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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Poseidon director judges remake
By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Poseidon, the big-budget remake of cult 1972 hit The Poseidon Adventure, opens in the United States this weekend.

Ronald Neame
Neame's films include The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Scrooge
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the German film-maker behind Troy and The Perfect Storm, the film retells the story of a luxury ocean liner that capsizes under a freak wave.

The original film, which starred Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters, suffered a mauling by the critics but was a box-office sensation.

Over the decades it has endured as a classic disaster flick, thanks in part to its larger-than-life characters and campy humour.

"It's a complete mystery to me," says director Ronald Neame when asked to explain his film's appeal.

"I never believed that it was more than just an average picture."

Produced by Irwin Allen, the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning one for best song.


Neame, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, believes the film may have succeeded because it was aimed at a very young audience.

"It was directed at 10- to 15-year olds and they loved it," says the Beverly Hills resident.

An image from the film Poseidon
The Poseidon remake stars Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss
"I've had hundreds of letters from various people who were around 10, 11 and 12 when they originally saw it. Its effect on them was enormous."

In Neame's opinion, Petersen is "a top-notch director - I admire all that he has done very, very much."

It was with some trepidation, therefore, that he attended an early screening of the German's modern-day interpretation of Poseidon starring Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas and Richard Dreyfuss.

"I was absolutely convinced he would make ours look like a whole lot of codswallop," he laughs.

"For the first 20 minutes I thought, 'Oh boy, this is so much better than ours.

"The special effects were great, we didn't really have much in the way of special effects, we did everything ourselves.

"The ship was wonderful and the turning over of the ship was more convincing and more believable, and I thought, 'well, good.'

"Naturally there was a part of me that would have rather it wasn't quite as good as mine, but nevertheless, I was happy for Warners."


However, Neame's enthusiasm for the opening of the movie was tempered by his disappointment at the way the story unravelled.

"For the first 10 minutes I thought, 'This is great because they are developing characters.'

Shelley Winters
The original featured Shelley Winters as one of the passengers
"But after the ship turned over, they didn't bother to go on developing those characters.

"It just became a noisy list of explosions, which I thought was a pity. By the end of the film I thought, 'Ours was better.' It's a terrible thing to say, but I really do."

Neame, who acknowledges he has made his share of "stinking pictures", believes Poseidon suffers from problems that beset many action films.

"The software - the story and the characters - gets in the way of the hardware, which are the explosions and all of that. It's very difficult to balance the two.

"I know our characters were cardboard, but we did at least have characters," he continues. "By God, I miss Shelley in the new one."


Though he last directed a film in 1990, Neame remains active in Hollywood.

He recently recorded a DVD commentary for the original Poseidon Adventure and says he still loves to see a good film.

As far as he is concerned, though, the new Poseidon does not come under that category.

"I think it was a mistake, if I may say so, to make it again because of its enormous success," he says.

"Everything at the moment has become too frenetic, partly because the stories are not good enough.

"So they try to make up for their lack of good characterisation and storytelling by quick cutting and frenetic use of the camera. And I think that's a pity."

Poseidon is out in the US on 12 May and the UK on 1 June.

Watch clips from the Poseidon film

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