NEW YORK DISASTERS IN THE MOVIES

By Tom Russo
Updated June 12, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

One of Godzilla’s better jokes has French spy Philippe Roache (Jean Reno) posing as an insurance investigator evaluating the damages. If the cover’s suspicious, it’s because disaster-movie New York was a bad risk long before Godzilla and Deep Impact took vicious bites of the Big Apple. Tidal waves, freaks of nature — no wonder this is the city that never sleeps. Those claims would keep insurance adjusters up nights, too.

— Tom Russo

MOVIE KING KONG (1933)

PROPERTY The Empire State Building

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT Giant ape’s rampages leave piles of rubble, downed biplanes, and a few unlucky (but oh-so-thin!) pedestrians.

ADJUSTER’S REMARKS Flagrant leash-law violation voids policy. Claim denied.

[MOVIE] WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951)

[PROPERTY] Entire island of Manhattan

[DAMAGE ASSESSMENT] A runaway planet bears down on Earth, churning up tidal waves.

[ADJUSTER’S REMARKS]Policy covers comp but not collision. Claim denied.

[MOVIE] The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

[PROPERTY] Wall Street, Coney Island

[DAMAGE ASSESSMENT] Time-lost dinosaur is thawed out by atomic testing in the Arctic; heads to New York to thank America for the wake-up call, chewing up lower Manhattan and snacking on a roller coaster.

[ADJUSTER’S REMARKS]No provision in policy for creatures considered fossils at time of issuance. Claim denied.

[MOVIE] Fail Safe (1964)

[PROPERTY] Entire island of Manhattan and outlying areas

[DAMAGE ASSESSMENT] Total annihilation, as the nuclear bomb is loosed on an unsuspecting populace, an act of self-inflicted retribution ordered by the President (Henry Fonda) after we accidentally — oops! — nuke Moscow

[ADJUSTER’S REMARKS]Massive filings exceed funds available. Seek federal disaster relief. (Then again, maybe don’t.)

[MOVIE] THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976)

[PROPERTY] The United Nations Building

[DAMAGE ASSESSMENT] Unhinged former Parisian chief inspector lays his hands on a doomsday weapon that makes the U.N. vanish.

[ADJUSTER’S REMARKS]Due to inordinate number of prior filings, all claims involving one Inspector Jacques Clouseau are to be summarily denied.

[MOVIE] METEOR (1979)

[PROPERTY] The World Trade Center

[DAMAGE ASSESSMENT] A chunk of space detritus plummets from the heavens and — what are the odds? — slams into the Twin Towers, shattering them into so many 110-story splinters.

[ADJUSTER’S REMARKS]Fact that object ”plummeted from the heavens” not proof in itself of ”act of God.” Claim denied.

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