Release Date(s)1978 (September 16, 2014)
Studio(s)Scorpion Releasing (Kino Lorber)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C+
If you’re a fan of the disaster movie genre from the 1970’s, then you’re likely to be excited about a release of Avalanche on Blu-ray. Like all disaster movies, Avalanche features a cast of stars (in this case, Rock Hudson, Mia Farrow, and Robert Forster) centered around a big, catastrophic event in which everything goes completely wrong and lots of people get hurt or killed because of someone’s incompetence. Earthquakes, fires, airplane crashes, meteors, volcanoes, you name it; if it’s a disaster, then someone, somewhere has probably made a movie out of it with this particular formula.
The genre itself is loved and disliked for many different reasons. Nowadays, most people watch these movies because of how unintentionally funny they can be, especially with the casts of stars they usually had in them. Airplane! was, of course, the first reaction to this genre, but that movie just fuels the desire of lovers of the genre everywhere to seek more of them out. Avalanche is probably one of the least-known ones in the scheme of things. It hasn’t had a successful or even popular home video life. I actually hadn’t even heard of it, and since my significant other is a huge fan of the genre, I’ve watched quite a few of them myself.
However, Avalanche is a little bit unique because it’s the only entry in the genre that Roger Corman’s company New World Pictures ever made. Roger Corman was well known for attempting to make cheaper versions of big blockbuster movies throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, and seeing how popular movies like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure were and how much money they were making at the time, Corman decided to throw his hat in the ring and make a disaster movie of his own. The story for this one is pretty much what you would expect. At a ski resort wherein a set of winter games is taking place, the owner of the resort (Hudson) is building a home for himself in the mountains in territory that’s prone for avalanches against the advice of a local mountain man (Forster), while at the same time concerning himself with his ex-wife (Farrow). Forgive the expression, but it’s a recipe for disaster, and it isn’t long before the main event takes place. These movies all have their pros and cons, and while this one isn’t quite as unintentionally hilarious as some of the others I’ve seen, I’d still consider it to be a worth entry in the genre.
For its debut on Blu-ray, Avalanche features a very pleasing presentation. Although at times it does appear soft, the grain structure is mostly even. The main titles are probably the most problematical in this department, but then again, they are most times in films of this vintage. Colors are very good, although skin tones did appear just a bit too pink at times. Blacks are also very good, while not being totally perfect, and both contrast and brightness were acceptable. I didn’t see any signs of digital tinkery, but there’s some noticeable debris left behind, but not at a constant rate and never to the point of spoiling the presentation. The audio, which is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, plays pretty much as a mono track. Dialogue is always clean and clear, but sound effects and score sound pretty dated. There isn’t much low frequency activity, nor is there any dynamic range to the track. It sounds like a track that’s aged considerably and wasn’t much to work with in the first place. It’s satisfactory enough, and most probably won’t care all that much because it suits the presentation well. So it’s considerably as good as it can be, I suppose. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles to go with the presentation.
This disc is a little light on the extras, but you do get a couple of things if you’re interested. There are two really good interviews, one with Roger Corman and one with Robert Forster, as well as the film’s original theatrical trailer. All in all, I’d consider this a pretty good release of a movie that hasn’t had much of a home video life. It wasn’t a success and hardly anybody talks about it nowadays, but it has its charms and is worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of the genre or of unintentional comedy.
- Tim Salmons