Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 2. March 11, 1975
Juggernaut is based on a premise that all the world loves a disaster. One is inclined to say that is just what it has got.
A couple of years ago Mission Impossible was captivating television audiences, and in early 1974 the American film industry decided to try and revive the idea. The recipe this time contained a handful of ordinary people to add authenticity and increased horror angle to give a slight Hitchcock flavour, and the product was called a disaster epic.
Soon the film companies realised what money spinners these films were and so more poured off the production lines. Leading the pack were The Towering Inferno (in which a fire engulfs the world's tallest building) The Poisedon Adventure (in which a ship strikes trouble) Earthquake (in which Los Angeles collapses piece by piece) and Airport '75 (a repeat of the aeroplane disaster story.) US box office receipts for 1974 consequently reached $1.6 billion, highest since the peak earnings of $1.7 billion in 1947.
Juggernaut is another in the traditional 'disaster epic' mould. It focuses on a large ship on which seven bombs have been planted by a person hiding behind the name of Juggernaut. He demands a ransom for the ship's safety.
In true horror style the director, Richard Lester, goes to great lengths to build up the tension to the point where a British Navy bomb disposal expert, played by Richard Harris, has just over a minute to choose between cutting one of two wires-one will blow him up, the other will defuse the bomb.
However, tension does not necessarily make a good film, and this is where Juggernaut comes to grief. I looked around for some purpose in the film's production but found nothing but an attempt to make a few quick bucks at the box office. The characters provide no more than pretty faces to fill the nothingness that is the rest of the film. Their backgrounds largely remain a mystery and apart from funny-man Roy Kinnear, the disaster's effect seems to be glossed over.
The ship's owner, played by Ian Holm, offered a solution to the problem when he suggested in the last few minutes that Juggernaut (the mad bomber) was a product of a society which treated individuals as things and not as human beings. However, he somehow never managed to see that he, with his plush offices and material wealth, was as much at fault as was his impersonal 'society.'
Yet, the emptiness of the film was contrasted against the great number of people who attended. The president of the Motion Picture Association of America said at the end of 1974 that 'in anxious times people go to the movies to escape their anxieties'. And if we were to judge films in terms of anxiety-escapers, Juggernaut would score an A.