Based on Paul Gallico's novel, the story of the luxury liner that capsizes in the middle of the ocean with many of its cruise passengers trapped on the inside has been inspiration to a number of filmmakers. From the 1972 film and its 1979 sequel, to Wolfgang Petersen's upcoming big budget movie, and, of course, this Hallmark TV mini series. For three hours this version tells the struggle of the passengers in the upside-down cruise ship before they run out of time and drown.
The film features a number of fairly well-known names, such as Steve Guttenberg, Rutger Hauer, Peter Weller and Bryan Brown in the cast, and it is told fairly well, especially for a television production, though it clearly cannot compete with the 1972 feature film version. Special effects have been created with care and nicely blend with the live action footage and overall the film is worth viewing, just don't expect a blockbuster experience. This version contains 40 minutes of additional footage spliced into the film that was not part of the original broadcast, making it interesting even if you have already seen the film before, though it does slow down the action quite a bit, surely making this film a tad too sluggish for many viewers.
When it comes to the DVD, unfortunately there are a few technical things that don't look quite as good. Although presented as a widescreen transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 viewing, the image is very soft throughout and lacks the kind of definition we have gotten used to in recent years. The compression also shows some weaknesses as the image blurs virtually every movement in the image to the point of a single trailing blur during rapid camera moves. I thought these sorts of encoding problems had been eradicated 5 years ago, but evidently they are still around. Part of the problem is without a doubt that the studio squeezed a 3-hour feature film presentation, two audio tracks, an 8-minute featurette, six interviews and a trailer on a single disc. Most studios have realized by now that that is generally not a good idea and in this case, since the film is even presented as "Part I" and "Part II" on the DVD, Echo Bridge would have been well advised to create a 2-disc set for the release to maintain a proper presentation quality.
The transfer is most free of blemishes and the audio is also clean and clear. Strangely, the DVD defaults to the Dolby Surround track as opposed to the 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track. The release also contains neither subtitles nor closed-captions which is also a painful oversight.
"The Poseidon Adventure" is an entertaining thrill ride that quickly makes you forget that it is a made-for-television production. The DVD release has a few flaws indicate that Echo Bridge lacks a certain experience and understanding of the DVD market. It is a fairly new studio so there is hope that they will turn around and get a handle on these issues in the future, but for now, releases like "The Poseidon Adventure" are sadly technically sub-par even though the film itself is not half bad.