What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is not being done as part of a blog-a-thon. Instead, this is a monthly event hosted by MovieRob called Genre Grandeur. The way it works is every month MovieRob chooses a film blogger to pick a topic and a movie to write about, then also picks a movie for MovieRob to review. At the end of the month, MovieRob posts the reviews of all the participants.
For August of 2019, the honor of being the “guest picker” went to a guy I don’t even know. Barry of Cinematic Catharsis is the guest picker for this month, and the topic he selected is “Nature Gone Berserk.” In my mind, there’s no better way to do that then a good old-fashioned disaster flick. I’ve done a fair amount of those for the series Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies, so when I saw this topic, I couldn’t resist.
Let’s just get the premise of this piece out up front. I love this movie not because it’s a classic, but because it is comically and deliciously bad. There’s so much wrong with this movie, yet it is saved by the fact that you just really can’t make a unwatchable movie with Roddy McDowall, Robert Culp, and Martin Milner. On top of that, this is the second straight movie I’ve written about featuring Barbara Hershey. I’m not going to lie, I had a “thing” for her for a long time. So, now that you know several of my “guilty pleasures” as far as “B” actors are concerned, let’s take a deep dive into “Flood!”
As for the movie itself, don’t set yourself up for disappointment by looking at this film’s disaster movie pedigree. It’s an Irwin “Master of Disaster” Allen production. It’s got an all-star (if not decidedly B-list) cast, and to the first-time viewer, it offers the promise of the fury of Mother Nature. Movies such as “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure” marked Irwin “The Master of Disaster” Allen as a big-budgeted disaster film artist. But he also brought some of his movie mayhem to the small screen with his 1976’s made-for-television movie “Flood!”
Of course, the problem with taking the disaster genre to the small screen was in creating all that thrilling carnage on a small television movie budget.
The budget isn’t the only thing which got down-sized. “Flood!” has a lessened running time thanks to the chop-job necessitated by the television format. Despite the actors I’ve already mentioned, “Flood!” doesn’t have the huge “cavalcade of stars” cast usually associated with this genre of film. Concomitantly, having a diminished number of characters means a diminished number of the “soap opera” sub-plots which would normally flood a movie like this.
Keeping all that in mind, “Flood!” opens with charter helicopter pilot Steve Brannigan (played by Robert Culp) as he flies a dripping-with-money tourist named Franklin (played by Roddy McDowall) up to the lake for some fishing. But when they get there, Brannigan tells town council member Paul Burke (played by Martin Milner) another leak has sprung in the huge earthen dam that holds back the lake which overlooks the town. Burke calls an emergency council meeting to demand they open the sluice gates before the dam breaks.
However, Mayor John Cutler (played by Richard Basehart) reminds everybody the whole town’s economy depends on the tourists and fishermen drawn by the lake, and if they drain it, the town will dry up and blow away. In other words, all Cutler needs is Mayor Larry Vaughn’s sweet anchor sport coat from “Jaws” to be the prototypical politician ignoring the safety of townspeople in favor the economic interests of a tourist town.
Despite Burke’s pleas, the council votes against opening the sluice gates; their reason being they have not yet received the official word from the geological surveyor who examined the dam. As a result, Burke launches his “Plan B.” He heads over to the local hospital, where his fiancée Mary Cutler (played by Barbara Hershey) works in order to tell them they can expect a massive influx of casualties if the dam does fail. Of course, Mayor Asshole is also Mary’s father, and being somebody who believes in her dad, she ignores Burke’s warnings because she cannot bring herself to grasp the idea her father would risk the lives of so many people. Thankfully, the town’s only doctor (played by Whit Bissell) agrees to evacuate the patients who wouldn’t survive if the hospital were to lose power.
Things take an interesting turn when Burke finds out from the dam’s operations manager (played by Cameron Mitchell), that Mayor Asshole did in fact get the geological report, and that he lied to the council because he doesn’t believe the surveyor’s findings. So, not only is Mayor Asshole aptly named, but his daughter Mary is brain-numbingly stupid because she refuses to see the light, even when Burke lays it out for her.
If you couldn’t figure it out, the title of this movie tells you what is going to happen, the dam fails and releases a torrent of through the town, meaning Burke and Brannigan spent the rest of the movie engaging in rescues and various acts of dare-devilism.
But it’s in the “disaster” part of this movie when you get to see how laughably small the budget was. The collapsing earthen dam looked like a 5th-grade science project; it’s even set at night to obscure how completely lame it was. For a movie called “Flood!” it’s frankly amazing how little water you actually see.
“Flood!” ends with Burke and Brannigan flying off into the sunset, ostensibly to retrieve badly-needed medical supplies. But part of me wanted them to be saying “Screw this town full of assholes. Let’s go get wasted in Cabo!”
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Any discussion of this movie begins and ends with “what might have been.” In other words, this is where we talk about a disaster movie that in and of itself was a disaster. The questions become all about “Why?” The same can be said of the career of former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler. Like “Flood!,” all the pieces were there. Cutler was 6’4″, 230 pounds, he could throw the ball through a brick wall, and he was agile enough to escape oncoming pass-rushers. In both cases, it should have worked; everything was there. But for some reason, it all went wrong.
To me, the biggest problem with the movie is the plot. It’s easy to lay this all on John “Mayor Asshole” Cutler; after all, this whole movie doesn’t happen if he isn’t an idiot. But if that’s the case, we don’t get to today’s hidden sports analogy. Just like you can’t blame the failure of the dam exclusively on Mayor Cutler, there are so many questions about the failure of Jay Cutler.
You know if there was a prequel to “Flood!” it would be all about a big ribbon-cutting scene once the dam was built, complete with Mayor Cutler giving some “pie-in-the-sky” speech about how everybody will be swimming in the promised tourist dollars. That’s the same thing that happened when Jay Cutler entered the National Football League. Coming out of Vanderbilt University, Cutler had all the promise of a ready-made “big-time” NFL quarterback.
Just like when the dam and the lake started raking in the tourism cash, Jay Cutler’s early career showed all the signs of that promise. Just like the dam when it started cracking, Cutler’s performances were fraught with warning signs. And just like the geological surveyor’s report laid out the uncomfortable realities, by the time the Denver Broncos unloaded Cutler on the Chicago Bears, the die was cast for everybody’s football fate.
Cutler’s career was a moderate archipelago of brilliant strewn across a sea of suck. It was those glimpses of greatness that made Cutler’s career so exasperating to watch. This was probably worse for the football fans in the “Windy City” than in the “Mile High;” most of those islands of non-suck occurred in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Once Cutler blew into the Windy City, the seas of suck got pretty rough.
Chicago stuck with Cutler from 2009 through 2016, for almost all of that time they held on to the belief he could make them competitive. If nothing else, Cutler played hard. Many times he played hurt. But when he played poorly and the Bears were losing, his aloof personality made it easy to question if he cared about winning. The proof is in the memories of Chicago Bears’ fans. When asked what their biggest recollection of Cutler is, it won’t be a momentous, game-winning touchdown. It’s most likely to be “Eeyore” Cutler brooding on the sideline.
Another old adage about sports is “winning cures everything.” The problem is the Bears didn’t do a lot of winning with Cutler. They made one playoff trip during Cutler’s time in Chicago. That ended with Cutler blowing out his knee in the NFC Championship Game.
Say what you will about Jay Cutler, but he was one tough son-of-a-bitch. One of greatest bits of “Holy shit, did I get that wrong” in the history of this blog came when I ripped Cutler for taking himself out of that NFC Championship Game; the Bears never bothered to tell anybody until well after the fact that Cutler kept trying to play in that game after he suffered a torn knee ligament.
Having said that, I was a huge Cutler fan when he came out of Vanderbilt. I will never forget when he took Vanderbilt into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville and took a Florida Gator team into overtime that should have blown the perennial Southeastern Conference cellar-dwellar Commodores off the field. I will also never forget watching Cutler’s father sarcastically doing the “Gator Chomp” when Vandy tied the game late in the 4th quarter and thinking he would never get out of there alive if Vanderbilt won that game.
On top of that, the comparison between “Flood!” and Jay Cutler’s career gets even better when one stops to consider the power of “belief.” Despite your opinion of what happened in that 2010 NFC Championship Game, there was never really a moment when anybody outside of the world of Bears fans thought Jay Cutler’s career wasn’t a dam ready to give.
Fair or otherwise, Cutler did spend his entire tenure with the Bears playing in the shadow of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. You’re not going to use a lot of paper making a list of quarterbacks who have Rodgers’ ability…or got as much sweet-heart media coverage…but what had to drive Bears fans insane was Cutler would show flashes of Rodgers-level talent, and then…the dam would break.
Frankly, there was far too much “and then…” in Cutler’s career. In his first season in Chicago, Cutler threw 26 interceptions. He would lead the league in interceptions again in 2014, and would end up with 160 total for his career. But again to be fair, Cutler got the crap knocked out of him almost every minute of his 11-year NFL career. Even when the Bears were good enough to make it within one game of the Super Bowl, Cutler was sacked 52 times. In eight season, Cutler suffered 20 or more sacks, totaling 322 for his career. In other words, Cutler spent most of his career running for his life because he was playing behind offensive lines made of expired lunch meat.
Were it not for the lack of winning, Cutler’s legacy would be very different that what it is. To survive 11 seasons as a quarterback in the NFL defines success in and of itself. Anytime Cutler took the field, he could be great or he could be terrible. The problem was nobody ever knew which because quarterbacks don’t come with the certainty of a geologic surveyor’s report.
The Moral of The Story:
Perception is not reality; it’s the difference expectation and performance. It’s also not an excuse for not doing your job.
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