|Directed by||Mark Robson|
|Produced by||Mark Robson|
|Written by||George Fox
|Music by||John Williams|
|Cinematography||Philip H. Lathrop|
|Editing by||Dorothy Spencer|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||121 minutes
161 minutes (extended)
Directed by Mark Robson and with a screenplay by George Fox and Mario Puzo, the film starred a large cast of well-known actors, including Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Geneviève Bujold, Richard Roundtree, Marjoe Gortner, Barry Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, Victoria Principal, and (under an alias) Walter Matthau. It is notable for the use of an innovative sound effect called Sensurround which created the sense of actually experiencing an earthquake in theatres.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Crew
- 4 Production
- 5 Reception
- 6 Television premiere
- 7 Proposed sequel
- 8 Theme park attractions
- 9 Stock footage
- 10 From fiction to reality
- 11 References
- 12 External links
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (August 2013)|
Stewart Graff (Heston) is jogging underneath the Hollywood Sign. Back home, his wife Remy Royce-Graff (Gardner) starts her morning by picking a fight with him. After he has showered and is preparing to leave, Stewart finds Remy unconscious with a bottle of pills nearby. Accustomed to her periodic suicide attempts, Stewart prepares to induce vomiting when a violent tremor shakes the bedroom. Remy bolts out of bed, revealing that she was faking.
Meanwhile, at the Mulholland Dam, two workers begin a routine inspection of the structure in response to the tremor. One of them is drowned.
In downtown Hollywood, Sgt. Lou Slade (Kennedy) and his partner Emilio Chavez (Armendáriz, Jr.) are in pursuit of a suspect. They chase him out of their jurisdiction, finally crashing into the hedges at Zsa Zsa Gabor's house. After an L.A. County sheriff's deputy yells at Lou for ruining Gabor's hedges, Lou punches him out. He receives a temporary suspension.
On his way to work, Stewart visits Denise Marshall (Bujold), an actress who is the widow of one of his friends and co-workers. He drops off an autographed football for her son Corry (Tiger Williams) and helps Denise run her lines for a scene she is shooting later that day.
A junior staffer, Walter Russell (Niven), at the California Seismological Institute has calculated that Los Angeles will suffer a major earthquake in the next day or two. He frantically tries to reach his superior, Dr. Frank Adams. Another tremor hits as Adams and his assistant are working in a deep trench and they are buried alive. The scientists at the center argue about whether or not to go public with their prediction of a major quake. The acting supervisor, Dr. Willis Stockle (Sullivan), insists that if they are wrong their funding will be jeopardized. They agree on a compromise to alert the National Guard and police so that they can at least mobilize to help deal with the fallout.
While checking out at a grocery store, Rosa Amici (Principal) realizes she does not have enough money to pay for all her items. Jody Joad (Gortner), the seemingly kind store manager, insists that she keep the items and make up the deficit the next time she shops. Later, when he hears that the National Guard reserves are being called up on the radio, Jody leaves the store in the middle of his shift, revealing himself to be part of the reserve army. He goes to his run-down boarding house and changes into his NCO uniform, enduring the abuse and harassment of his housemates who accuse him of being homosexual because he's got pictures of bodybuilders on his wall.
Blowing off steam at a bar, Lou orders a double bourbon. A drunk (Matthau) periodically wakes up to toast random people. Daredevil motorcyclist Miles Quade (Roundtree) arrives with his partner Sal Amici (Dell) and his sister Rosa. A pool shark collects $50 that Miles owes him, leaving him short for the propane tank he needs to do a stunt for a talent scout. Miles convinces Lou to loan him the money.
The tremor cancelled Denise's shoot; she heads to Stewart's office, pretending to meet with a friend. When she runs into him, he is headed out for a drink. They go back to Denise's house for the drink and end up making love. He promises to come back later that night and invites her and Corry to spend the summer with him in Oregon, where he will be overseeing a project. Back at the office, his boss and father in-law Sam Royce (Greene) offers to hand over the company presidency to Stewart. He asks for some time to consider the idea. Stewart calls Denise and breaks off their plans for later that night. He goes to Sam's office to accept his offer but is stunned to see Remy there. He assumes she has convinced her father, Sam, to offer the promotion to Stewart in order to save their marriage. He storms out and she follows him, accusing him of cheating with Denise. He explains that he never had until that day.
When the couple get outside the building, the main earthquake occurs, which reaches 9.9 on the Richter Scale, destroying much of L.A. and killing thousands.
After the quake is over, Sam and most of his employees find themselves trapped on the upper floors of their 30-story skyscraper, as the elevators have crashed to the ground. They descend most of the way by the stairs, but the earthquake has collapsed part of the stairwell, leaving an gap of about two stories. Sam rigs a fire hose to a chair and lowers his staff down one at a time. When everyone is safe, he suffers a heart attack and Stewart climbs up to lower him down in the chair.
Denise's son, meanwhile, has been caught on a bridge over a spillway. She spies him unconscious on the concrete and climbs down to save him. Unable to climb back out with her son, she hails Miles and Sal who are passing by in their truck. After saving Denise and her son, they drive in search of help, coming across Lou who is organizing rescue efforts in the street. Lou commandeers their truck to use it as an ambulance.
Rosa is arrested by the National Guard for looting. Jody, now a sergeant, picks her out of a group of prisoners. Rosa assumes he is going to let her go, but he claims that the streets are too unsafe for her to go anywhere and he orders her to stay inside a secluded store. Another group of troops arrive with Jody's housemates as prisoners. Jody executes them in an act of revenge for all the long time bullying he endured from them, terrifying Rosa and his subordinates as they now see his dark psychopathic side.
Once Stewart gets everyone safely from his office to a shopping center named Wilson Plaza, now converted into a triage center, he goes off in search of Denise and her son. Sam is taken to Dr. Jim Vance (Nolan), but he does not survive. Stewart ends up driving Lou around in search of survivors and they come across Jody and his regiment. Jody threatens to fire on them if they come any closer and Rosa emerges when she sees Lou, begging for his help. Lou and Stewart pretend to comply with Jody by driving off while Sgt. Joad's scared men look for an officer to have him face a court martial and detainment. But Lou sneaks back and gets the jump on Jody, who's enraged at Rosa for betraying and rejecting him and tries to rape her. Lou shoots Jody dead in self-defense and rescues Rosa.
As they drive away, they hear that another aftershock has destroyed Wilson Plaza. After a quick survey of the building, Stewart realizes there are survivors trapped in an underground garage three stories below ground. He and Lou crawl into the sewer and through some rubble with a jackhammer, which they use to drill through to the garage. Stewart is overjoyed to find Denise, who is one of the people trapped inside. As he hugs her, he sees his wife standing just behind her.
During the rescue, the Mulholland Dam finally gives way, sending water down the sewers. Lou and Denise make it up the ladder to safety, but as Remy climbs out, a man steps on her hand. She falls back into the water which is sweeping people away. Stewart looks up at Denise, but he cannot bring himself to abandon his wife to death. He sacrifices himself when he swims after her and both of them are swept away along with many others. Denise walks away from the manhole in shock and grief. Lou is holding Rosa when a doctor walks up to him and says, "This used to be a helluva town, officer." Lou mumbles, "yeah" as the camera pans back to reveal a completely destroyed L.A.
In the wake of the tremendous success of the 1970 disaster-suspense film Airport, Universal Studios began working with executive producer Jennings Lang to come up with a new idea that would work within the same "disaster-suspense" genre. The genesis of the idea literally "came to them" as a direct result of the San Fernando earthquake that shook the Los Angeles area during the early morning hours of February 9, 1971. Director Mark Robson and Lang were intrigued by the idea of creating a disaster on film that would not be confined to an airliner, but rather take place over a large area. Producer Bernard Donnenfeld helped produce the film, but was uncredited.
Budgeted at $7,000,000, Earthquake found itself in a race against the clock with the bigger-budgeted disaster film, The Towering Inferno, which was being financed by two studios (20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., a motion picture first) and produced by Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure).
Lang scored a major coup when he was able to sign on screenwriter Mario Puzo to pen the first draft during the summer of 1972. Puzo, fresh from the success of his novel and film, The Godfather, delivered the draft script in August. Much like his The Godfather films, the characters and situations in his Earthquake script were intricate, and showed a similar attention to detail. However, Puzo's detailed script necessitated a much larger production budget (as the action and characters were spread over a vast geographical area in Los Angeles), and Universal was faced with either cutting the script down, or increasing the film's projected budget. Puzo's involvement with Earthquake was short-lived, however, as Paramount Pictures was anxious to begin development with the followup to The Godfather, The Godfather Part II. Since Puzo's services were contractually obligated to the sequel, he felt he would be unable to continue work on two projects of such a large scale, so he opted out of continuing any further work on Earthquake.
The Earthquake script languished at Universal Studios for a short period of time, but was brought back to life by the huge success of the 20th Century Fox hit, The Poseidon Adventure, released in December 1972. Fueled by that film's enormous box office receipts, Universal Studios put pre-production on Earthquake back into high gear, hiring writer George Fox to continue work with Puzo's first draft. Fox was principally a magazine writer and had never written a screenplay before, so director Mark Robson worked with him to narrow the scope of the script down to fit into the budgetary constraints. After eleven drafts, Earthquake went before the cameras in February 1974.
While that film featured a larger "all star" cast (in fact, Universal had approached several, including Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, to star in Earthquake - but they had already been signed for The Towering Inferno), Universal was able to land Charlton Heston in the lead role, along with Ava Gardner (who signed at the proverbial "11th hour" simply because she wanted to spend the summer in Los Angeles), George Kennedy, Lorne Greene, Geneviève Bujold (who agreed to a part in the film to head off an impending lawsuit by Universal over a prior project), Richard Roundtree (riding a wave of success from the Shaft film series), former evangelical Marjoe Gortner as an antagonist, and newcomer Victoria Principal. Additionally, Jon Voight, James Caan, James Brolin and Burt Reynolds along with Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, were considered for the part of Stewart Graff. Gardner's character, Remy, was originally tailored for Lee Grant (who would later play a similar character named Karen Wallace in Airport '77). Jessica Walter and Elizabeth Allen were additional cast choices for Remy. For Kennedy's character, Sgt. Lew Slade, many considerations other than George Kennedy were made. These include Beau Bridges, Alan Alda, Stacy Keach, James Brolin (who was also considered for Stewart Graff), Rock Hudson, John Cassavetes, Kevin Tighe and William Atherton. Also, Elizabeth Montgomery was the first choice for Denise, but Jacqueline Bisset, Candice Bergen, Sharon Gless, Sondra Locke, Meredith Baxter, Kate Jackson, Susan St. James and Susan Clark were also in the running for the part finally played by Genevieve Bujold. The character of Sam Royce was originally offered to James Stewart, who declined. Fred MacMurray, Robert Young, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and Lee J. Cobb were all suggested for the part eventually played by Lorne Greene. The role of Miles Quade, played by Roundtree, was originally written for an Italian-American actor (the part was called "Gino Amici") and was intended for Joe Namath (Richard Dreyfuss was also considered). For the villain Jody Joad, a rather odd first choice was the television comedian Tommy Smothers. But Michael J. Pollard and Robert Blake were other choices. Victoria Principal's part was originated for Susan Sarandon or Kay Lenz, but Principal was chosen. For the child part of Corry, Denise's son, was set for either Robbie Rist or Michael Reilly, until Tiger Williams won out. Walter Matthau was cast in a cameo role, under which he was credited as "Walter Matuschanskayasky"; this gave rise to an urban legend (perpetuated by the actor himself) that his was his birth name.
Production necessitated the complete destruction of the Universal Studios backlot in order to simulate the catastrophic earthquake of the title (as doing the same on Los Angeles' streets would not have been possible). Along with a clever use of miniatures of actual buildings, matte paintings, and full-scale sets, Earthquake combined decades old special effects techniques with those developed especially for the film (including an innovative "shaker mount" camera system, which mimicked the effects of an earthquake by moving the entire camera body several inches side to side, versus merely shaking the camera lens).
Extensive use of highly trained stunt artists for the most dangerous scenes involving high falls, dodging falling debris, and flood sequences, set a Hollywood record for the most stunt artists involved in any film production up until that time: 141. Major stunt sequences in the film required careful choreography between the stunt artists and behind-the-scenes stunt technicians who were responsible for triggering full scale effects, such as falling debris. Timing was critical, since some rigged effects involved dropping six ton chunks of reinforced concrete in order to flatten cars, with stunt performers only a few feet away. In other scenarios, some stunt artists were required to fall sixty feet onto large air bags - for which they were paid the sum of $500.
Universal Studios and Jennings Lang wanted Earthquake to be an "Event Film" - something that would draw audiences into the theatre multiple times. After several ideas were tossed about (which included bouncing styrofoam faux "debris" over audience members' heads), Universal's sound department came up with a process called "Sensurround" - a series of large speakers made by Cerwin-Vega powered by BGW amplifiers, that would pump in sub-audible "infra bass" sound waves at 120 decibels (equivalent to a jet airplane at takeoff), giving the viewer the sensation of an earthquake. The process was tested in several theatres around the United States prior to the film's release, yielding various results. A famous example is Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, where the "Sensurround" cracked the plaster in the ceiling. The same theatre premiered Earthquake three months later – with a newly installed net over the audience to catch any falling debris – to tremendous success.
The "Sensurround" process proved to be a large audience draw, but not without generating a fair share of controversy. There were documented cases of nosebleeds generated by the sound waves. When the film premiered in Chicago, Illinois, the head of the building and safety department demanded the system be turned down, as he was afraid it would cause structural damage. In Billings, Montana, a knick-knack shop next door to a theatre using the system lost part of its inventory when items from several shelves were thrown to the floor when the system was cued during the quake scenes.
The 2006 Universal Studios Home Entertainment DVD release features the original "Sensurround" 3.1 audio track, duplicating the original theatrical "Sensurround" track (but oddly in mono directed to the front 3 speakers rather than the original stereo mix), but sadly no actual 'rumble' generator was used and it's only the two control tones that activated the generator that can be heard. In addition, the film's original soundtrack was remixed in Surround Sound 5.1 which was simply a tag as once again only the control tones feature on the track."
Pretests and re-edits
After October test screenings, Universal opted to cut 30 minutes from the film, notably from the pre-quake sequences, at the cost of some of the dramatic flow. This included a narration sequence about the San Andreas fault and an impending catastrophic earthquake that would occur in either Los Angeles or San Francisco. This scene was filmed and was set to be shown before the opening title credits, and while it was removed at the last minute, it was eventually included as the opening sequence of the NBC extended television edit. Also excised was extended footage of Stewart (Heston) running, and additional scenes of Remy (Gardner) and Stewart arguing. After Remy's fake suicide, Dr. Vance shows up, argues with the ambulance crew, and begins to talk with Stewart. Dr. Vance (Lloyd Nolan) informs Stewart that Remy had an abortion two years prior. Stewart realizes that Remy had lied to him, since he was told it was a miscarriage. Remy appears and they fight because Stewart wanted the baby and Remy did not. Stewart storms off, and this explains why Stewart resents Remy so much. (In the film, they just seem angry at one another.) There was more of Slade leaving the police station and footage of Rosa leaving the market was shot as well. She was filmed waiting for a bus, and being offered a lift from a man on a motorcycle (this footage was eventually used in the film's television cut). Just before the earthquake, Stewart and Remy had a final fight (in front of Stewart's car) which was deleted as well. During the earthquake, there was a scene of a nearby lumberyard falling apart, and this was removed from the final cut.
The elevator scenes, some of the film's most infamous shots, were severely altered from their original scenes. Originally, the occupants ended up pressed to the ceiling of the elevator and dropped to the floor when the elevator crashed to the bottom of the shaft. This scene - shown in all test screening prints - was considered too graphic for a film intended to have a PG rating. Universal, decided to cut this portion of the sequence and replace it with a frame of the people on the elevator's floor, with the notorious 'cartoon blood' rushing into the camera.
Other scenes after the earthquake were shot to wrap up many characters' stories. Walt Russell and Dr. Stockle - whose fates are undetermined after the quake in the theatrical release - were shown alive in the seismology laboratory post-quake. They were shown finding the earthquake's magnitude to be 9.9 on the Richter scale. Among other cuts, the film's last scene originally had Denise asking Lew Slade if Stewart had survived. Upon hearing of his death, she walks over to Corry who has regained consciousness.
Released in the United States on November 15, 1974, Earthquake would become the fourth highest-grossing film of the year; its competition, The Towering Inferno, was the highest.
The disaster film trend had reached its zenith in 1974 with the combined releases of Airport 1975 (the first Airport sequel), Earthquake and The Towering Inferno. The films enjoyed staggering success, with The Towering Inferno earning $55 million in rentals, Earthquake earning $36 million and Airport 1975 earning $25 million. By 1976, the disaster film cycle had also left its mark on the list of all-time box office champions, with The Towering Inferno ranking 8th, Airport 14th, The Poseidon Adventure 16th and Earthquake 20th. Such success spawned a flood of similar films throughout the decade.
Earthquake received generally unenthusiastic critical reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected reviews from 16 critics to give the film a score of 25% with an average of 4.4 out of 10. In Leonard Maltin's annual publication TV Movie Guide, the film receives a "BOMB" rating, stating "[the] title tells all in hackneyed disaster epic ... Marjoe as a sex deviate and Gardner as Lorne Greene's daughter tie for film's top casting honors."
Earthquake was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design (Alexander Golitzen, E. Preston Ames, Frank R. McKelvy) and Best Sound Mixing (Ronald Pierce, Melvin Metcalfe, Sr.). It won for Best Sound Mixing (Ronald Pierce, Melvin M. Metcalfe, Sr.) and a Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects (Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock).
The film was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Original Score (John Williams). Williams' music for Earthquake was the second of his trio of scores for large-scale disaster films, having previously scored The Poseidon Adventure and following with The Towering Inferno (briefly earning him the nickname "King of the Disaster Scores"). Williams scored both Earthquake and The Towering Inferno in the summer of 1974, both scores showing similarities to one another (notably Earthquake's theme and The Towering Inferno's love theme sharing the same eight-note melody). The music of the song C'est si Bon by Henri Betti is played on the guitar in the middle of the film.
For the film's September 1976 television premiere on NBC, additional footage was added to expand the film's running time so it could be shown over two nights. The "Sensurround" audio was simulcast in FM stereo in the Los Angeles and New York markets. This allowed the home viewer to experience a similar effect as in the theater. Contrary to popular belief, this "television version" made no use of material originally left out of the theatrical release (save one brief scene featuring Victoria Principal and Reb Brown), but rather new footage was shot some two years after the original, using some of the stars from the theatrical version. New scenes included a young married couple (Debralee Scott and Sam Chew) on an airplane. The husband seeks a job with Graff, while his wife has the eerily accurate ability to see the future with cards. They are on an airliner attempting to land at Los Angeles International Airport during the earthquake. The airliner is barely able to take off a second time and divert to San Francisco.
A script for a sequel, Earthquake II, was written in 1975 and was to feature the characters played by George Kennedy, Victoria Principal, Richard Roundtree and Gabriel Dell. The script never reached the production stage. The story details the characters, now refugees from the Los Angeles quake of Earthquake, adjusting to life in San Francisco. Another catastrophic earthquake and tsunami eventually strikes the Bay Area. Production was cancelled in late 1977 as the popularity of disaster films was starting to wane.
Theme park attractions
Earthquake inspired the attraction Earthquake: The Big One at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood. The original attraction in Florida began by having guests enter an exhibit room in San Francisco themed to earthquakes where a guide briefly introduced and discussed the film. They then selected five volunteers from the audience, which they explained would participate in an interactive portion of the pre-show.
Guests then entered a screening room, where they watched a brief film that depicted a massive earthquake that destroys Los Angeles. Following the earthquake sequence, actor Charlton Heston appeared and explained how the previous earthquake sequence of the film was created through the use of miniatures. The film screen then raised to reveal a portion of the destroyed model that was used during the filming of the previous earthquake sequence. Guests were then ushered into a soundstage where the volunteers who were selected from the audience earlier helped recreate various scenes from the Earthquake film.
Following this sequence, guests then entered a "Golden Gate Transit" subway station in Oakland where they boarded an open-air subway train that closely resembled the trains used on the Bay Area Rapid Transit in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. After boarding, the train departed the station and took them beneath the bay to San Francisco's Embarcadero Station. Once stopped in the station, a violent earthquake would take place, destroying the entire station and climaxed in a massive flash flood. Once the earthquake sequence was complete, the subway train would return to the Oakland Station where guests would disembark the train and exit the attraction.
In the fall of 2002, the pre-show was changed to a more generic "magic of making movies" theme, with slight modifications which included mentioning special effects used in other films besides Earthquake. The pre-show sequences were eventually dropped from the attraction in September 2007, with the various pre-show theaters being used as a queue line for the ride portion of the attraction.
The attraction officially closed on November 5, 2007 and reopened several months later as "Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You!." The current attraction has a similar three part pre-show as the ‘’Earthquake’’ attraction and still utilizes volunteers from the audience. The ride portion of the attraction also remains mostly unchanged, although television monitors were added to the subway train cars to help tie it into the rest of the show.
The Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour also contains an Earthquake sequence, which replaced The Tower of London Set in 1986, and features the tour tram entering a San Francisco subway station and experiencing a massive earthquake.
Many scenes from the film, especially those featuring the destruction of Los Angeles, have appeared in other productions, often those of Universal Studios itself. Some examples include:
- Damnation Alley (film): In this 1977 film, the earth shifts from its axis after a full-scale nuclear war. Flood scenes from the dam burst in Earthquake are used to help depict the earth returning to its correct axis.
- Quantum Leap: The episode "Disco Inferno" has Sam Beckett leaped in as a film stuntman. One of his jobs is on the set of Earthquake, where he is the character seen hanging from a piece of debris whom Sam Royce (Lorne Greene's character) attempts to save, but loses his grip and falls.
- Galactica 1980: In the episode "Galactica Discovers Earth", in a "computer simulation" of a devastating Cylon attack on Los Angeles.
- Scarface: Tony Montana conducts a botched drug transaction with the Colombian drug dealer Hector, while Earthquake (in heavily edited form) is seen playing on a television in the background.
- V: The Final Battle: Footage from the sequence featuring the collapse of the Hollywood dam was reused during the destruction of the Visitors water pumping station.
- Barenaked Ladies: Parts of the film, namely when the big earthquake struck, were used in the music video for the song "Another Postcard."
- Tom Petty music video for the song "You Got Lucky" shows part of the episode "Galactica Discovers Earth", with the "computer simulation" of a devastating Cylon attack on Los Angeles. This is shown briefly on a television Tom Petty turns on.
- The Incredible Hulk (1978 TV series): In the first season episode "Earthquakes Happen", several building collapse scenes, the collapsing freeway overpass scene, the collapsing Spanish bells, the sliding and falling stilt houses, and the collapsing high tension wires and parts of the wooden foot bridge scenes were reused in this episode with slightly zoomed or slightly reoriented focus to keep any association with Earthquake from being seen. In the Hulk story, the city of St. Thomas is hit by an earthquake. David Banner is posing as a scientist who is visiting a nuclear facility that has had some serious design problems and maintenance issues.
From fiction to reality
On November 23 rd 1980, the movie was given in the evening screening at Ariston cinema in the city of Potenza (south Italy). During the film screening two huge earthquake shocks actually occurred in the city with its epicenter in the Vulture area between the Irpinia and Basilicata. It was the seismic event that became known as the Irpinia earthquake. Two viewers of the film were the victims. The quake caused about 3,000 deaths.
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- Wallechinsky, David (1977). The Book of Lists. Bantam Books. p. 197. ISBN 0-553-12400-5.
- "The 47th Academy Awards (1975) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
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- "On the Celluloid Chopping Block: EARTHQUAKE (1974)". Video Junkie. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Earthquake (film)|
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