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Goliath Awaits

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Made-for-tv film (1981). Larry White Productions/Columbia Picture Television. Syndicated. Produced by Hugh Benson. Directed by Kevin Connor. Written by Richard M Bluel and Pat Fielder from a story by Bluel, Fielder, and Benson. Cast includes Robert Forster, Frank Gorshin, Mark Harmon, Christopher Lee and Emma Samms. 200 minutes, cut to 186 minutes, 110 minutes for home video release. Colour.

1939: early in World War Two, the British liner Goliath is sunk by a German U-boat while en route to the US. 1981: during his researches, oceanographer Peter Cabot (Harmon) discovers the vessel's resting place Under the Sea and is astonished when further investigation reveals there are living people aboard the hulk. He joins a combined US/UK naval rescue effort which makes contact with the survivors, 337 in all, led by Captain John McKenzie (Lee). McKenzie adapted the ship's engines to drive air processing units, and so saved several hundred passengers in a section of the vessel which remained airtight. Hydroponic gardens and other methods sustained this small society over the years, but now the fuel is finally running out, and what seems at first a Utopia will shortly cease to exist. As the newcomers learn more, it emerges that Captain McKenzie and his primary aides led by Dan Wesker (Gorshin) use euthanasia in the guise of illness to maintain a stable society. McKenzie has become corrupted by power, and so lies to his people when a vote is held on whether to return to the surface world. Predictably, perhaps, romance develops between Cabot and McKenzie's highly attractive daughter Lea (Samms). After much conflict, Cabot and US naval commander Jeff Selkirk (Forster) rescue most of the sunken vessel's population – including Lea, of course – with the aid of British submarines.

While somewhat overlong in its original cut (shown over two nights), Goliath Awaits holds up fairly well today. As part of "Operation Prime Time", a ratings gimmick in which the three main US Television networks of the period participated, the film aired on various channels in late 1981. It bears some similarities to 1970s disaster epics in its large cast of well-known veteran performers, plus such popular younger stars as Harmon and Samms. Lee gives one of his better performances as the former Hero turned despot. An sf novel with a closely similar premise, though a far smaller initial band of survivors, is James White's The Watch Below (1966). [GSt/DRL]


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