Dante's Peak

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Dante's Peak
Dantes peak ver2.jpg
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed byRoger Donaldson
Produced byGale Anne Hurd
Joseph Singer
Written byLeslie Bohem
Music byJames Newton Howard (theme)
John Frizzell (score)
CinematographyAndrzej Bartkowiak
Edited by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • February 7, 1997 (1997-02-07)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$116 million[1]
Box office$178.1 million[1]

Dante's Peak is a 1997 American disaster thriller film directed by Roger Donaldson. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, Charles Hallahan, Elizabeth Hoffman, Jamie Renée Smith, Jeremy Foley, and Grant Heslov, the film is set in the fictional town of Dante's Peak where the inhabitants fight to survive a volcanic eruption from a long dormant stratovolcano that has suddenly woken up and the danger soon escalates. The film was released on February 7, 1997, under the production of Universal Pictures and Pacific Western Productions. Despite mostly negative reviews, it was a box office success and has since gained a cult following among disaster film aficionados.


In 1993, USGS volcanologist and Geologist Dr. Harry Dalton and his lover, Marianne, are caught in an eruption in Colombia. As they try to escape, a volcanic bomb crashes through the roof of Harry's truck and strikes Marianne on the head, killing her and devastating Harry.

Four years later, Harry is assigned by his superior, Dr. Paul Dreyfus, to investigate seismic activity near Dante's Peak, a small town in Washington that borders a dormant stratovolcano. Harry arrives at the town and meets with Mayor Rachel Wando and her children, Graham and Lauren.

Rachel offers to take Harry with them as they see her estranged ex-mother-in-law, Ruth, who lives near a lake at the base of the volcano. While exploring, they find dead trees, dead squirrels the result of carbon dioxide emitting from the volcano, and even a young couple boiled to death in a hot spring heated by the volcano's magma. Paul arrives with a USGS team that evening, and they set up a base to monitor the volcano. Harry believes the disturbances to be signs of an impending eruption, but Paul disagrees and advises against giving a false alarm. Still, Harry partially convinces Rachel to prepare for a disaster, while developing a relationship with her and the children.

A few days later, Harry and his colleague, Terry, go to the volcano's summit crater to obtain further evidence, but when an earthquake strikes as Terry attempts to recover a stuck robot, Terry suffers a broken leg when trapped in a rock slide, necessitating a chopper to lift them off the volcano. Still, Paul denies evidence that danger is imminent, and the USGS team eventually begins preparing to leave. When Harry goes to say goodbye to Rachel, they discover that the town's water supply has been contaminated by sulfur dioxide, and the next morning, seismic readings and gas levels rise dramatically.

Finally convinced that the volcano will eventually erupt, and with the Washington National Guard unavailable until the next day, Paul gives Harry permission to put the town on alert. During a town meeting taking place at the high school, an earthquake strikes, sending residents into a panicked frenzy. As the volcano erupts, Harry and Rachel go to retrieve the children but find a letter explaining that they went to get Ruth, who previously refused to leave her home.

Minutes after they reach Ruth and the children, a lava flow engulfs Ruth's cabin and destroys the vehicles. The five flee across the lake in a motorboat, but the lake has become acidic due to sulfur-rich gases from the volcano, destroying the motor and eating away at the boat. Ruth jumps out of the boat to help it to shore, but sustains severe chemical burns and dies the next morning after reconciling with Rachel.

As the eruption calms, the heat from the volcano melts the glaciers on the peak, forming a lahar that collapses a dam on the river leading into town. At the same time, Harry and the Wandos hot-wire a ranger's truck and set off back to town, where the Washington National Guard is helping evacuate the remaining residents. The lahar strikes a bridge as the USGS team is driving across. The team makes it, but Paul is swept away and killed. Meanwhile, Harry and the Wandos are forced to drive across a huge lava flow in their path, barely making it and rescuing Ruth's dog, Roughy, along the way.

When they arrive back in the deserted town, Harry retrieves a NASA extremely low frequency distress radiobeacon that had been removed from the robot earlier at the USGS base but learns from a laptop that the volcano is due for a second, even more violent eruption. As he and the Wandos begin to leave, the volcano violently explodes laterally, releasing a massive pyroclastic cloud that annihilates everything in its path. With no way out of town and the cloud moving too fast to outrun, Harry and the Wandos narrowly make it to an abandoned mine that Graham and his friends had been using as a hideout. Watching the eruption from afar, the USGS team presume Harry and the Wandos to be dead in the eruption.

Inside the mine, Harry forgets the beacon in the truck and goes back for it. Another earthquake strikes, causing the mine to partially cave in, breaking Harry's arm and trapping him in the truck. Despite this, he still manages to activate the beacon.

Two days later, Terry notices that the beacon has been activated, and the USGS dispatches search and rescue teams. Harry and the Wandos are freed from the mine, reunited with Harry's team, learn of Paul's death, and are airlifted out by helicopter. As the credits roll, the camera pans over the obliterated town before turning to the volcano, now reduced to a Mount St. Helens-like caldera.



Principal photography began on May 6, 1996. The film was shot on location in Wallace, Idaho.

Exterior shots of the Point Dume Post Office in Malibu, California, were used as the USGS's David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory headquarters in Vancouver, Washington. The facility was named in honor of David A. Johnston, a young scientist who had precisely predicted the volatility of the May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens eruption and perished during the event.[2]

The scene involving the geological robot and the trapped scientist was shot inside the crater of Mount St. Helens, as evidenced by a brief appearance of Mount Adams, a dormant 12,776-foot (3,894 m) peak 35 miles (56 km) east of Mount St. Helens, as the film focuses on the scientists. The scene itself was actually filmed on the tarmac of Van Nuys Airport, while the Mount Adams image was composited in later. Production was completed on August 31, 1996.

Extensive special effects surrounding certain aspects of the film, such as the lava and pyroclastic flows, were created by Digital Domain, Banned from the Ranch Entertainment, and CIS Hollywood.[3] The computer-generated imagery was mostly coordinated and supervised by Patrick McClung, Roy Arbogast, Lori J. Nelson, Richard Stutsman, and Dean Miller.[3] Although the film uses considerable amounts of CGI, the volcanic ash in the film was created using cellulose insulation manufactured by Regal Industries in Crothersville, Indiana. Between visuals, miniatures, and animation, over 300 technicians were directly involved in the production aspects of the special effects.[3]

Despite the complexity of its visual effects, Dante's Peak was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that year, as it faced stiff competition from The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers, and Titanic, the eventual winner of the award.



Dante's Peak: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
John Frizzell & James Newton Howard
ReleasedFebruary 4, 1997 (1997-02-04)
LabelVarèse Sarabande

The original score was co-composed by John Frizzell and James Newton Howard. Howard wrote the main theme (heard during the opening titles) and a number of cues, while Frizzell wrote the bulk of the score.

Thirty minutes of the score was released by Varèse Sarabande; the short album length being due to high orchestra fees at the time of release. An expanded bootleg exists that contains almost the entire score.

The contents of the CD release can also be found on the region 1 DVD, and Blu-ray on an alternate audio track during the 'Creating a Volcano' documentary.

The "Main Titles" cue is also featured on Varèse's The Towering Inferno and Other Disaster Classics compilation album.

Dante's Peak: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
1."Main Titles"5:30
2."The Close Call"1:49
3."Trapped in the Crater"5:03
4."On the Porch"2:31
5."The Evacuation Begins"4:12
6."The Helicopter Crash"1:28
7."Escaping the Burning House"2:32
8."Sinking on Acid Lake"2:37
9."Stuck in the Lava"1:44
10."The Rescue"3:05
Total length:30:22


Box office[edit]

The film was released on February 7, 1997 in 2,657 theatres. It debuted at #2 at the box office behind the special edition re-release of Star Wars; it took in $18 million in its opening weekend.[4] After eight weeks in theatres, it had grossed $67.1 million in the United States and $111.0 million overseas, for a total of $178 million worldwide.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Although it was a bigger financial success than Volcano (released two months later), Dante's Peak received mostly negative reviews compared to the generally mixed reviews of its rival. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 26% rating based on 31 reviews,[5] compared to a 50% rating from 46 reviews for Volcano. The consensus states: "Dante's Peak works when things are on fire, but everything else from dialogue to characters is scathingly bad."[6]

Two professors at the Lewis-Clark State College reviewed the movie, noting some aspects such as the pyroclastic clouds, were realistic, and others less so. They also panned the movie for understating the negative effects of a possible false alarm.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Dante's Peak (1997) - Box Office Mojo". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  2. ^ Topinka, Lyn (2009-12-08). "Establishing the David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
  3. ^ a b c "Dante's Peak (1997) - Cast and Credits - Yahoo! Movies".
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 7-9, 1997 - Box Office Mojo". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Dante's Peak". rottentomatoes.com. 7 February 1997. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  6. ^ "Volcano". rottentomatoes.com. 25 April 1997. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  7. ^ "Experts Say 'Dante's Peak' Has Hero, Bad Guy Mixed Up". The Spokesman-Review. February 10, 1997. Retrieved October 21, 2019.

External links[edit]