VIDEO: Dante's Peak (1997)

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It’s the debut of a new show, Good Bad Flicks, where your host Cecil Trachenburg takes you through rare movies, forgotten classics, and misunderstood box office bombs!

First up is Dante’s Peak, a disaster film that deserves more attention. It was released amidst a glut of disaster films in the mid ‘90s, and was unfortunately overshadowed by many of them. But almost 15 years later, the film still holds up. The effects are fantastic, and even though the story won’t win any awards, the movie is a blast (in more ways than one)!

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  • Monterey Jack

    I remember really enjoying this movie back in the day, cliche-ridden screenplay and all (gotta love the obligitory “shot of a crying kid sitting on the ground while the legs of uncaring adults form a strobe effect in the foreground” bit). Probably the last major special-effects blockbuster to use as many minature effects as possible.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Yeah, the flick is overflowing with cliches but it sure is fun. I’m easy to forgive a movie for skewing in favor of entertainment over realism, as long as they don’t push it too far. This one managed to skirt in under the wire because by the time they got to all the really ridiculous stuff, you didn’t really notice because the pacing didn’t give you enough time to think about it. After it was over though, that’s they all the “hey, how did they…” moments kicked in.

      After this hollywood started pushing CGI heavy. There are some great things that can be done with CGI, like Sin City, 300, Lord of the Rings, District 9, and so on. However too many times it becomes an easy crutch and stuff that would look excellent with minis or animatronics, ends up looking hokey and only gets worse with time.

    • Unless you count the Lord of the Rings movies. They had some grade-a miniature effects.

  • Mr. Greene

    Um… well, that was interesting.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks for checking it out.

      • Mr. Greene

        No problem. :-)

  • sillstaw

    Personally, I could’ve done with less behind-the-scenes info and more mockery.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Info to mockery ratio kind of varies from show to show. Some movies I have a ton of info, so a bit more behind the scenes stuff gets thrown in. I try to keep a balance of humor and info but sometimes one ends up getting more time than the other.

    • Mr. Greene

      As would have I.

  • George

    You did alright.

    By the way, who are you?

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks.

      What do you mean? I should have an info page up soon or did you mean something else?

  • Cristiona

    I love your voice, and that you can show irritation outside of yelling memes. Frankly, I like all the back story; it fleshes out the movie a little.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks! I have a background in radio so I am comfortable behind a mic. Glad you liked the back story info. I try to include that because sometimes it helps to shed some light as to why the movie turned out the way it did. Even the worst of movies start off with good intentions. (well, except for anything from Uwe Boll)

      • Cristiona

        Yeah, you seem to have a radio voice. Works really well. I’ve been going through your website, and I’ve been enjoying your other episodes. I have to ask though, since you liked Story of Ricky: have you seen Machine Girl? It’s… um… similarly… insane.

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          Glad you like the old stuff, there are some ones I’m pretty proud of.

          Oh hell yeah Machine Girl, love that one. Also a big fan of Tokyo Gore Police, Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, RoboGeisha, and other Tokyo Shock type films.

          • Cristiona

            Was surprised to see I Come In Peace. I remember watching it ages ago and enjoyed it. I also have vague memories of Surf Nazis Must Die. I still remember seeing its box at the video store and wanting to see it in the worst way. I’m still waiting for Netflix to have a physical copy to send.

            As for Machine Girl, watching that was a case of not knowing what to expect. It was far gorier than I anticipated, and I eventually decided that Tokyo Shock was the most accurate company name I’d ever seen.

          • Cecil_Trachenburg

            I come in peace has always been a favorite of mine. I used to work next door to a mom&pop video store and I spent way too much time there looking over their movies. I thought Dolph was great ever since I first saw him in Rocky IV, so when I saw him on the cover of a sci-fi movie I knew it would be awesome. I was not disappointed.

            Surf Nazis pops up on the Instant view every once in a while. You’ll probably have more luck seeing it that way, unless they do a 25th anniversary reprint.

            Yeah, Tokyo Shock doesn’t mess around. I think they have stock in corn syrup and red food dye. Although as gory as Machine Girl is, Tokyo Gore Police is actually worse.

          • Cristiona

            Urk. I barely survived Machine Girl (not much of a gore hound at all). Although, it was the scene where the woman got… her trachea? cut out from behind and it fell in the soup, or whatever. That scene just nauseated me. Can hardly imagine something worse. Eesh.

          • Cecil_Trachenburg

            The ultra-gore stuff doesn’t bother me. Most of the time it is so over the top that I just laugh. What really gets me is bugs. I hate bugs. I’m pretty sure it all stems back to the original Creepshow where the guy had cockroaches eat him from the inside out. That freaked me out when I was a kid and still freaks me out today.

            Although oddly enough, I really liked the roach in Wall-E.

          • Cristiona

            I can handle normal or stylized gore, but that over-the-top stuff usually ooks me out. But some of it just makes me giggle (like in Bride of Chucky). I guess blood’s okay, but it’s the chunks that get me, like that scene I mentioned in Machine Girl.

            And the roach in Wall-E wasn’t too bad. The hole-of-bugs in Temple of Doom, or most all of Arachnophobia, on the other hand…

          • Cecil_Trachenburg

            I love Arachnaphobia, those bugs didn’t freak me out at all. Gahhhhhh the scene from Temple of Doom! Freaks me out every time.

  • cyberjohn

    Good review I watched this movie about once but never really liked it that much to be honest

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks for checking out the video. The movie isn’t for everyone but I’m glad you at least enjoyed the episode.

  • Mystic_Squirrel

    Great review, this is one of those silly movies I always end up watching on TV, along with Gerard Butler’s opus Dracula 2000, and Starship Troopers. I like that they went the practical route with the special effects, and they really do hold up. It’s just the plot and basic logic that takes a hit.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks! I agree, this is one of those movies that you just sit back, turn your brain off and enjoy. The effects were outstanding and another reason why years from now this will still look good and other CGI heavy flicks will look fake.

      Ahhh Dracula 2000, I know it well. Very enjoyable cheesefest. Pre-300 Gerard Butler was awesome.

      • Mystic_Squirrel

        It was his classic pre-300 role, beyond that dragon movie with Batman and the douche-bag that always plays a lawyer when he’s not pooing on History (thanks U-571).

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          Reign of Fire would have been so awesome had the producers not cut the budget in half a week after they started shooting. I’m amazed they were able to scrap together a coherent plot after that mess.

          Ugh, McConaughey. His smirky smugness enrages me.

          • Mystic_Squirrel

            He does have the most epic failed jump in history though. You have to think for about 2 seconds that McConaughey is gonna kill that dragon and then, no.

          • Cecil_Trachenburg

            Allow me to adjust my previous statement. McConaughey and his smirky smugness enrages me mostly in his chick movies. He is cast as the “adorable scamp” and just annoys me to no end. (although recently Jake Gyllenhaal took that over in Love and Other Drugs, which aside from the amazing Anne Hathaway nudity, was a terrible movie)

            In Reign of fire McConaughey was pretty kickass. You are right, his leap was an epic fail of monumental proportions.

  • Crazy Fish

    Didn’t like the video. It’s not really in the spirit of this site, that is, making fun of bad movies. It’s just about 10 minutes of “now this happens, and now this happens, and oh, by the way, when this was being shot…”

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks for watching, sorry it’s not your cup of tea.

  • kennzeichen1d

    Well, Mr. Trachenburg, it´s a weird little coincidence to see you coming to this site, mere days after I “discovered” your youtube-channel (watched the Filmroasters version of “Hackers”, after that checked for reviews of “Hackers”, found one by you-know-who).
    Anyway, welcome to the Agony-Booth.
    Who will be up next, the BLOCKBUSTER-CHICK?

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks for the welcome! Huh, the internet is a small place sometimes.

  • Henrik Ljungström

    I fully agree that this is a highly entertaining film with just the right amount of cheese thrown in here and there, and I can’t say that there was anything really wrong with the video. As others have noted, the narration works well (though I felt it was a bit rushed here and there), and the background info is something I enjoy as a trivia buff. (Although, I must say that the “this was shot at 3 am in the morning” felt squeezed in somehow…)

    But, as Crazy Fish already pointed out, I felt it didn’t quite fit into the Agony Booth formula. On this site I expect more tongue-in-cheek mockery and silly comments, which you brilliantly had a brush with by including the hillarious Rocky Dennis comment. But, since you’ve already mentioned that the mockery varies from show to show, I’m looking forward to the next installment nonetheless!

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks for checking it out, glad you enjoyed it.

      Not that there is anything wrong with the AB formula (It’s worked quite well for nearly a decade) but I set out to make my show a little different. I don’t trash the movies start to finish because, well, I actually enjoy them. Sure I give them their punches, much like I would goof on a good friend. If I was to go after something like Juno, a movie I hate, I would rip it to shreds. However, there already is an overwhelming amount of people that do that and they do it quite well.

      Even though the show is a little different I still feel it keeps in the spirit of the site. I didn’t expect everyone to immediately be into it but I hope you stick around and like the stuff I will cover in the future. Perhaps I will turn you on to a movie you never heard of that may end up being a new favorite.

      Oh and extra thanks for liking the Rocky Dennis bit, I was happy with that one.

    • Michael A. Novelli

      Well, I don’t think a slightly more positive approach is that out of place. Except for me, none of the other video reviewers actively hate the films or TV shows they cover, and y’all are always saying you miss the in-depth trivia of the old written recaps…

  • Fun review. I always liked this movie, and I really like the bits about the miniature work.

    Miniatures and puppets are the way to my heart, so I suppose if the volcano had been a wise-cracking muppet it would have been perfect for me.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks!

      I’m a big fan of real effects over CGI and this movie does it very well. CGI does look great in some movies but you can usually still tell it isn’t real. They just haven’t hit that magic point yet where they can fool you the entire time. (we are getting closer and closer though)

      A giant muppet volcano? Like a volcano that is a muppet and it spits out more muppets? Then the town is overrun by flaming lava muppets? Get Spielberg on the phone, this is gold!

  • fknrat

    I don’t really get this – as in, what’s the point of this video? Are you making fun of the movie? Are you attempting a review? Are you pointing out all the behind the scenes stuff because they’re cool (and they really are)? Are you justifying this as a better movie than people will have you believe? I guess the video just felt a little aimless to me. Cool trivia but nothing the rest of us probably couldn’t have gleaned from watching the DVD extras ourselves. Not trying to put you down, but I profess to being a little confused by the point of this video series.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Would you believe, all of the above? All of the movies I cover are movies that I genuinely enjoy, so jokes aside the episodes are always meant to be “positive”. The jokes are there because even really good movies can be goofed on. I watched Rifftrax destroy the Lord of the Rings movies and they are some of the best movies ever.

      The behind the scenes stuff is often just to show what went into the film, that it was more based in models and minis than CGI. Some movies I have stuff that goes way beyond what you can get from a regular special features on the DVD.

    • Carl Schulz IV

      I agree with fknrat. The video was pretty interesting and informative but not terribly entertaining. I think it just needs a little more personality or something.

      • Cecil_Trachenburg

        Thanks for watching.

  • Corotic_Nog

    Oh god this movie. I saw it in theaters when I was… 11, I guess, and the images of the couple boiled alive and acid-ravaged granny burned into my psyche and haunt me to this day. I don’t think I’ve ever been more traumatized by a film before or since. Honestly, I still have this irrational fear that a volcano will spontaneously start erupting right outside my town (so I lived in Milwaukee… and now live in San Diego… IT COULD STILL HAPPEN).

    Ahem. I caught part of it on cable not long ago, right at the beginning, and I found both the science and the performances laughably bad. You didn’t touch on the performances much, but I remember them being almost SyFy quality… maybe I was just grumpy that day? Anyway I could totally see how it would be a fun “good” bad movie, but I wasn’t in the mood that day so I ended up flipping to something else. After watching this, I regret it; I’d completely forgotten how great the special effects were. Thanks to this video for highlighting it, I’ll make a point to watch the movie next time I can.

    Regarding the review itself: I like the angle, but I thought a lot of the trivia was just kind of dropped in more or less at random and in a way that was sort of distracting. Like “The characters go to the cabin by the lake. This scene was filmed in Idaho. The characters blah blah…” it just sort of sticks out as irrelevant to the narrative that you’re relating. I think if the trivia isn’t directly relevant to the scene, it should be moved to the behind-the-scenes section. I thought the two-part structure worked really well overall.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Your fear is not unwarranted. When I was younger there was a sci-fi movie where these aliens got you into a spaceship and if you looked up there was this probe that would erase your brain. For months I refused to look up, for fear of having my brain wiped.

      I never thought the acting was bad but that may be from seeing countless movies with actors who were really, really bad. I mean, I’ve watched movies where you can see the actor looking offscreen and having someone feeding them their lines.

      I used to separate the trivia and the narrative completely but found that many times it made the episode too long. I usually save the longer info for the end and then just throw in the tidbits during. (unless it is something that needs explaining at the time, like why a scene is cut the way it is, where a character went, etc) I’m still trying to find that perfect mix.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, I hope you check out the future ones.

      • Kooshmeister

        Sounds like you saw Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

        • Cecil_Trachenburg

          That’s the one! I hadn’t seen it since I was little until a few years ago, I think it was on Monstervision. I didn’t even realize what it was until the scene where the guy got his brain erased. It all flooded back to me and I will admit it did freak me out a little.

  • maarvarq

    It didn’t bother me too much that this was less satirical than the average AB entry, but when you were going through the “this happens, then this happens” parts, the cadence pattern of your comments was a bit monotonous (around five seconds in length, units of “da-dah-da-dah-da-[upward inflection], da-dah-da-dah-da-[downward inflection]), and it was only when you started to snark that you got more life into your voice.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks for watching.

  • Tony

    Excellent segment! So far all of the films (except Cherry 2000) you have chosen are ones I also thought were good. The scene in Dante’s Peak where Hamilton and Brosnan start to get it on always seemed very well done to me. I remember they sort of moan and grunt which somehow sounded real if that makes sense. Anyway thanks and I am looking forward to more.

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks!

      Yeah, Cherry 2000 isn’t for everyone but I have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic stuff so it appealed to me more than others.

      I know what you mean. The scene seemed to be much more intimate instead of just some generic love scene. Almost like they really were a couple. It was moments like that where the movie transcended the “natural disaster” film.

  • katmore9

    Cool review. I also liked Dante’s Peak. Weird how two volcano movies came out the same year, but this was the better of the two (which doesn’t say much, but still). You know, I’ve seen this movie about eight times and I didn’t realize just how dumb that grandma was in that boat scene until I saw this review. I remember thinking it was awkward-looking, but now I see the stupidity.

    Just one question: where’s that Vanilla Ice clip from in your opening credits?

    • Cecil_Trachenburg

      Thanks!

      They jumped all over the natural disasters that year and while I did enjoy Volcano, Dante’s Peak holds up so much better. (better story plus practical effects over CGI)

      The grandmother scene drove me nuts! I guess they couldn’t afford (or didn’t have time) to reshoot the scene with her getting out further away from the dock. It’s close enough that she could have grabbed it instead of jumping out of the boat.

      The Vanilla Ice clip is from his movie Cool as Ice. It’s one of the most enjoyably bad movies of all time.