Since posting about Ernest Borgnine and The Poseidon Adventure, I’ve managed to lay my hands on the 1974 Pan paperback edition of the Paul Gallico source novel. I’m so pleased to have it in front of me. The cover has actually come free of its moorings, but it’s in working order otherwise, and transports me back to 1975, when it became talismanic to my 10-year-old self: my only way of finding out anything further about The Poseidon Adventure. On the front, you can see the pre-disaster still of Hackman, Stevens and Borgnine, from which I was able to etch vague likenesses with my pens and pencils. (Interesting that the image of the ship being upended by a tidal wave is not a still, but a professional likeness in pen and pencil.) And whose idea was it to put “Paul Gallico’s The Poseidon Adventure“? That’s not really book grammar is it?
Anyway, the back cover is where the real meat is.
Having been spooked by the blood, sweat and tears of the survivors’ hellish journey through the bowels of the stricken vessel, it was with mixed feelings that I pored over the large still from the boiler room climax on the back cover of my book. I could identify Nonnie, Mr Martin and Mr and Mrs Rogo, and those were definitely Susan Shelby’s glistening calves and red high-heels. As an aide memoire, this atmospheric pic was gold dust; it transported me back to the film. As mentioned, the full cast list was also vital in terms of working out who played whom. Hats off to my Dad buying me the book as a present. (He’d taken my brother Simon to Birmingham for some kind of investigation into his constant nosebleeds, and he got a present for being brave; Dad was an equal-opportunities present-buyer.)
It is hard to convey to younger people how much more valuable printed material was in the 1970s. If it wasn’t printed on paper, it didn’t really exist. This book was literally all of the Poseidon Adventure ephemera I could lay my hands on. These days, a Google or YouTube search yields pretty much everything.
Because the film had such an existential impact upon me at a formative age, it remains special, and a glimpse of footage or a still retains the power to upend the hairs on the back of my neck. Long may this continue. Anyway, thanks to the alchemy of the scanner and the internet, I can now share the papery artifact with you.
Oh, and here’s a silly photo of me posing with the hallowed book, taken during the History Of Collins & Herring In 100 Objects project on Saturday mornings on 6 Music in 2010. I was surprised, and not unpleasantly, to find that all of the objects still exist in a gallery, if you’re nostalgic like that.
Ernest Borgnine Latest: I am recording an obituary for Radio 4’s Last Word programme tomorrow, and all being well, it will air on Friday at 4pm. It will be an honour.