With the exception of Richard Lester‘s brilliant, formula-free Juggernaut (’74), ’70s disaster films were very dependably about chaos, destruction and death. Audiences knew that a significant portion of a given ensemble cast would die, and so the head-trip game was (a) who do you want to see die for your own reasons? vs. (b) who actually fucking dies.

In the case of Ronald Neame‘s The Poseidon Adventure (’72), nobody wanted Gene Hackman to croak but everyone wanted Red Buttons to die as quickly as possible. Naturally Buttons survived and Hackman didn’t. Everyone wanted Arthur O’Connell dead, and thank God he submitted. Everyone knew Shelley Winters would die because she was overweight (a bad thing in the ’70s, long before the body-positive movement), and that Stella Stevens, playing a former prostitute, would make it to the finish line because she was married to the loud-mouthed Ernest Borgnine (a cop), and therefore deserved God’s grace. But no — Stevens bought the farm along with Winters. Nobody wanted Roddy McDowall to die because he was witty and resourceful, and of course he didn’t make it either.

The only adults who lived were Borgnine, Buttons, Carol Lynley and Jack Albertson (Winters’ husband). Two youthful and inconsequential nothing-burgers, played by Pamela Sue Martin and Eric Shea, also survived. Why did they have to kill bigfoot Hackman?