’s supposed to pulverize.

The disaster is reputed to begin when an off-course private plane plows into a snow-capped peak. The alleged destruction seems to cover an indefinably vast area. For all one knows, all of Colorado could be in the path of this elusive cataclysm. Extras keep screaming under the shower of falling snow, but it’s impossible to tell precisely where it came from and how it gets from one victim to the next. TR 3 avalanche

Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow aren’t exactly box-office giants these days, but they’re a little too well-known to lend their floundering, embarrassed presences to a down-and-outer as derelict as "Avalanche." You expect a movie this punk to star names like Edward Obscure and Lana Nobody. Or maybe Rick Moses and Cathey Paine.

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