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Encyclopedia > St. Helens (film)
St. Helens
Directed by Ernest Pintoff
Starring Art Carney
David Huffman
Cassie Yates
Albert Salmi
Cinematography Jaques Haitkin
Release date(s) 1981
Running time 90 min.
Language English
Budget Unknown
IMDb profile

St. Helens, aka St. Helens, Killer Volcano, is a 1981 film directed by Ernest Pintoff and starring David Huffman, Art Carney, Cassie Yates, and Albert Salmi. The film centers on the events leading up to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State, with the story beginning on the day volcanic activity started on March 20th, 1980, and ending on the day of the cataclysmic May 18, 1980 eruption. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Art Carney (November 4, 1918 – November 9, 2003) was an Academy Award winning American actor in film, stage, television, and radio. ... Professor David A. Huffman (August 9, 1925 - October 7, 1999) was a pioneer in the Computer Science field. ... Main title caption from Dynasty. ... Albert Salmi (born March 11, 1928; died April 23, 1990) was an American actor. ... 1981 (MCMLXXXI) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Mount St. ... This article deals with the U.S. state. ... The 1980 eruption of Mount St. ...



Ron ONeal (September 1, 1937 in Utica, New York, USA – January 14, 2004 in Los Angeles, California, USA — of pancreatic cancer) was an American actor, director and screenwriter. ... Tim Thomerson (b. ... Bill McKinney (born September 12, 1931 in Chattanooga, Tennessee) is an American character actor whose most famous role was Don Job, the mountain man who abused and then sodomized Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) in the movie Deliverance. ... Nehemiah Persoff (born 1919, Jerusalem) is an actor. ... There are very few or no other articles that link to this one. ... Henry Darrow Henry Darrow (born Enrique Tomas Delgado, Jr. ...


The film opens up with an image of Central Oregon's Mt. Bachelor and the Central Oregon Cascades which is the fictional setting for Mount St. Helens itself. On March 20, 1980 an earthquake of 4.1 on the Richter Scale strikes Mt. St Helens, signalling the first signs of volcanic activity in 123 years. Official language(s) None Capital Salem Largest city Portland Area  Ranked 9th  - Total 98,466 sq mi (255,026 km²)  - Width 260 miles (420 km)  - Length 360 miles (580 km)  - % water 2. ... Mount Bachelor is a stratovolcano (called Bachelor Butte until the 1980s) built atop a shield volcano in the Cascade Range of central Oregon. ... Mount Adams in Washington The Cascade Range is a mountainous region famous for its chain of tall volcanoes called the High Cascades that run north-south along the west coast of North America from British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to the Shasta Cascade area of northern California. ... The Richter magnitude test scale (or more correctly local magnitude ML scale) assigns a single number to quantify the size of an earthquake. ...

During the first earthquake, a flock of geese become disoriented and smash into the windshield of an Aerospatiale SA341G Gazelle helicopter being used for logging operations. Pilot Otis Kaylor, lands the helicopter only to be accused of nearly killing a group of loggers.

Shortly afterward, David Jackson (a loose play on the name of real-life volcanologist David Johnston), a United States Geological Survey scientist, is sent to investigate the activity. Upon arriving in the small town of Cougar (a real-life town located 12 miles south of Mount St. Helens), he quickly befriends a single mother named Linda Steele (played by Cassie Yates), who is a waitress at a fictional restaurant named Whittaker's Inn. While there, he stirs up concern with the owner, Clyde Whittaker (played by Albert Salmi), and a group of both farmers and loggers. David A. Johnston, 13 1/2 hours before the 1980 eruption of Mount St. ... The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is a scientific agency of the United States government. ... Cougar is a town in Cowlitz County, Washington. ...

Art Carney, in one of his finest roles, stars as the 84-year-old Mount St. Helens Lodge owner Harry Truman. Throughout the film, Carney delivers a stellar depiction of Truman, and his defiant attitude towards the notion of leaving his home. Harry R. Truman (October 30, 1896 – May 18, 1980) came to brief fame as a well loved, if eccentric resident of Washington who lived near Mount St. ...

Later in the film, as the volcanic activity increases, so does the attraction between Jackson and Steele, and the two eventually fall in love. In their last scene in the movie, he is seen leaving Linda behind for the work that needed to be done on Johnston Ridge presumably the day before the eruption. Later that night, he pays one last visit to Harry Truman.

On May 18, he is seen hiking up to a ridgetop to monitor some scientific equipment, when the mountain explodes. As the film ends, Linda soon realizes the horror of the day's events when a radio announcer declares that one of the first victims was Jackson.

The film ends with a scene of a small plant growing back to life amidst the barren moonscape that was the N. Fork Toutle River valley.


  • The entire movie was shot on location in Bend, Oregon and at Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon's Cascades.
  • The "Mount St. Helens Lodge" in this movie was actually the lodge of a popular resort near Mt. Bachelor called the Inn of the Seventh Mountain resort. The ending credits verify this, and one of the buildings seen in the movie can be seen on the "Inn of the 7th Mountain" official website.
  • According to Truman's sister, Harry Truman and David Johnston were indeed friends and spent some time together.
  • The eruption images of Mt. St. Helens were sourced from actual file footage of Mount St. Helens, much of it sourced from ABC News, KOMO-TV in Seattle, and KATU-TV in Portland.
  • The setting for Spirit Lake was actually a lake west of Mt. Bachelor named Sparks Lake. In the movie, both Bachelor and the South Sister (of the Three Sisters Volcanic Chain) served as Mount St. Helens.
  • Highway 504, known now as the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, in the movie was actually Oregon State Highway 46.
  • The sequence of photos during the depiction of the May 18, 1980 eruption showing the north face of Mt. St. Helens self-destructing were taken by an amateur photographer at the Bear Meadow campsite 11 miles northeast of the peak. The photographer, Gary Rosenquist, became a household name shortly following the eruption, and his photo sequence was widely used by the scientific community to reconstruct the events that led to the eruption.
  • One of the movie's associate producers, Seattle filmmaker Otto Seiber, nearly lost his life in a filming expedition on Mt. St. Helens - shortly after the May 18, 1980 eruption. His film crew had been dropped off by helicopter on May 23rd, yet as they filmed the devastation, their compasses started acting up due to the magnetic field differences in the ash. This resulted in them getting lost, and nearly killed by the 2nd large explosion on May 25th. Brief clips from the documentary titled "The Eruption of Mount St. Helens", one that resulted from that expedition, and a previous one several weeks before the eruption, were included in the movie.
  • Filming of the movie began in November of 1980 and was finished by April of 1981. It aired during the one-year anniversary.
  • Gerri Whiting, sister to lodge owner Harry Truman, served as a historical consultant in the movie.

KOMO Studio KOMO-TV (KOMO 4) is a television station in Seattle, Washington. ... KATU is a television station in Portland, Oregon, USA. It began operation on March 15, 1962 and is an affiliate of the American Broadcasting Company. ... The Three Sisters are three volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range, located about 15 miles SW from the nearest town of Sisters, Oregon. ... State Route 504 (also known as the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway), is a highway that runs east from Castle Rock, Washington for 52 miles to its present terminus at Johnston Ridge Observatory at the northern base of Mount St. ...

Factual errors contained in the movie

  • There was no highway anywhere near Mount St. Helens numbered "607" as mentioned during a brief scene at the Mount St. Helens Lodge. There was, however, a major access road that led to Spirit Lake, called Washington State Route 504.
  • Real-life volcanologist David Johnston never fell in love with any woman while working at Mt. St. Helens. He did, however, fall in love with one woman prior to working on Alaska's Mt. Augustine Volcano.
  • In the scene depicting the events of the May 18, 1980 eruption, there's a shot of a man driving a car down a dirt road and running into a tree. He later gets out of his car and starts videotaping. This was actually a play on the story by actual news photographer David Crockett, who worked for KOMO TV in Seattle. He actually never hit a tree. As the story goes, his path was blocked by rapidly developing mudflows taking out stretches of a logging road he was using as an access route. [[1]][[2]]
  • Harry Truman, contrary to his depiction in the movie, never owned a dog. In fact, at the time of the eruption he owned 16 cats and racoons all of whom lived indoors with Truman.
  • The waivers of liability mentioned in the movie were not mentioned in real life until the day before Mount St. Helens erupted (they depict April 30th as the date of mention in the movie), and weren't even issued in Cougar as the movie suggests. Instead, they were brought up per request of then-Governor Dixy Lee Ray and then-Washington State Patrol Chief Robert Landon as a means to appease scores of home and property owners staging a showdown in the town of Toutle. The movie also makes no mention of the scores of such homeowners being led to the mountain by a State Patrol-led convoy after the aforementioned waivers had been signed.
  • David Johnston didn't have to hike Coldwater Ridge to get to his observation post (the ridge depicted in the movie for his outpost), and the movie also erroneously omitted the fact that he had a truck and camper up there. The way up Coldwater Ridge at the time was a series of switchback logging roads that led to a small clearing, at which his truck and camper were located. Incidentally, the propane tank and remnants of his camper were found three miles away from where his observation site was, in 1997.
  • There were no recorded incidences of any pilot in the area running into disoriented birds, or vice versa.
  • The movie depicts David Johnston getting involved in a fight. In reality, this never took place.
  • The first "newscast" in the movie mentions the Iran Hostage Crisis as being one of the major newsmakers of the day. It however erroneously states several figures. The movie states that there were 53 hostages, yet only that many were held to the end. In that newscast, the anchor also says, "Today marked the 129th day of captivity for the 53 American Hostages..." On March 20, 1980, when activity began, that would've actually put the real duration for the hostage crisis at 106 days.
  • The Blue Zone and Red Zone, boundary lines limiting and/or prohibiting access around Mt. St. Helens from April 30, 1980 until 1982, are erroneously depicted in the movie.

Dixy Lee Ray Dixy Lee Ray (September 3, 1914- January 2, 1994) was the seventeenth governor of Washington State, U.S.A. and the first woman to hold that position (for one term, from 1977 until 1981). ... The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is the state police agency for the State of Washington. ... The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic crisis lasting from November 4, 1979, until January 20, 1981. ...

See also



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