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Try Surviving the Dialogue

June 30, 1996

Disaster flicks boast a healthy surplus of inane dialogue. Characters facing down (or denying the existence of) Armageddon and sketchily drawn romances are always good for laughably ponderous thoughts, and the genre boasts perhaps the greatest concentration of lines that are hilarious largely because their attempts at humor are so miserable.

Here are some of the most disastrous lines to leave a screenwriter's typewriter--so bad they wouldn't even sound good in Sensurround:

*

"Doug, I think you're overreacting. Now, I feel sorry for Will Giddings, but he'll be taken care of. But I am not going to concern myself with a fire in a storage room down on 81 because it can't possibly concern us up here! Not in this building! Now, have someone call me when the fire department arrives. In the meantime, get in your dinner jacket and come on up and enjoy the party! Now come on!"

--William Holden, upon learning an employee has been burnt beyond recognition, to Paul Newman in "The Towering Inferno"

*

"Come on, Rosa, settle down, huh? Earthquakes bring out the worst in some guys, that's all."

--George Kennedy to Victoria Principal, who has just been nearly raped, in "Earthquake"

*

"What more do you want of us? We come all this way, no thanks to you! We did it on our own, no help from you! We didn't ask you to fight for us, but dammit, don't fight against us! How many more sacrifices? How much more blood? How many more lives? . . . You want another life? Then take me!"

--Preacher Gene Hackman, berating God, in "The Poseidon Adventure"

*

"You get me up to full-throttle and then throw me into reverse--you could damage my engine."

--Pilot Dean Martin, not discussing an airplane, to paramour Jacqueline Bisset in "Airport"

*

Michael Caine (after Sally Field unleashes a torrent of insecure babble): "I think you're beautiful."

Field: "You do? You gonna kiss me now?"

Caine: "No."

Field: "Then let's just get the hell out of here."

--"Beyond the Poseidon Adventure"

*

"Coupla years ago, my son Andy started to complain about pains in his stomach. With all the junk food kids eat these days, I wasn't a bit surprised. . . . So I had a talk with Miriam and we decided to take him to a doctor. Just for an opinion, you understand. 'Appendicitis,' the doctor said; Miriam said, 'Let's wait until tomorrow; the pain will go away.' You know my Miriam, she can't stand the thought of an operation. That night when she went to bed, she cried herself to sleep. I went to the boy's room and took him to a hospital. Six hours later, his appendix was out, he was feeling better, having ice cream. And Miriam? Miriam was all smiles. You get my point?"

--Karl Malden to Sean Connery in "Meteor"

--David Kronke

*

"You know what astonishes me? You make love with a girl, and afterwards there's no visible evidence. Nothing to mark the event. I mean, look at you. You look like you could be going to church."

--Robert Wagner to his secretary-mistress in "Towering Inferno"

*

"We've been fighting a losing battle against the insects for 15 years, but I never thought I'd see the final face-off in my lifetime. And I never thought it'd be the bees. They've always been our friends."

--Michael Caine in "The Swarm"

*

George Segal (smiling beatifically while driving): "Ah, I was just thinking about the first cigarette I smoked. It was a Camel. No filter."

Susan Strasberg: "You just passed the house."

--"Rollercoaster"

*

Stewardess (slightly disapprovingly): "Pilots are such men."

George Kennedy: "They don't call it a cockpit for nothing, honey."

--"The Concorde--Airport '79"

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