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Film / Avalanche

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"Ugh, spoilers!"

Avalanche is a 1978 Disaster Movie directed by Corey Allen, starring Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow.

Entrepreneur David Shelby (Hudson) has fought tooth-and-nail to build a ski resort deep in the Rockies. During an especially busy time of the ski season, his ex-wife Caroline (Farrow) comes for a visit. As Shelby unsuccessfully attempts to get back together with her, Shelby's mother Florence enjoys the party life at the lodge, a star skier arrives at the resort with much fanfare, and many other characters are introduced as they have the time of their lives at the resort. But then, a lost airplane crashes into the snow that sits precariously atop the mountain, sending tons of snow onto the unsuspecting resort...

The film was a Box Office Bomb upon release; and has since gained new life as the subject of the fourth episode of the reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Tropes pertaining to that episode can be found here.


Not to be confused with the Atari arcade game of the same name that was released the same year.

Tropes found in this episode include:

  • The Alcoholic: Florence spends most of her time indulging herself in alcoholic beverages and generally just going wild. Even when she's being carted away in an ambulance, she complains that she wants a Bloody Mary.
  • Bookends: The movie both begins and ends with Caroline driving up to the resort in a taxi.
  • Bullet Time: Used when a police car goes hurtling into a storefront.
  • Bystander Effect: A news crew pulls up to the resort after the damage, sees the destruction and injured people... and simply set up their cameras for some B-roll footage instead of helping out.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: David is warned that the land is precarious, but he insists on still developing there.
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  • Death by Ambulance: The rescue workers cause more on-screen deaths than the avalanche does, including several caused by poor ambulance driving.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Roughly 75% of the movie is spent introducing all these characters who will soon fall victim to the avalanche or in the ensuing mayhem that comes after it.
  • Drives Like Crazy:
    • The incompetent ambulance/police/fire truck drivers. The scene as they pull out of town in response to the avalanche has to be seen to be believed. This winds up getting Florence killed when one of these drivers takes a curve waaay too hard and shoots off a bridge into a ravine.
    • To some extent, the pilot as well. Spending far too much time in low visibility conditions in a mountainous environment that they acknowledged was too dangerous. Arguably, every tragedy in the movie is a result of people being incompetent with vehicles, rather than the management of the lodge.
  • Doomed Hurt Guy: Florence. All that time and effort spent digging her out, then reviving her, and she gets killed when her ambulance careens off of a rickety bridge, falls into water and blows up.
  • Epic Fail:
    • A surprising amount of the casualties of the avalanche are actually caused by the incompetence of the rescue workers. Florence in particular survives two near-death experiences in the avalanche, but dies due to the aforementioned idiot ambulance driver.
    • The fire men fail to catch a slowly falling man right after he drops from a ski lift... after they had already caught a child who'd fallen in the same place.
    • The most unlucky example is the poor fellow in town, nowhere near the avalanche, that gets run over by an out of control police car that careens off the street and hits him.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The ambulance.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The events unfold over the course of the opening weekend of the resort.
  • Fanservice: The figure skating scene and Caroline's swimming scene soon after were mild examples. The naked woman greeting David in the shower: not so mild.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche: Set up all movie that it won't take much to set off an avalanche. In this case it's a plane crash.
  • Ignored Expert: Played with. David fought tooth and nail and to get his resort built against all the advice of the experts, but we're explicitly told that the reason it was such a fight is that everyone else listened to them and he couldn't get any partners or even a bank loan.
    • And then there's Nick. Pretty much everything he says to David goes in one ear and out the other.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Zigzagged; little Jason escapes the disaster unscathed, but we do see other kids getting caught in the avalanche as it's happening, including one girl who is thrown against a fence by the snow and likely broke her back from the impact.
  • Jerkass: David. He is a very stubborn and somewhat unscrupulous man who callously brushes off all warnings he gets about a potential avalanche until it's too late. Not to mention how domineering and possessive he is towards his ex-wife; it's a minor mercy that the movie doesn't have them reunite after the disaster (and even that is ambiguous).
  • Jerkass Has a Point: David has professionals keeping track of the avalanche danger, gives Nick (an unqualified photographer) a fair hearing, and doesn't dismiss his concerns until he reveals he has no specific warning signs to point out other than an intuition of "a heaviness". Nick turns out to be right, but by all the evidence it's a complete coincidence.
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed. David quite surprisingly survives the film, even getting through what appears to be a textbook Redemption Equals Death setup of risking his life to save his ex-wife. However, he's severely humbled by seeing all the destruction his ego has wrought; he's presumably financially ruined since all of his assets were invested in the resort; he loses his beloved mother; and he and said ex-wife don't actually get back together.
  • Missed Him by That Much: As rescue crews are sticking poles into the ground in search of missing skiers, they just barely miss Bruce twice. By the time they actually do find him, it's too late.
  • Police Are Useless: Not just the police, but pretty much all of the emergency services in the film are pretty incompetent, to the point where they are directly responsible for a sizable percentage of the on-screen deaths (including two named characters).
  • Pretty in Mink: Florence owns a mink coat and hat, showing she's well off either by herself or from marriage.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Martin when he falls to his death from the ski lift.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • A gas leak in the lodge shortly after the avalanche hits causes an explosion in the lodge kitchen and sends many people and objects flying.
    • The ambulance that careens off the bridge (with David's mother inside) at the end winds up exploding into a mighty fireball shortly after landing. Jonah and the bots joke that it was caused by all the alcohol in Florence's blood.
  • Stuck on a Ski Lift: Played for drama. Well, it would have been if the rescue team hadn't been so astoundingly incompetent.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Some of the characters (such as the blonde figure skater and her coach) are shown getting swept away during the avalanche and are simply never seen again afterward. It can be assumed that they either died or were rescued at some point off-screen.
    • We are not given any denouement on what happened to Jason after he is rescued from the ski-lift.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Photographer Nick Thorne warns everyone that the slope conditions are dangerous and is ultimately proven correct—but his actual warning comes across as hunches and gobbledygook. He says "there's a heaviness" instead of pointing to any concrete data to support his point.


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