Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)
The common perception is that it was the parody Airplane! which ended the disaster film fad, but in all probability the horrible, horrible Beyond the Poseidon Adventure had in effect already done it the year before. And what warped poetry is it not, that the Master of Disaster Irwin Allen himself gave the genre its deathblow through a film with almost no redeeming qualities, and certainly no excuse for its existence.
The premise here is that a group of salvage hunters arrive at the scene of The Poseidon just after the rescue helicopter apparently has taken off with our survivors from the original. They decide to go into the ship looking for salvage, which is a fairly ludicrous idea to begin with, given the condition of the ship. That being said, the basic premise is about the best the film has to offer; it gets much worse. Firstly, our main hero here, played by a weirdly whole-hearted Michael Caine (did he actually believe he was in a good film?), is a selfish cynic for about 45 minutes before he suddenly becomes Mother Teresa, without explanation. I should add that he's not at all believable as either. Secondly, Caine and his friends enter the ship with another ominous party headed by Telly Savalas, who claims to be a doctor out to save lives. Needless to say, he's a Mickey Mouse type of criminal who might as well have been called Black Pete. And thirdly, Allen (who for some reason is directing this all by himself), seems set on creating for us a whimsical, easygoing atmosphere in this ostensibly extremely perilous situation, which essentially makes my head spin. He's helped greatly along the way by Sally Field in one of the most embarrassing performances of all time. She acts as if she's out bantering with Burt Reynolds again when in reality her character and everyone around her should have very slim hopes of surviving.
And so here we go, down into the ship, with new painfully stereotypical survivors popping out from the strangest of places, water magically appearing and disappearing on different levels as Allen deems it necessary, our protagonists taking their time chattering as if they were Sunday trekking, and most every poignant development from the original movie is negated and thus ridiculed. What's more, Allen isn't even able to create one ounce of tension, let alone any human drama that isn't completely vapid or idiotic. He tries, however, but falls flat every time, whether it's through an insipid "romance" between Mark Harmon and Angela Cartwright, the godforsaken inclusion of a blind Jack Warden (!), or one of the worst machine-gun shoot-outs in movie history. And that's a hard category to top.
It should be superfluous to mention that the acting (by an all-star cast, mind you) is appalling. They really don't have a chance against the horrific script and Allen's incompetence, but I have to say that some of them (such as Field) actually make it even worse on themselves. Beyond the Poseidon Adventure is interesting as a document of how bad the disaster genre could actually get, when everything was handled wrongly. They did it again in the 1990s, with Volcano.