Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Films on earthquakes

The famous potboiler is Earthquake (1974, Universal, dir. Mark Robson), where LA gets little shocks in the early part of the movie, where a dam breaks, and then it shakes down for good half way through. The film was in “Sensurround.”

NBC proffered 10.5 in 2004 (dir. John Lafia) where, after a series of massive rifts (a train falls into a canyon), a large portion of southern California slides into the Pacific. Then in 10.5 Apocalypse (2006), a huge fault opens up in the Midwest, splitting the continent in two.

The History Channel covers quakes in its Mega-Disaster series:

Mega Disasters: Earthquake in the Heartland (2006, History Channel) is a one hour documentary that simulates what would happen in the lower Midwest (Memphis and St. Louis) is a New Madrid, MO style earthquake (there were three in 1811-1812) recurred, and geology indicates that another series of 8.0 quakes in the “dimple” could occur in about 100 years. Over 10 million could be made homeless. Compare to the NBC “10.5” TV movie series. http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/prepare/factsheets/NewMadrid/ ;

But the biggie is the San Francisco 1906 earthquake:

On (Easter, 4/16/2006), the HC gave us Mega-Disasters: The San Francisco Earthquake which talked a lot more about the engineering issues, including the “soft stories” issue for many older residential buildings. The film also included a simulation of what could happen with a 7.9 earthquake at the same place today. The Golden Gate Bridge loses a span, and the eastern Bay Bridge (up to Treasure Island) collapses. The City Hall and Asian Art museum are on floaters. I could wind up there myself some day, depending on what course my life takes.

On 4/16/2006 National Geographic presented The Great Quake (2006, dir. Philip Smith) chronicles the great 4/18/1906 San Francisco earthquake, aftershocks and fire. The poor people lived in a landfill area south of Market street, where the soil liquefied into quicksand. The rich people lived in the higher sections that at first were not much affected; even mayor Schmitz had to be awakened. But soon fires consumed them, even as rich people watched while eating picnics. The Army build firebreaks and had to destroy wealthy sections to protect the western part of the City. But the pattern reminds us of the Johnstown, PA floods and the, of course, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The rebuilding would still not instill new codes, and with the 1989 earthquake the Market area would still pancake and collapse.

The National Geographic Channel has also offered the one-hour film "Ultimate Earthquake" with a lot of discussion of the 1960 9.5 Chile earthquake and resulting tsunamis that crossed the Pacific Ocean.

PBS followed up with a one-hour American Experience: The Great San Francisco Earthquake which gave more details about life in San Francisco just before the quake (the other two films covered the performance the night before of Bizet’s Carmen). PBS shows a brief live silent film of a fire department responding to a call, the men bunking in the same room and sliding down the fire pole in their underwear, an ironic presentation for San Francisco.

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