Greatest Disaster
Film Scenes


1900s - 1920s


The Greatest Disaster Film Scenes
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description of Disaster Film Scene
Screenshots
 

Saved From the Titanic (1912)

This 1-reel, 10 minute film from the Eclair Film Co. (a lost film) depicted the sinking of the Titanic, told in flashback by the film's star and screenwriter Dorothy Gibson, who was an actual survivor of the tragedy.

It took less than a week to film. The Titanic sinking has become the most used disaster film subject, with dozens of retellings.

Night and Ice (1912, Ger.) (or Night Time in Ice) (aka In Nacht und Eis)

One of the earliest disaster films, this rare and restored film was the first of many feature films about the doomed ship that sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage, after striking an iceberg.

This film was made in studios in Berlin, and on an actual shipboard (the German liner Kaiser Auguste Victoria) and released a few months after the RMS Titanic's actual sinking! It was of epic length (35 minutes) in comparison to other films of the time. The filmmakers sunk a real boat to show realism.

Atlantis (1913)

One of the first full-length films ever made, with a 1 hour, 53 minute running time. It was also one of the most popular films of the 1910s, and a worldwide smash hit.

It was a very realistic and naturalistic-looking Titanic film with a well-staged action scene of the ship's sinking.

This version of the Titanic story, made only a year after the disaster, was from Denmark (but filmed off the coast of New Zealand) and made by director August Blom. It told about a doctor's voyage on an oceanliner that hit an obstruction and began to sink.


 

Beloved Adventurer (1914)

This early silent film (a 15-episode serial of one-reel melodramas), from the Lubin Film Manufacturing Co., portrayed a small-scale disaster - the head-on collision of two locomotive trains facing each other on the same track.


Male and Female (1919)

In this Cecil B. De Mille film - star actress Gloria Swanson (as spoiled and rich Lady Mary Lasenby) was put into peril when the yacht she was traveling on was shipwrecked on rocks of a deserted island.

The interior of the boat filled with water as she was trapped below and struggled amidst the floating pieces of furniture, although she was eventually able to emerge from a hole in the yacht's side and escape.


Metropolis (1927)

This film climaxed with the spectacular flooding scenes of the underground city, with its tracking camera, when the children were led to safety from the rising waters.

Noah's Ark (1928)

Originally a silent film - and then made into an early 'talkie' a year later (with several stultifying scenes of Vitaphone sound-on-disk dialogue) -- this early romantic drama and disaster film was about the Biblical story of the 'Great Flood', directed by Michael Curtiz.

The early epic 'talkie" was intercut with a parallel melodramatic romance story about soldiers in the Great War - with moralizing about the hedonistic sins of the Jazz Age and Wall Street speculation. The parallel intercutting was reminiscent of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916), with actors playing roles in both sections.

This was Warner Bros.' answer to Cecil B. De Mille's Biblical epics of the 20s (especially the silent film The Ten Commandments (1923)), with a climactic flood sequence - that mixed miniatures, double-exposures, and the full-scale destruction of actual sets. Reportedly, when stored tanks of water were released for the sequence upon hundreds of unsuspecting extras, three of them died from drowning, and many others were severely injured.


Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

The final sequence of the film involved a terrifically destructive tornado/cyclone -- and one of the most suicidal and terrifying stunts and scenes in screen history. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Buster Keaton), groggy and dizzy, stood up in front of the house that was about to be ripped apart from the forceful winds. As he paused there, the entire two-ton facade or front of the building fell forward and crashed down on top of him.

All that saved him was a small window opening in the upper story, through which his body passed. He ran from the collapsed building on the ground and just avoided being flattened by another disintegrating house.

When he turned to run away, he was propelled down the street - sliding, tumbling, and turning like other wind-blown objects. He struggled to run into the wind, bending forward at a significant angle but without making any progress.



The Wind (1928)

Victor Sjöström directed this silent film, made in California's inhospitable Mojave Desert under temperatures of up to 120 degrees, with sand projected by multiple airplane engine propellers.

It was about the relocation of Letty (Lillian Gish) from Virginia to the windblown frontier ranch/farm of her male cousin, where she experienced jealousy, an unending desert prairie sandstorm, and ultimately madness in the face of misdirected passion and the relentless tempest.

In the film's finale, she shot male assailant Wirt Roddy (Montagu Love), buried him in the shifting sands, and watched in horror as his corpse was uncovered.


Titanic: Disaster in the Atlantic (1929, UK) (aka Atlantic)

This mostly fictionalized, overacted, melodramatic tale was based on Ernest Raymond's play The Berg.

It was another film inspired by the Titanic sinking - although the ship's name was Atlantic, not Titanic. [Note: The White Star Line had forbid the production company to use the name Titanic.]

It was the first sound film about the doomed ship - a compilation of the best footage from both the German-language talkie version and the English-language version.


Greatest Disaster Film Scenes
(chronological, by film title)
Introduction | 1900s-1920s | 1930s | 1940s-1950s | 1960s | 1970s
1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

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