Review of “Avalanche” (1978)

trailer from YouTube

For our Saturday night pizza and bad movie, we ventured into Mystery Science Theater territory for this callback to disaster flicks of the 70s. I was rooting for the snow. The pizza and wine were good.


Caroline Brace, formerly Shelby (Mia Farrow), checks into a newly opened ski resort and meets her former mother-in-law, Florence Shelby (Jeanette Nolan), for whom she has a lot of affection. Her mother-in-law hopes Caroline will reconcile with her son, David Shelby (Rock Hudson), the owner of the resort. Caroline… has to think about that. Florence introduces her to Henry McDade (Steve Franken), the accountant.

People carrying skis walk between them, letting the viewer know this is a ski resort.

Florence, McDade, and Caroline tour the resort. It’s very nice.

Apparently to promote the opening of his establishment, Shelby is sponsoring a series of competitions that attracts winter sport celebrities. One of them is skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses). As a silent David Shelby watches from an upstairs window, a reporter asks Bruce if he ever feels afraid on the slopes. The skier responds, “I never thought about it. I ski like I breathe or talk or make love.”

(I’m biting my tongue not to ask if that makes it all downhill from here.)

When Caroline meets David, she finds him full of hope for his new resort. He has big dreams. He also wants to reconcile with her and manhandles her. He objects to her registering with her maiden name. She is noncommittal on this point. (‘Cuz what lady can resist being manhandled and told what name she can use?) He also confesses that one of the planning commissioners he had to deal with is under investigation regarding a separate corporation—except David bought some of his land from one of those corporations. That’s a matter of public record. So is David’s “sizable contribution” to the planning commissioner’s senatorial campaign.

The viewer is treated to some lovely figure skating routines by Cathy Jordan (Pat Egan) and Annette River (Peggy Browne) (both actresses are figure skaters) and Bruce skiing through some delightful landscape. Oh-uh! Avalanche! He tries to outrun it and does what every Olympics-worthy skier should do in a similar situation. He jumps into a tree. Once the worst is over, he hops down and goes on his merry way.

Yeah, there’s more to come.

At a construction site for (maybe?) a new lodge, Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) confronts David, telling him cutting down all those trees will make the slope unstable. And there’s a storm coming. Nick knows these things. He’s a wildlife photographer. Nevertheless, Caroline smiles at him and says she hopes he shows up at the party David is throwing at the resort that evening.

David screams at his put-upon lawyer, Marty Brenner (X Brands), to handle the growing trouble with the investigation (which he is definitely not a part of). Never mind the storm that’s supposed to come.


One of the standout bad things in this movie is the dialogue. When David talks up the resort to Caroline, he describes his “struggles” with the bank, the environmentalists, and the planning commission—but he had big dreams. “Four years ago,” he tells Caroline, “I came out here, and I saw that mountain, and I knew. I’m climbing it.”

At the party, a slightly inebriated Florence yells, “Aloha!” David tells her, “Mother, this isn’t Hawaii.” To which the indomitable Florence replies, “It is if I say so.”

Oh, is that Nick dancing with Caroline? Grrr….

Random people die under rolling Styrofoam and roaming fuzzy white blurs on the screen—skiers, skaters, people in the stands, people in the booth. I don’t disrespect bad special effects. According to IMDB, it took a spring thaw to uncover the rest of the Styrofoam.

In the kitchen, a gas explosion sends the hapless kitchen staff into the walls, Wile E. Coyote style, but Florence and McDade seem to be okay in the dining room.

Bad dialogue might be forgivable, and cheesy special effects can be delightful, but what drove me up the wall was the stupid, soulless melodrama. I didn’t give a damn about the characters. Why waste perfectly enjoyable figure skating routines on the morass of millimeter-deep feelings and situations even the Flintstones would roll their eyes at?

A final needless tragedy provokes the bad guy ‘fessing up that it’s all his fault. After School Special or what? Blech.

Um, I vote no.

Avalanche can be watched here if you insist.

Title: Avalanche (1978)

Directed by
Corey Allen

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)
Corey Allen…(writer)
Frances Doel…(story)
Gavin Lambert…(writer) (as Claude Pola)

Cast (in credits order)
Rock Hudson…David Shelby
Mia Farrow…Caroline Brace
Robert Forster…Nick Thorne
Jeanette Nolan…Florence Shelby
Rick Moses…Bruce Scott
Steve Franken…Henry McDade

Released: 1978
Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Rated: PG

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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