John Cameron’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
dir. by John Cameron; starring Dennis Rodman, Carmen Electra
The tidal wave of nautical disaster movies continues with the release of another John Cameron epic. This semi-mythical, semi-documentary retelling of the 1975 disaster pairs a strangely subdued Dennis Rodman with the fiery Carmen Electra as captain and stowaway on a doomed Great Lakes taconite carrier. Duluth Rich girl Louise Kleba (Electra) runs away from her dotty but confining mother (Susan Sarandon) by stowing away for a free ride to the iron mills of Gary, Indiana. Captain Rodman discovers the rusty but indomitable Electra in the ship’s hold when his strawberry ration mysteriously comes up short. The romantic fireworks are squelched by the biggest special effects nor’wester ever filmed. In an unusual twist for a ’90s movie, there is actually sad ending as both protagonists (along with the whole crew, best boy, gaffer, and caterers) drown in the 90 foot seas. The music and the waters of lake Superior swell along with the tears in your eyes.
This film was shot in almost total secrecy in the Northern Wisconsin town of Boothbay Harbor. Virtually all the effects, second unit work, and most of the extras were created electronically, allowing both complete artistic freedom and complete seclusion. While not as gripping as last year’s megahit Titanic , the nautical disaster genre shows it has sea legs. A great story extracts compelling and believable acting from a most unlikely cast. Most impressive is the usually flamboyant Rodman’s portrayal of a serious yet vulnerable man of the inland ocean. The solid cast, including a revamped Paul Rubens as Stoker’s Mate, keeps the potentially unstable project on an even keel. Get ready a long term sea cruise from the Hollywood boat yards.