Dante's Peak

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Dante's Peak
Dantes peak ver2.jpg
Theatrical Release Poster
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 date
  • 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 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 was set in the fictional town of Dante's Peak where the inhabitants must survive a volcanic eruption and the resultant dangers. It was released on February 7, 1997, under the production of Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Pacific Western Productions.


In 1993, United States Geological Survey volcanologist Dr. Harry Dalton and his colleague and fiance, Marianne, attempt to escape an eruption in Colombia. A piece of hot volcanic debris pierces through the roof of Harry's truck, killing Marianne.

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

Rachel offers to take Harry with them as they see her former mother-in-law, Ruth, who lives near a lake at the base of the volcano. While exploring, they encounter multiple casualities, including two people boiled to death in a hot spring. Harry calls Paul to report to him his concerns about area around the volcano. Paul then arrives with a USGS team that evening, and they set up base in a motel to monitor the volcano. Although Paul and Harry had a disagreement about the volcano, Harry decided to stay for a few more nights since he still believes that the disturbances are signs of an impending eruption. During his stay in town, Harry and Rachel talked about their lives and they grow closer. Harry again discusses with Paul about his concerns of the volcano, but Paul dismisses him because the data contradicted his claims.

Days after the USGS have set up camp to monitor the volcano, Harry and Terry venture inside the mountain's crater with a programmed robot known as "Spider Legs". During Terry's examination, a tremor shakes the mountain, causing him to be buried in the rocky debris and breaking his leg. A helicopter rescues Harry and Terry moments before a fissure opens inside the crater.

Harry argues with Paul, saying that the quake was harmonic, and to put the town on alert, but Paul still dismisses his claims and tells him to fall in line. But after days of no activity, Paul decides that it is time to leave town and monitor the volcano from their headquarters. Harry cedes in defeat. During that night when Harry goes to say goodbye to Rachel, they discover that the town's water has been contaminated. They drive up to check the town's water supply, where it is revealed that it has been contaminated with sulfur dioxide. They hurriedly drive back to the motel where Paul is staying for Harry to show him the contaminated water. The team realizes that it is only a matter of time before the volcano will erupt as they scramble to gather all the new data readings. As Paul calls the National Guard for assistance, he instructs Harry to notify Rachel that it is time to call for a town meeting.

The next day during the emergency town meeting at the town high school, tremors shake the gymnasium just before the volcano finally begins to erupt, causing the residents to go on a panicking frenzy. Harry and Rachel drive through the carnage to get Graham and Lauren, only to find out that they left to pick up Ruth who refused to leave her cabin.

Reaching Ruth's cabin, Harry and Rachel are reunited with the kids and Ruth, who was still adamant that she would not leave. Harry contacted the USGS team one final time while Rachel and the others were gathering things. As they are leaving the cabin, a lava flow engulfs it and destroys the vehicles and everything in its path. The five escapes across the lake in a motorboat. However, halfway across, they notice that all the fish in the lake are dead. Harry realizes that the lake has become acidic due to sulfur-rich gases from the volcano. The acid destroys the motor and starts eating away at the boat as they drift in the lake. Nearing a dock, Ruth jumps out of the boat and into the acidic water and pulls the boat towards it allowing those on the boat to get off safely. She collapses onto land, sustaining severe chemical burns and dies the next morning with her family and Harry at her side.

Meanwhile, the heat from the volcano melts the snow on the mountain, and, combined with downed timber, ruptures a nearby dam on the peak, now becoming a lahar. Harry and the Wandos finds a truck from a ranger's station and ventures back to town. The National Guard having finally evacuated the town, leave together with the USGS team. En route, the convoy gets caught in the lahar flow that has destabilized the bridge with debris, knocking it off its foundation. The National Guard convoy gets across the bridge to safety, but Paul, who was driving the team's van, is washed away to his death as the bridge flips over.

Harry and the Wandos are stopped by a crusted lava flow. With more fresh lava coming down the hill, Harry frantically tries to drive the truck over the cooled crusted lava. But lava pockets bursts to burn the truck's tires, making it more difficult for them to cross. While driving across, they notice Ruth's dog, Roughy on a ridge. Rachel catches Roughy as it jumped into the truck just as fresh lava flowed over the road behind them.

Seeing that their only way out of town has been washed out by the flood, they return back to town, now a desolated ruin site, where Harry retrieves a distress radiobeacon at their camp in the motel. Before leaving, he checks the laptop that is monitoring the volcano where he learns that the volcano is preparing for a final catastrophic eruption. As they head towards the town's abandoned mine, where Graham previously used as a hideout, the volcano laterally explodes. The pyroclastic flow rushes down the mountain, obliterating everything in its path. Harry crashes the truck into the entrance of the mine just before the pyroclastic flow gets to them. The remaining USGS team watch the eruption from a safe distance, believing Harry to be dead.

Inside the mine, Harry and the Wandos regroup in the hideout. Graham tells them what supplies they have, while Rachel checks their wounds. Harry realizes that he left the beacon in the truck and before he sets out to get it, seeing that the kids are scared, he promises them that when they get out he's going to take them all deepsea fishing. Just as he was going back to the truck, the mine collapses, completely blocking and separating him from Rachel and the kids. Harry suffers a open fracture with his arm as he gets trapped inside the truck by still falling debris. After several tries, Harry manages to successfully activate the beacon.

Back at the headquarters, Terry notices that the beacon has been activated, realizing that Harry may still be alive. The USGS dispatches search and rescue teams back to town. Harry and the Wandos are rescued from the collapsed mine and are airlifted out by helicopter. Harry expresses his relief that Rachel and the kids are safe as they look forward to their deepsea fishing trip. The helicopter flies over the devastated town with a shot at the volcano (looking very similar to Mount St. Helens), showing the might of mother nature.



Principal photography began on May 6, 1996. 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]

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]

A brief scene was actually shot inside the crater of Mount St. Helens. The scene involving the geological robot and the trapped scientist was shot inside the crater, as evidenced by a brief appearance by Mount Adams, a dormant 12,776-foot (3,894 m) peak 35 miles (56 km) east of Mount St. Helens, as the view 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 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, and Blu-ray 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: 30:22


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 with $18 million in its opening weekend.[5] After 8 weeks in theatres, it went on to gross $67.1 million in the U.S. and $111.0 million overseas, it went on to earn $178 million worldwide, making it a box office success.[1]


Despite having wider financial success and being slightly more scientifically accurate than Volcano, Dante's Peak received negative reviews compared to its rival: Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 25% rating based on 28 reviews,[6] compared to a 46% rating from 41 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 on IMDb
  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. 

External links[edit]