Dante's Peak

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Dante's Peak
Dantes peak ver2.jpg
Film poster for Dante's Peak
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Produced by Gale Anne Hurd
Joseph Singer
Written by Leslie Bohem
Music by James Newton Howard
John Frizzell
Cinematography Andrzej Bartkowiak
Edited by
Pacific Western Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • February 7, 1997 (1997-02-07)
Running time
109 minutes
Language English
Budget $116 million[1]
Box office $178.1 million[1]

Dante's Peak is a 1997 American dramatic disaster thriller film directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, Charles Hallahan, Elizabeth Hoffman, Jamie Renée Smith, Jeremy Foley, and Grant Heslov. Set in the fictional town of Dante's Peak, the town must survive the volcano and its dangers. A Universal Pictures and Pacific Western production, it was released on February 7, 1997.


Dr. Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan), a volcanologist of the United States Geological Survey, and his partner Marianne (Walker Brandt), are studying volcanic activity in Colombia when the volcano erupts. Marianne is killed by a piece of falling debris, leaving Harry remorseful about her death, believing it could have been prevented by evacuating sooner.

Four years later, Harry is assigned by his boss Dr. Paul Dreyfus (Charles Hallahan) to investigate seismic activity at Dante's Peak, Washington, a small town situated near a dormant stratovolcano in the Cascades. Harry arrives as the town is celebrating its founding, and meets the town's mayor, Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton), and her two children Graham (Jeremy Foley) and Lauren (Jamie Renée Smith). Rachel offers to take Harry up the mountain to take readings while also visiting her former mother in-law Ruth (Elizabeth Hoffman). While near a hot springs, Harry stops the children when he sees dead wildlife near it, and they discover two dead bathers in the springs, boiled alive. Believing the excessive heat is a result of volcanic activity, Harry asks Paul to bring a team to study the mountain further. The team arrives with additional equipment, but they do not corroborate Harry's fears and suggest there is little concern. Regardless, Harry tries to convince Rachel to prepare the town for something drastic, while falling into a budding relationship with her.

A week passes without any signs of volcanic activity and Paul orders the team to pack up. While having a final dinner with Rachel, Harry discovers her water to be contaminated with volcanic residue, and shortly discovers the town's water supply similarly contaminated. Paul and Harry agree this is a sign of a pending eruption, and they begin to evacuate the town. The volcano erupts during their preparation, sending the townspeople into a panic. As Paul and the rest of the team contact the National Guard for help and try to maintain an orderly evacuation, Harry goes to help Rachel get her children, finding they have left to get Ruth.

Harry and Rachel reach Ruth's cabin just as the lava flow reaches it, and they are forced to abandon their vehicles and cross a nearby lake via a rowboat. Too late, they realize the lake's waters have become acidic and is eating away at the boat. Ruth willingly gets out of the boat to push it to the dock, and though she survives the chemical burns, she insists they leave her behind as she will slow them down. They find a nearby ranger station and take a pickup truck to drive down the mountain just ahead of the lava; during this, they are able to rescue Ruth's dog Ruffy.

With the town evacuated, Paul and his team and the National Guard prepare to leave. The seismic activity breaks the town's dam, creating a lahar that washes away the bridge out of town as the team cross it, and Paul is lost. Once at a safe distance, the remaining team attempts to make contact with Harry, but fear he is dead.

Harry, Rachel, and the children make it safely back to town, and Harry checks the team's abandoned equipment to discover that the volcano is due for a final, catastrophic eruption that will level the town and that they will not be able to outrun. Graham knows of a mine tunnel in town, which Harry believes will protect them from the eruption, and grabs a NASA satellite beacon before driving towards it. They crash through the barricades covering the tunnel entrance just as the last eruption occurs. The pryoclastic flow of ash demolishes everything on the mountain, including the town. In the tunnel, Harry assures the others are safe and goes to recover the beacon, but gets his leg caught when the tunnel collapses on the truck. He manages to activate the beacon before passing out.

Days later, after the eruption, Harry's team notices the activated distress beacon indicating he may have survived. Rescue crews free Harry, Rachel, and the children. They are flown out by helicopter, looking back at the remains of the town and Dante's Peak, which is missing most of its peak but has finally resumed its slumber; the camera lingers on the volcano, hinting that it might erupt again.



The film was shot on location in Wallace, Idaho, with a large hill just southeast of the town digitally altered to look like a volcano. Many scenes involving townspeople, including the initial award ceremony, the pioneer days festival, and the gymnasium scene were shot using the actual citizens of Wallace as extras. Many of the disaster evacuation scenes that did not involve stunts and other dangerous moments also featured citizens of Wallace; dangerous stunts were filmed using Hollywood extras. Mount St. Helens also makes an appearance at the very end of the movie; during the start of the closing credit crawl, the scene shows an image of a destroyed Dante's Peak community with the camera shot moving out to show a wider scene of disaster, and then showing what remains of the volcano itself. The volcano that remains is actually an image of Mount St. Helens taken from news footage just after the May 18, 1980, eruption.[citation needed]

Exteriors shots of the Point Dume Post Office, 29160 Heathercliff Rd, Malibu, CA 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, who perished during the event.[2]

A brief scene was actually shot inside the crater of Washington State's Mount St. Helens. It is the scene where a scientist gets caught in a rock slide and breaks his leg while climbing down inside the crater to repair a malfunctioning piece of scientific equipment. The giveaway of this shot is a brief appearance by Mount Adams, a dormant 12,776-foot (3,894 m)-high peak 35 miles (56 km) east of Mount St. Helens, above the crater rim as the view focuses on the scientists. The scene was actually filmed on the tarmac of Van Nuys Airport while the Mount Adams image was green screened.

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. 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 Titanic, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers.



Dante's Peak: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by John Frizzell & James Newton Howard
Released February 4, 1997 (1997-02-04)
Label Varese 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.

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

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

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

Dante's Peak: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No. Title Length
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:


The film debuted at #2 behind the special edition re-release of Star Wars with $18 million in its opening weekend.[5] It went on to earn $178 million worldwide.[1]

Despite having wider financial success and being slightly more scientifically accurate than Volcano, Dante's Peak opened to more unfavorable reviews than its rival: Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 27% rating based on 26 reviews,[6] compared to a 44% rating from 39 reviews, for Volcano.[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. ^ Dante's Peak at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 7-9, 1997 - Box Office Mojo". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  6. ^ "Dante's Peak". rottentomatoes.com. 7 February 1997. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Volcano". rottentomatoes.com. 25 April 1997. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 

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