St. Helens (1981)

PG   |    |  Adventure, Drama

St. Helens (1981) Poster

Dramatization of the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The movie begins with the volcano's awakening on March 20 and ends with its eruption on May 18, 1980.


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2 August 2007 | markcarlson2222
| Carney at his best, but...
This film is pretty good for emotion and drama. I've been to St. Helens and love the region. It's largely grown back and is green and fertile again, dominated by the stark gray gutted monolith of the mountain. In a way, it's a tombstone of granite and pumice, still steaming and hot despite more than two decades of slumber. Very somber and impressive sight. I liked the movie the first time I saw it probably about 20 years ago on TV. It was cut a bit for commercials so I probably saw about 75 minutes so there were a few plot holes, but nothing to worry about. After all, it's a fictionalized docudrama. The only real characters? Harry Truman (Carney in a real departure from Ed Norton), the crusty old soldier who won't do what he don't want to. He's earned the right to die on his own land. And David Jackson (Huffman) who is based on the late David Johnston who died on the mountain in the eruption. He's portrayed as the antithesis of Truman, a calm dreamer who hates stupidity and bureaucracy (one and the same) in the local businessmen and NGS officials. He and Harry hit it off despite their differences and find common ground in the love of the mountain about to destroy everything. I rather liked Tim Thomerson, the sheriff, who's out of his usual stand-up routine but a 'stand up guy' in the local community, as he tries to keep peace as the drama unfolds. The Huffman/Yates love interest? Probably untrue, and in my opinion, unnecessary in the film. A bit of country-western 'local yokels' in the bar, getting to know one another is a decent way of helping us like the town and the folks, but one wonder something. For instance, why does Cassie Yates and her son, who have a car, get a helicopter ride out of danger? And when the news report of the eruption comes on, the first thing they say is that Harry Truman was at his lodge and David Jackson, the 'Young Geologist' was on the face of the mountain when it erupted. Fast work. The end theme, "Here's to You, Harry Truman," is a pretty good ballad, and catchy, even if old Harry himself would probably have scoffed at the overly maudlin lyrics. "Sounds like pigs being murdered." The film of the eruption and the later destruction are impressive and gut-wrenching. It was a huge disaster which flattened thousands of acres of forest and wilderness. Yet, if you go up to St. Helens, the thing you'll be most surprised by is the roadside attractions. "ST. HELENS: FEEL THE ERUPTION! EXPERIENCE THE DESTRUCTION, THE QUAKE, THE POWER, from the comfort of a chair. All over the place, you can see movies, buy lava chunks and explore houses buried under ash. What a country.

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