Mount St. Helens - the killer volcano

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German title Mount St. Helens - the killer volcano
Original title St. Helens
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1981
length 87 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Ernest Pintoff
script Michael T. Murphy
Larry Sturholm
Peter Bellwood
Larry Ferguson
production Peter S. Davis
William N. Panzer
music Goblin
camera Jacques Haitkin
cut George Berndt

Mount St. Helens is a 1981 film drama about the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 .


On March 20, 1980, a shaken earthquake of intensity 4.1 on the Richter scale, the volcano Mount St. Helens in the US state of Washington . At the same time, lumberjacks work for the entrepreneur Whitaker in the forests around the volcano and have felled tree trunks picked up by helicopter. The black pilot Otis can hardly work properly, however, as frightened birds constantly collide with his helicopter. Otis reports his problems to Sheriff Temple.

Temple drives to Spirit Lake to visit the boat rental company Harry Truman who lives there. Temple tells him about what is going on on the mountain, but Truman's theories seem too absurd to the sheriff. On the way back, a fallen tree crashes right in front of the sheriff's car. Temple investigates the area and finds a strange yellow substance. He also meets a camping family who draws his attention to fish jumping around on the surface of the water.

The ever more frequent earthquakes arouse public interest. The United States Geological Survey sends volcanologist David Jackson to the scene. Jackson and the sheriff get on well, the scientist is staying at the Whitakers Inn. In the only bar in town, Jackson clashes with entrepreneur Whitaker, who tries to convince him that the volcano is not active. David gets to know the single mother Linda and befriends her.

Earthquakes are shaking the area again. Otis is attacked by racists on a country road, but successfully defends himself. David, who is just passing by, tries to help Otis, but is knocked down. Nevertheless, Otis thanks David for his attempt to help. After another 4.5 magnitude earthquake, David contacted his authorities and recommended that his superior Wagner prepare evacuation plans for the region. To find out how many people there are in the woods, David is supposed to contact Truman on Temple's advice. Temple also warns him that the locals are unwilling to leave their homes if they don't see good arguments. David and Linda take a trip into the woods. David gets into an argument with an old man who is upset about David's parked car. Linda explains to David that the old man was Truman.

On March 27, David set up his devices at the foot of the volcano. He witnesses an outbreak that blows ash and dust into the air. The eruption tore a crater in the flank of the volcano, which is documented on television. David's superior Wagner takes the lead of the investigation. More and more reporters and journalists come to the volcano. Otis makes a lot of money by flying them around the volcano. David and Truman are now working together. Truman informs David about campers, hunters and forest workers who are out in the woods and need to be evacuated.

At the beginning of April, the small town is overrun with reporters and onlookers. Nevertheless, the evacuation of the region is taking place with the help of the National Guard. Truman, whose access route to his house is blocked with barricades by Wagner, does not want to leave his house and breaks through the roadblock. This action arouses the interest of the reporters who visit and interview him. Meanwhile, Whitaker refuses to close his sawmill.

The governor has declared a state of emergency and has the site cordoned off by the National Guard. But Whitaker announces at a community meeting that after negotiations with the government and the judiciary, the place is open again to tourists and workers. Anyone who makes a waiver that exempts the state from all responsibility is allowed to come back. David tries to object, but is disgraced by Whitaker. But Truman helps David to implement it, in which he describes in detail the effects of a volcanic eruption. However, he and Wagner have to admit that there is still no evidence of an impending outbreak. David witnesses that many people sign the waiver. Another tremor that brings down Linda's house has formed a hump on the mountain. To get more information, someone needs to get a rock sample from the crater. For this purpose, David is flown into the crater by Otis, where he can take samples and just escape an eruption.

After evaluating the results of the investigation, Wagner informed the governor on May 9 that a major outbreak was imminent. David decides to stay on the mountain to witness the outbreak. Sheriff Temple fails his attempt to get Truman to evacuate his home.

May 18th, a Sunday. The day begins like everyone else. But at 8.32 a.m. the volcano erupts. David and Truman are killed and panic breaks out in the town. The pictures after the outbreak go around the world.


The Lexicon of International Films described the film as "an extremely humble disaster film, boring and harmless."

The film magazine Cinema found that only two things about the low-content melodrama were worth seeing: Art Carney and the real footage of the outbreak.


The film premiered in the USA in September 1981. In Germany, the film came into the video trade in 1984. It was also shown on German television under the title St. Helens - Der tödliche Berg .

Since Mount St. Helens was about 400 meters lower when it erupted and its northern flank, among other things, was badly devastated, the producers had to choose another location. The similar-looking Mount Bachelor in the US state of Oregon , a volcano located about 250 km south of Mount St. Helens, was chosen as the “double” . City scenes were also filmed in the small town of Bend .

The film character of the volcanologist David Jackson is based on the scientist David A. Johnston, who actually perished in the volcanic eruption . The film also adopts Johnston's authentic final words, "That's it!"

Historical background

On May 18, 1980 at 8:32 a.m., the Mount St. Helens volcano erupted. The entire north flank slipped due to an earthquake. A pyroclastic flow caused great damage to the area. A total of 57 people, including David A. Johnston and Harry R. Truman , were killed, 200 houses, 47 bridges, 24 km of railroad tracks and 300 km of highway were destroyed. The eruption released an energy of 24 megatons of TNT , about 1,600 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima . Over 9 million cubic meters of timber was destroyed, the crops of the surrounding farms were destroyed, and thousands of animals were killed.

The eruption is the best observed and studied volcanic eruption to date.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Mount St. Helens - The Killer Volcano. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  2. Critique of Cinema