Latest Issue


Real disasters make some films unwatchable, particularly the old 1970s Towering Inferno type. But other kinds can reach into the heart of human catastrophe

By Mark Cousins   February 2005

Television schedulers know more than any of us about cinematic tone. Imagine that you worked in programme acquisition at BBC2 and were planning to screen The Towering Inferno on a dull Wednesday night in September 2001. Then 9/11 happens. You cancel the screening in a heartbeat. Its Hollywood pathos, its movie-star versions of real lives, its artifice, are suddenly plain to see.

The same applies to the 1968 movie Krakatoa, East of Java, a juicy depiction of the 1883 volcanic eruption that caused a massive tsunami and killed thousands. I saw it as a boy and was thrilled by it,…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect