From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Before YouTube came along there were lots of TV shows that showed us real footage of disasters. I remember I used to watch Real TV when I was a kid and there was this VHS box set of The World's Most Amazing Videos available through infomercials. That's one of the most disturbing infomercials I've ever seen because the announcer said something like: "See the real footage of people getting injured! See the real footage of disasters from around the world!". Seriously, who's mad enough to watch these things and then want to buy VHS boxset so he/she could watch horrible things again and again and again? Anyway, there was a movie in 1978 that contains nothing but real footage of disasters called Catastrophe!. Before we move further, I wanna say something here. Many shocksploitation films of the 70's-early 80's claimed that everything which happened in those films was real. As all of you might guess, there are lots of these movies that just faked it. For instance, the first Faces of Death movie. It is revealed later that the infamous electric chair scenes and some of the stuff depicted was fake. But for Catastrophe! everything is real.
Catastrophe is a 90 minute documentary that shows clips of disasters from the past and present era (70's). After the opening credits, William Conrad (the narrator) tells us right in front of the camera that disasters could make things become junk and destroy human life. Then, the first portion begins with a story about a hurricane. We see the destruction of the city, the aftermath and some interviews with survivors. Next, we have The Hindenburg Disaster. We see the real footage interspersed with interviews from more survivors. Then, there's scenes of a Volcano eruption, the Dust Bowl, racing accidents, tornadoes, ship disasters, The Joelma building fire in Brazil (which is one of the most horrific tragedies) and earthquakes.
In my opinion, this could be a prototype for a modern documentary that we'd see on TV. It has a tense narration and music while the footage from the events and interview clips are played. Also, between each segment the film cuts to William Conrad telling the audience about what they are about to see and leads them into the segment. I guarantee that a movie like this can't be made nowadays.
The thing that I don't really like in this film is the music. It's considered cheesy by today's standards. For instance, in the opening credits that shows a montage of various disasters (that aren't included later on), it has music that sounds like I'm about to watch a Spaghetti Western instead of the documentary. I mean, this is a similar technique used in Mondo movies in which happy music is played before disturbing scenes to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as possible. Luckily, the rest of Catastrophe doesn't use that much of this method.
William Conrad tries to tell us in the end that no place is safe from disasters. The reason that you should watch this movie is to learn and know how to deal with them. I forgot to mention that the film is really hard to find now. The only place that you can see it besides VHS is YouTube....Watch it!