30 Sep 2015

DISASTER FILMS - Analysis [Part 2]

Films have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?  Are the Disaster Film Rules accurate?

The results for the rest of the rules for Disaster Films.  (Continued from Part 1).

Ten films were tested:

RULE #2 - Sex & Nudity

Usually no or limited nudity.  After all people are trying to watch someone slowly die with a pipe impaled through their chest, they don't want to be offended by the sight of a naked breast or butt.   However, there may be early implied nudity or sexy clothing just to keep people interested.  The heroine's clothes may be torn or her shirt need to be removed (leaving something white, sleeveless and functional).

Nudity (Female)

Actual - Unknown passenger (Airplane!).
Suggested - Linda (The Poseidon Adventure); Chrissie Watkins (Jaws); young woman (Dante's Peak)
Underwear - Lorrie (The Towering Inferno); Some (Airport 1975),
Wet ShirtsSome (Daylight)
NoneDeep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

Nudity (Male)

Suggested - Roberts (The Towering Inferno); young man (Dante's Peak)
Wet Shirts - Some (The Poseidon Adventure); Some (Daylight);
None - Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.


Once again, sex equals death.  People who have sex will die.  Be is the sleazy billionaire or politician cheating on his wife or the teen couple too busy petting to notice the wave of lava engulfing their car.

  • Yes (off screen) - Susan & Roberts [Engaged] and Bigelow & Lorrie [Illicit Affair] (The Towering Inferno).
  • Yes (prior to film) - Nancy & Al [Just Sex] (Airport 1975); Linda [Former Prostitute] (The Poseidon Adventure); Madelyn Thompson and Steve Crighton [Former affairs] (Daylight).
  • Planned - didn't happenMartin & Ellen Brody (Jaws); Rachel & Harry and young unnamed couple (Dante's Peak); Weather guy (The Day After Tomorrow).
  • All talk -  Deep Impact; Into the Storm.
  • Jokes - Airplane!

  • Sex & Death - Linda (The Poseidon Adventure); Bigelow & Lorrie (The Towering Inferno); Young couple (Dante's Peak).

RULE #3 - The Disaster

Manmade Disaster

Even the most natural of natural disasters will be exacerbated by budget cuts and human error.

  • Natural, made worse The Poseidon Adventure; Jaws; Dante's Peak; Into the Storm.
  • Man-made, made worseThe Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Daylight; The Day After Tomorrow
  • Man-made Airplane!
  • Natural Deep Impact.


The disaster will be far beyond the scope that these things would usually occur.  Even the government scientists in the film will point this out.

    • Natural sized Airport 1975; Airplane!; Dante's Peak.
    • Some reality, some unrealityThe Poseidon Adventure; Daylight; Deep Impact.
    • Too bigThe Towering Inferno; Jaws; Into the Storm.
    • Too fastThe Day After Tomorrow.


    The film will rely on fringe theories or exaggerations of an actual event.

    • Some reality - Airplane!; Dante's Peak.
    • Speculative - The Towering Inferno.
    • Some reality, some unrealityThe Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975; Jaws; DaylightDeep Impact.
    • FringeThe Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

    True Story

    Even though the theories are fringe or the events exaggerated they will push the "based on a true story" or "this could happen" to make it more effecting.

      • Inspired by/ImpliedThe Poseidon Adventure; Jaws; DaylightDante's Peak.
      • Implied possible future event - The Towering Inferno; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
      • No claimAirport 1975; Airplane!Deep Impact.

      The moment

      There will be a moment of massive destruction and loss of life.
      • Big moment - The Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975; Airplane!DaylightDante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
      • Minor momentThe Towering Inferno; Jaws.


      Even an instant disaster will have ongoing issues that will lead to people being more endangered as time goes on.
      • Ongoing Destruction - The Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Jaws; DaylightDante's Peak;  The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
      • Brief Destruction Deep Impact.
      • Danger - little/no ongoing destruction Airport 1975; Aitplane!

      Sudden end

      No matter how unlikely or how ongoing the disaster should be, the heroes will find a way to just stop it.
      • Yes - The Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; DaylightDante's Peak; Deep Impact;  The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

      RULE #4 - Endangered


      Unattentive employees and poorly maintained equipment will lead to warnings  being missed.  Other tip-offs, like Jeff, the guy engulf by a brief localised burst of lava, being late back will be brushed off as him bunking off and heading home early.  His abandoned vehicle will be wondered about but no one really notified.
      • IgnoredThe Towering Inferno; Jaws; The Day After Tomorrow.
      • LimitedThe Poseidon Adventure; Into the Storm.
      • Attention paidDeep Impact; Dante's Peak.
      • NoneAirport 1975; Airplane!; Daylight.

      Warning issued too late

      Governments or those in charge will, in an attempt to stop panic, refuse to warn people.
      • Officials initially refuse to issue - The Towering Inferno; Jaws; Dante's Peak;
      • Officials delay warningsDeep Impact;
      • Last minute warningsThe Poseidon Adventure; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
      • NA - Airport 1975Airplane!; Daylight.

      An Event

      There will be some event that put people in the area and in particular danger.  Noise, music, shouting may cause warnings to go unheard.  An event also allows a juxtaposition of celebration and impending disaster.  It also means that it is expensive and fancy clothes that become torn and ragged during the escape (a female character may be especially upset by this.

        • Fourth of July - Jaws.
        • Town meeting - Dante's Peak.
        • GraduationInto the Storm.
        • PartyThe Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; The Day After Tomorrow.
        • NoneAirport 1975; Airplane!; DaylightDeep Impact.

        Sneaking out

        Children and teens will sneak out for adventures and sexy adventures, respectively.  This will put them in the danger zone without anyone realising.  Some children by run-away due to an argument.

          • Amateur rescuers Dante's Peak; 
          • Wonders OffThe Poseidon Adventure
          • Follows girl - Into the Storm.
          • No sneaking out - The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; Daylight; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow;


          People will go back into the danger zone to rescue people trapped there, like ex-wives and children who have snuck out.

            • YesThe Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; DaylightThe Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
            • Hunters - Jaws
            • External ExtrasThe Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno
            • NoneAirplane!; Deep Impact; 

            The stubborn

              There will be stubborn old people who will refuse to leave.  If their house in Kansas survived the bombing of Pearl Harbour, you'd better believe it'll survive a tornado.

              • Group leaderThe Poseidon Adventure.
              • Hunter - Jaws.
              • Yes - DaylightDante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
              • None - The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Airplane!.

              Criminal activity

                There will be people performing criminal acts.  This will lead them to avoid authorities sent to warn people.  Later there many be looters who will be after the perfect television to have their blood splattered over.

                • Prisoners - Daylight.
                • NoneThe Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno;Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

                Unheard warnings

                  Some people will just miss warnings.  Headphones, deaf, sleeping pills, phone turned off, looking away from the TV at the wrong moment, whatever.

                  • Deaf - The Towering Inferno.
                  • Headphones - The Towering Inferno;
                  • Distance - Jaws;
                  • None - The Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975; Airplane!; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.


                    Time will be spent in a conference to deal with the situation.  If it's of national importance the (possibly black) US President will be involved.  Everything will be explained in simple terms for the audience for any politicians
                    • Address Crowd - The Poseidon Adventure; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact.
                    • AuthoritiesDaylight.
                    • EarlyThe Day After Tomorrow.
                    • Minor - The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Airplane!
                    • None - Into the Storm.


                      Some will be killed by time wasted during a squabble over leadership or options.  This argument may also on some level be an argument over who gets the girl.

                      • End - The Poseidon Adventure
                      • Yes - Daylight; The Day After Tomorrow.
                      • None - The Towering Inferno; Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; Into the Storm.


                      A dangerous escape plan, usually involving heights or jumping will cause some to freeze in fear, endangering themselves and possibly other after them, waiting for them or having to go back to get them.
                      • Yes - Daylight.
                      • Multiple weak examplesThe Poseidon Adventure; The Towering Inferno; Airplane!
                      • NoneAirport 1975; Jaws; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.

                      RULE #5 - Destruction

                      Panoramic opening

                      The film will start with slow, beautiful panoramic shots.  While this is normal for films to establish the scene and normality of the situation, it is even more important in a disaster film as a juxtaposition of the later destruction.  To tension there will be hints of disaster and dramatic music.
                      • Direct The Poseidon Adventure; The Day After Tomorrow.
                      • RelatedThe Towering Inferno.
                      • Not beautifulDaylight.
                      • BriefAirport 1975; Airplane!; Dante's Peak; Deep Impact.
                      • Sort ofJaws.
                      • No Into the Storm.

                      Warning bouts of destruction

                      There will some small, sudden bouts of destruction.  This is for the audiences members who are bored by all the plot and character stuff.  And to remind us that this disaster film we're watching is a disaster film.  These first events will either be in an isolated location (so the important guy has deniability) or in a normal everyday situation (to remind the audience that this could happen to them.  This is the beginning of the slow build where other similar events will happen.

                      • Yes - The Towering Inferno (Fire in Utility Room); Dante's Peak (Dead people and animals)The Day After Tomorrow (Ice sheet).
                      • Standard condition The Poseidon Adventure (Storm); 
                      • Unrelated Airplane!; Into the Storm.
                      • NoneAirport 1975; Jaws; Daylight; Deep Impact.


                      If possible one or more major landmarks will be destroyed along the way.

                      • Mass landmark distruction - Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow.
                      • Individual landmarksDeep Impact.
                      • Fictional - The Towering Inferno
                      • None - The Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975; Jaws; Airplane!; Daylight; Dante's Peak; Into the Storm.

                      The tipping point 

                      This will come before the official predictions and be big and sudden and cause lots of deaths and effects.  Moments before the tipping there will be a moment realisation by someone, summed up in simple, direct almost understated phrase.  The tipping point will be about 1/3 of the way through the film.

                      • Yes - Dante's Peak; Deep Impact; The Day After Tomorrow.
                      • Initial event - The Poseidon Adventure; Airport 1975; Airplane!; Daylight.
                      • Few Minor The Towering Inferno; Jaws; Into the Storm.

                      Ongoing destruction

                      Once the tipping point is reached, there will be a whole lot of rumble, etc to get out of or some ongoing growing burny thing to avoid.  All leading to the final event.

                      • Yes - The Poseidon Adventure;  The Towering Inferno; Daylight; Dante's Peak; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
                      • BriefDeep Impact.
                      • Ongoing deaths - Jaws.
                      • NoneAirport 1975;  Airplane!

                      The final event

                      There will be some big final event that it will all be leading to and that the leading male will have to stop.

                      • Crescendo of natural event - Dante's Peak; The Day After Tomorrow; Into the Storm.
                      • Man-Made to fight disaster - The Towering Inferno; Daylight.
                      • Sinking boat Jaws.
                      • LandingAirport 1975; Airplane!
                      • Only event - Deep Impact.
                      • None The Poseidon Adventure.

                      continued in Part 3.
                      ~ DUG.
                      Please do the survey below to determine future rule sets.

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